What Are the Career Options for an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Occupational therapy assistants have the option of working in several different environments, but they typically perform the same essential duties regardless of the setting. They may be employed by hospitals, nursing homes or private practice offices, to name a few. This article discusses career options, as well as how to become an occupational therapy assistant. Schools offering Occupational Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties and Career Options

Occupational therapy assistants work with occupational therapists to help patients with physical, mental, emotional or developmental disabilities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov. They treat clients through a course of therapy including exercises or activities designed to help the client learn or regain individual skills. For instance, operating under the orders of an occupational therapist, an occupational therapy assistant might teach recently or temporarily handicapped patients how to get in and out of a wheelchair or train an individual who is suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome how to properly stretch the muscles of the hand.

Occupational therapy assistants keep detailed records of a client's progress and report back to the occupational therapist regularly. They may also be responsible for billing. Occupational therapy assistants may work in a number of different healthcare settings, including general hospitals, patients' homes, and nursing homes, as well as the private practices of any of the following:

  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Audiologists

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2018) $60,220
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 29% growth
Key Skills Flexibility, physical strength, attention to detail, compassion and interpersonal skills
Similar Occupations Pharmacy technician, dental assistant, medical assistant, physical therapist assistant

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Most occupational therapy assistants complete an associate's degree program, offered primarily at community and technical colleges. Associate's degree programs last approximately two years, qualify graduates to receive certification and cover subjects like anatomy and physiology. Additionally, students enrolled in an occupational therapy assisting program study introductory healthcare and basic medical terminology. Those in associate's degree programs will also take general education courses in subjects such as natural and social sciences, English and mathematics.


Most states require that occupational therapy assistants pass a national certification exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Individuals who pass the test are referred to as Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants. In addition to passing the test, professionals must also demonstrate adherence and understanding of the NBCOT's Certificant Code of Conduct.

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