Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational Therapy Assistant

An Occupational Therapy Assistant works under the direct supervision of an Occupational Therapist to assist those with physical or mental challenges that stand in the way of their ability to manage their lives. These health care professionals work with patients to help them learn or re-learn skills that they use in their everyday lives.

Description of  health care career information and the daily work:

As an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), you will work under the direction of a registered Occupational Therapist to assist those with physical and mental impairments in leading more independent, productive and satisfying lives. OTAs help those with physical, emotional, developmental or social conditions to learn or relearn the skills that they need for daily living. Actually, Occupational Therapists Assistants assist patients with regaining the skills that they need to “occupy” their time they way in which they choose, including daily activities like eating, dressing and managing their own schedule.

Like Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapist Assistants are valuable resources in health care, helping those who have physical or mental/emotional challenges. For those with physical disabilities, you will work on physical exercises to improve strength and dexterity of the patients so that they can perform daily tasks for living such as moving from a bed to a wheelchair, grooming, bathing, preparing their own meals and managing their own schedule. For patients with mental challenges, OTAs assist them in functioning independently by working with them on time management, using public transportation, or incorporating social activities into their daily routine.

The Occupational Therapist Assistant records the patient’s progress and discusses the client’s progress with the Occupational Therapist. As an OTA, you will also be responsible for documenting services for billing the patient’s health insurance provider. OTAs work closely with the OT in providing information for evaluations, treatment planning, and reviews of patient progress.

As an Occupational Therapist Assistant, you will need patience and understanding when dealing with patients. Work in occupational therapy can be challenging because patients often take a long time to make progress toward their goals. You may be working with physically and emotionally or mentally challenged adults and children, which calls for the qualities of understanding and compassion and the ability to work well with people.

Working as an OTA is often a physically demanding job. OTAs stand for long periods of time and bend, stoop and kneel to assist patients with their treatment. A moderate degree of strength and ability to move and position patients is required.

The work hours for Occupational Therapists vary. They are typically Monday – Friday from 9:00 – 5:00 but may include evenings and weekends, depending on the personal schedule of the patient.

Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:

You must have an Associate’s degree or certificate from an accredited community college or technical school that offers an accredited Occupational Therapist Assistant program.

The first year of the program generally involves and introduction to health care, basic medical terminology, anatomy and physiology. The second year focuses on areas such as mental health, therapeutic application, gerontology and pediatrics. A 16 week field work experience is also a required for graduation.

Graduates are then eligible to take the national certification administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT.) You must be licensed by the Board and work under the supervision of an Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) to practice in different states.

If you are considering a career as an Occupational Therapist Assistant, you should take high school courses in biology, chemistry and health. Applicants may also improve the chances of being accepted into an OTA program by volunteering or doing paid work in a nursing home facility, a hospital or another health care setting.


The full time median annual earnings for Occupational Therapist Assistants nationally in 2002 was $36,660. The hourly range was $14.98 – $23.38.

Career Path and/or Opportunities for Growth:

Many Occupational Therapy Assistants pursue a degree in Occupational Therapy at the Bachelor’s degree level. Beginning in 2007, Occupational Therapists will be required to hold a Master’s degree or higher. As a result, many schools are now offering combined BS/MS) programs in Occupational Therapy.

The skills and education required for Occupational Therapy may also be transferred to other areas of health care including nursing, radiology, physical therapy or medical social work. The opportunities for OTAs will grow at a faster than average rate due to the need for to assist a growing number of those with disabilities or limited function.

Professional Associations:

The American Occupational Therapy Association

World Federation of Occupational Therapists