Occupational Therapy Assistant Training Programs and Requirements

Occupational therapy assistant (OTA) training programs typically culminate in an associate degree. Most employers require occupational therapy assistant applicants to have graduated from a program approved by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education and be licensed by their state, if applicable.

Essential Information

Occupational therapy assistants, or occupational therapist assistants, collaborate with occupational therapists in the rehabilitation of physically, psychologically, or developmentally impaired patients. They track patient progressions and communicate findings with a supervising occupational therapist. Employers generally require applicants to possess a 2-year degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program. Clinical experience may be a prerequisite for employment and is offered by all accredited programs.

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; Clinical experience may be required; Preference may be given for bilingual applicants
  • Program Length: Two years

Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistance

OTA students take classes in child, adult, and elderly disabilities. They also learn about anatomy and physiology, psychology, and mental health disabilities. Most 2-year degree programs require occupational therapy assistant students to participate in two clinical experiences. The first usually requires one semester of instructor-supervised practicum, and another semester involves full-time work experience overseen by a licensed occupational therapist.

Continuing Education

Most states have licensure or registration requirements for occupational therapy assistants, and most employers require applicants to be licensed or, at the very least, eligible for licensure. Licensure prerequisites vary by state, but generally necessitate graduating from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program and passing an exam on field-specific knowledge and skills. Further, the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) offers a voluntary Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) credential to applicants who pass an exam; this designation may be preferred by employers. Most employers also require occupational therapy assistants to hold current CPR certifications.

The majority of states require occupational therapy assistants to maintain licensure by enrolling in continuing education courses every one or two years. Continuing education workshops are often offered through state-run occupational therapy associations and other industry organizations, such as the American Occupational Therapy Association. Workshops like these usually require five days of attendance, during which time participants can hear guest speakers and attend general and special-interest workshops. Professional seminars typically last a few hours and are often offered online or in person, through colleges and employers.

Occupational therapy assistants can visit state and OT organizational websites, which may offer event calendars, professional discussion forums and articles dedicated to the training and advancement of occupational therapists and assistants. What's more, some employers offer mentorship opportunities, in which OTAs can continue to develop their craft and learn hands-on skills from more experienced professionals. Depending on experience, occupational therapy assistants may also qualify for supervisory positions.

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