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Occupational Therapy Assistant Training Programs and Requirements

An Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistance can prepare students for work in the field. Most employers require occupational therapy assistant applicants to have graduated from an accredited program and be licensed by their state, if applicable.

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Essential Information

In occupational therapy assistance associate's programs, students learn to aid the rehabilitation of physically, psychologically, or developmentally impaired patients. They also learn to 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. A high school diploma or GED is required for program admission.


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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 of these 2-year degree programs require students to participate in two clinical experiences. The first usually entails one semester of instructor-supervised practicum, and another semester involves full-time work experience overseen by a licensed occupational therapist.


Licensing Requirements

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.

Continuing Education

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.

The associate's program in occupational therapy assistance helps students learn how to assist occupational therapists with patient needs. Students usually complete clinical experiences and are prepared for licensure, which is required in just about every state.

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