Aspiring occupational therapy assistants can pursue an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) or Associate in Science (AS) degree in the field. In these programs, students learn how to effectively aid occupational therapy practitioners in serving individuals of all ages who have chronic conditions, illnesses, social conditions, mental impairments and injuries. They also complete various hands-on laboratory experiences utilizing modern occupational therapy tools and equipment. Programs also give students the opportunity to gain clinical work experience under the supervision of occupational therapists.
In order to apply, students must have a high school diploma and demonstrate competence in reading, math, English, and biology. Prospective students may need to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in order to participate in clinical fieldwork.
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Associate's Degree in Occupational Therapy Assisting
In addition to required work experiences and occupational therapy assistant coursework, a program can include studies in disciplines such as social science, mathematics, biological science, technologies and communications. Students learn to collaborate with patients and are trained in state and federal legislative standards of healthcare services. Ultimately, students exit these programs with the ability to positively affect human performance and help clients engage in everyday activities, allowing them to achieve a higher level of function. Students may take courses in subjects such as:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Abnormal and clinical psychology
- Movement analysis and kinesiology
- Physical rehabilitation techniques
- Management issues in occupational therapy
- Scientific writing in the health professions
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of occupational therapy assistants is expected to grow 43% from 2014-2024. Program graduates can seek employment in rehabilitation centers, drug and alcohol programs, adult day care centers, hospitals, public school systems and mental health centers. In May 2015, the median annual salary of an occupational therapy assistant was $57,870, the BLS reported.
Most states require that occupational therapy assistants become licensed or registered. Requirements for this can vary between states, but an associate's degree is commonly required, according to the BLS. In some cases, occupational therapy assistants may meet state licensure requirements by earning voluntary certification through the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), which offers the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant title. To qualify to sit for the NBCOT certification examination, students must have graduated from a school that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.
For students who want to dedicate their careers to the assistance of occupational therapists, AS and AAS degrees in this subject provide the necessary healthcare education and practical training in the field.