Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant: Job Outlook & Career Info

Mar 19, 2019

Career Definition for a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant

Certified occupational therapist assistants implement and supervise treatment plans designed by occupational therapists to help medical patients or people with disabilities find employment and live independently. They help patients complete rehabilitation exercises to regain strength or range of motion and can assist with teaching life skills and social interaction techniques, depending on clients' individual needs.

Required Education An associate's degree or certificate; most states require licensure, which involves passing a test
Job Duties Implementing and supervising treatment plans designed by occupational therapists; helping patients complete rehabilitation exercises
Median Salary (2017)* $59,310
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 29% growth

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Needed

Certified occupational therapist assistants are required to hold a 2-year associate degree or certificate from a community college or technical school. Required classes include biology and psychology, and clinical training is also mandatory. Most states also require occupational therapist assistants to earn a license before they can work, which involves passing a standardized test. Optional certification can be earned through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Required Skills

Certified occupational therapist assistants must be great communicators and motivators and need to be patient and sympathetic to their clients' needs. They should also be able to follow directions, monitor clients' progress and suggest changes to the therapy plan as needed.

Career and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( projected job growth of 29% for occupational therapist assistants between 2016 and 2026, a much faster than average rate, and stated that the median annual salary in the field was $59,310 in 2017. The rising number of people entering old age is creating new job openings in the field.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Medical Assistant

Although some enter this profession with a high school diploma and learn their skills through on-the-job training, many earn certificates in postsecondary programs. Medical assistants may fulfill both clinical and administrative tasks in doctors' offices, depending on the employer. Much faster than average employment growth of 29% was forecast for these assistants by the BLS from 2016-2026. In 2017, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $32,480 for these professionals.

Occupational Therapist

Those interested in assessing patients, developing treatment plans, evaluating patients' environments and recommending special equipment might choose to study further and earn a master's or doctoral degree with licensure or registration for a career as an occupational therapist. The BLS revealed a median wage of $83,200 per year for occupational therapists in 2017, and it projected much faster than average job expansion of 24% during the 2016-2026 decade.

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