Online Associate's Degree in Occupational Therapy: Program Overview

Get information about online occupational therapy degree programs at the associate's level. Learn about program requirements, course descriptions, as well as career options.

Essential Information

Due to the nature of occupational therapy assisting, associate's degree programs with an online component generally also include an externship or other hands-on experience. Aspiring occupational therapists may also consider associate's degrees in related fields like psychology or sociology, which can be found fully online. Occupational therapy programs usually prepare students for professional certification or licensure, which is required in most states.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate Degree

These online programs give students the skills to work under the supervision of an occupational therapist. Students study theory and practical techniques for teaching patients with developmental, mental, and physical ailments to become more independent.

Students typically participate in fieldwork or internships that also offer professional, clinical experience. Completion of an associate's degree program provides all necessary training for candidates to take the national certifying exam for occupational therapist assistants, offered by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).

Program Information and Requirements

Students must enroll in a program that is accredited by the ACOTE if they wish to earn certification. Programs are generally completed in two years, though students who fulfill general education requirements prior to program enrollment may finish in less time.

All online occupational therapist assistant degree programs are offered in a hybrid format and require clinical fieldwork that must be completed on-site. In most cases, the online aspects of these programs extend primarily to general education courses, while the majority of the occupational therapist curriculum is completed on-campus. Some schools do offer occupational therapy assistant lecture courses via distance learning, but these programs are less common.

To participate in online courses, students must have a computer and access to the Internet. Students typically use online course management systems to access quizzes, assignments and course materials as well as to participate in discussions and communicate with instructors and classmates. Additionally, most courses require students to purchase and use a textbook, which can be delivered through the mail.

List of Common Courses

The core coursework in this type of online associate's degree program covers basic and intermediate health science, allowing students to understand medical conditions and provide therapy. These programs incorporate general education courses, which can be taken online, and occupational therapy courses, which are primarily taken on campus.

Occupational Physical Functions

Students learn how to document and assess a person's physical functionality. In addition, students learn about techniques to treat patients with physical ailments. The course gives insight into the role that an occupational therapist plays when evaluating patients.

Occupational Therapy Introduction

This type of course outlines the history, rules and general philosophy of the practice of occupational therapy. The course clarifies the difference between an occupational therapist and occupational therapist assistant, teaching students about the assistant's role in a clinical situation. Students also learn about the different types of patients to whom they will potentially provide therapeutic assistance.

Patient Care

The patient care course teaches theoretical approaches and physical techniques used in the process of caring for patients with disabilities. This type of course introduces skills, such as monitoring vital signs, controlling infections, positioning patients and therapeutic exercises used in the healing and maintenance process. In addition, students learn how to maintain equipment and proper safety procedures.


Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of occupational therapy assistants is expected to increase by 43% from 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. This rise is attributed to an increasing aging population, who typically need occupational therapy after a heart attack or stroke.

The BLS also states that as of May 2015, the median annual wage for an occupational therapy assistant was $57,870. Graduates of this type of program can find employment in nursing facilities, hospitals and schools and as in-home healthcare providers.

Continuing Education

For those who wish to advance in the field of occupational therapy, degree programs are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. According to the BLS, the minimum educational requirement for those who wish to become an occupational therapist is a master's degree. Many of these degree programs are offered in hybrid form, as well as offered entirely online.

Online associate's degree programs in occupational therapy prepare students for licensure to work as occupational therapy assistants. Students study occupational therapy and patient care, and graduates seeking advanced study can pursue bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees in the field.

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