Online occupational therapy assistant courses are common, but no associate's degree program in this field can be obtained completely through distance learning. All require in-person fieldwork on campus or at an approved remote location to prepare students for meeting professional certification requirements and being eligible for licensure. Some classes also require attendance. Fully online associate's degree programs for medical assisting are available, however.
In this program, students learn to aid occupational therapists as they work with injured or ill people on the activities of daily living. In addition to the general education requirements for an associate's degree, courses may include biology, healthcare management and communications. Students learn about occupational therapy for different populations, including pediatrics, mental illness and physical dysfunction.
Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate's Degree
Occupational therapist assistants help to rehabilitate, prevent, manage and treat physical, mental, developmental or age-related disabilities and injuries. Students of these programs learn both classroom and practical skills in clinical treatment options. A high-school background in English, reading, biology and math are recommended or expected before entry. Other prerequisites may include pre-testing, pre-requisite college coursework and lab work with a minimum grade point average (GPA) requirement, attendance at an information session and an essay. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification documentation may also be required.
Some fieldwork sites require a criminal background check and drug testing. Graduates are awarded an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree, and are prepared to take state required certification exams.
Program Information and Requirements
OTA associate's degree programs take 1-3 years to complete and consist of anywhere from 48 to 96 required credits, depending on previous education. Students must normally maintain a minimum GPA throughout the life of the program, and some schools require completion of fieldwork within 18 months of academic coursework culmination.
Hybrid programs use distance-learning technology to deliver informational content. Students access class materials, exercises, assignments, tests and discussion forums online. Specific Internet and personal computer speed, software and hardware requirements apply. Some schools require students to use a web cam and headset with microphone.
List of Common Courses
OTA studies focus on biological science, math, communication, technology and social science. Classes in the concentration vary by school, but normally cover topics such as pharmacology, physiology, anatomy, psychiatry, kinesiology and speech.
Occupational Therapy Foundations
OT roles, practices, settings, services and philosophies are introduced in this class. Students learn about the historical and theoretical principles used by occupational therapists to achieve health and wellness.
Movement Analysis (Kinesiology)
Occupational therapy techniques, safety skills and treatment options related to movement of the human body are analyzed in this class. Students explore a variety of therapeutic occupational activities and the impact of client factors on performance.
This course studies psychology and related disorders, dysfunctions, therapies, history and developments. Some topics of focus are anxiety, depression, addictions and schizophrenia. Students also explore the scientific and biological aspects of general and abnormal psychology.
Career Information for Graduates
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapy assistants earned a median annual wage of $57,870 in May of 2015 (www.bls.gov). Due to an increasing need for OTAs, particularly therapy for the elderly and disabled individuals, employment in the field was expected to grow by 43% between 2014 and 2024.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Occupational therapist assistants desiring to further their education can pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy. Some programs are offered online.
In most states, occupational therapy assistants must be licensed. Licensing requirements include graduating from a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Determining if a program is accredited should be a major factor when deciding on an online degree program. Professional certifications are available as well.
A graduate of an occupational therapy assistant associate's program can become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) by passing an exam administered through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Certification is voluntary, and study guides and continuing education information are also available through NBCOT.
Most degree programs in occupational therapy require in-person fieldwork and/or classes. In these programs, students gain the knowledge and skills to work with those suffering from disorders and disabilities as a result of illness or injury.