Partially-online associate degree programs in occupational therapy assisting have previously been rare but are becoming more available. An in-person internship is typically required, and some lecture-based coursework may be taken online. A fully online alternative is an associate's degree in medical office or health services administration, which only includes online coursework and may still prepare students for positions within the office of an occupational therapist.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that occupational therapy assistants are required, at a minimum, to hold an associate's degree. Licensing is required for this career in most states; check with state regulations and look for programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education when choosing a program.
Occupational Therapist Assistant Associate's Degree
Online associate degree programs for occupational therapist assistants are relatively rare. Programs focus on evaluating the extent of an injury or disability and helping people maximize the capacities they do have to manage daily life. Students develop their analysis, communication and documentation skills, as well as the miscellaneous office skills necessary to support an occupational therapist's practice. Admission to an associate's degree program requires a high school diploma, a grade point average of 2.5 or better and in some cases a combined SAT score above a specified minimum threshold.
Information and Requirements
When offered online, occupational therapist assistant programs are a hybrid of online and traditional instruction, with the balance of coursework in the latter. Clinical internship courses in particular always require students to work on-site at a participating medical facility. For online and Web-assisted courses, students may access readings and other materials at their 24-hour convenience from a school's website. Assignments must be completed by specified deadlines. Associate's degrees are typically earned in two years.
Participation in online courses requires a relatively new personal computer and Internet access. Schools may use a proprietary content management system or a commercial system such as Blackboard.
List of Common Occupational Therapist Assistant Courses
Associate's degree programs include a general education component. More of the general education courses, rather than subject-specific courses, may be available online.
Occupational Therapist Assistant Fundamentals
Students receive an introduction to the day-to-day duties of occupational therapist assistants and how their participation in the treatment process contributes to achieving therapeutic goals. Topics covered include the development of observation and assessment skills and the proper handling and care of supplies and equipment.
Therapy and Child Development
This course examines human development from birth through childhood into adolescence, with an emphasis on how developmental problems can affect occupational performance. Course work touches on developmental theory and adaptations of therapeutic processes for children.
Therapy and Adult Development
Student learn the course of human development from young adulthood to old age and the distinct challenges each stage of life poses for therapeutic interventions. Course work gives particular emphasis to occupational performance in the aged.
Earning an online occupational therapist assistant associate's degree qualifies graduates to work as occupational therapist assistants under the supervision of an occupational therapist. Private practitioners, hospitals, nursing homes and home healthcare services are among the facilities and service providers that employ occupational therapist assistants. Employment of occupational therapist assistants is projected to increase 43% over the years 2014-2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). Growth will be driven by the expanded medical needs of an aging population. The median annual salary of occupational therapist assistants as of May 2015 was $57,870, the BLS reported.
Continuing Education Information
Occupational therapist assistants who want to become occupational therapists need to earn a bachelor's degree, then a master's degree. The bachelor's degree can be in occupational therapy or a related field, but the master's degree needs to be in occupational therapy. A number of schools offer online master's degree programs. Online options at the bachelor's degree level are more limited.
Associate's degree programs for aspiring occupational therapist assistants build their administrative skills and clinical therapy experience so they'll be prepared to support occupational therapists in all aspects of their practice.