Along with general education courses, students enrolled in an associate's degree program in occupational therapy take core courses such as physical rehabilitation techniques and patient assessment. Students learn to employ various types of equipment and tools in treating patients. Hand therapy is an example of an occupational therapy program field.
Such programs also include internships, which allow students to gain practical experience in clinics, hospitals or community-based centers. Earning an accredited associate's degree in this field can prepare students for state licensure as an occupational therapy assistant.
Along with a high school diploma or equivalent, students are expected to be competent in English, reading and math, and admission exams in these subjects may be required; high school biology is recommended.
Associate's Degree in Occupational Therapy
Curricula are designed to prepare students to work one-on-one with individuals in a variety of settings. Students learn how to recognize a patient's needs, do patient assessments and set up a treatment plan, including goals. A program's curriculum may include the following courses:
- Human occupations
- Physical rehabilitation theory
- Theory of developmental rehabilitation
Popular Career Options
Most jobs in this field involve assisting occupational therapists with a range of rehabilitation activities. These include properly moving a patient from a bed to a wheelchair, monitoring a patient's' activities and recording a client's progress. Assistants may also perform clerical tasks, including paperwork, answering phones and scheduling appointments. Occupational therapy assistants may pursue positions in hospitals, schools, nursing homes or acute care facilities, or provide ergonomics consulting, or services for individuals with low vision.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational therapists have a much faster than average anticipated job growth rate of 27%, from 2014-2024. As of 2015, occupational therapists earned a median annual salary of $80,150.
Continuing Education and Certification
Students can continue their education in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy after completing the associate's degree program. Completion of these programs may allow graduates to work as occupational therapists and in supervisory positions. Doctoral degree programs are intended for individuals who want to teach at the university level or conduct research.
Associate's degree graduates may sit for the National Certification Exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Most states require completion and passing of this exam in order to practice as an occupational therapy assistant.
Aspiring occupational therapy assistants can enter the field with an associate's degree in occupational therapy. With an anticipated career expansion that far exceeds the national average, graduates interested in becoming occupational therapists can go onto bachelor's master's and doctoral programs.