The healthcare industry is a growing field that offers many opportunities for career paths, not just for aspiring doctors and nurses, such as occupational therapy assistants. Occupational therapy helps people of all ages achieve physical goals through the therapeutic use of daily activities.
If you are passionate about helping and caring for people and their physical needs, a career in occupational therapy is a great choice. This article will explore how individuals can obtain their Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) certification to determine whether this career fits.
What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?
Occupational therapy assistants provide care and work with patients experiencing physical or mental conditions. They assist patients recovering from injuries, children with developmental challenges, and even elderly patients who need help regaining their independence and ability to function in their daily routines.
OT assistants work under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist as they support patients in the rehabilitation stage of their recovery program.
Recovery programs and treatment plans involve many diverse activities, including teaching patients the proper way to move from a bed into a wheelchair or advising them on the best way to stretch their muscles.
Other duties and responsibilities include:
- Help patients complete therapeutic activities and treatment plans.
- Teach patients how to perform specific exercises and use special equipment.
- Guide children with developmental disabilities in play activities that promote coordination and socialization.
- Encourage patients to complete activities and tasks to overcome limitations.
- Answer patients’ questions, notate patients’ progress, report to occupational therapists, and perform other administrative tasks.
How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant
Future OT assistants must complete many steps to obtain certification and work as occupational therapy assistants.
Step 1: Enroll in an Occupational Therapy Assistant Program
Now that you understand the role and duties of an occupational therapy assistant, it’s time to fulfill the first requirement by researching and enrolling in an accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant program.
Many colleges and universities offer this Occupational Therapy Assistant associate degree, typically requiring two years of full-time study for students with a high school diploma. Every program’s admission requirements will differ, so students should research to understand what is expected of them. At Goodwin University, students must:
- Complete an application to Goodwin University.
- Complete the Occupational Therapy Assistant program application, including high school transcripts or general equivalency Diploma (GED).
- Have a cumulative 2.7 GPA.
- Complete university placement evaluations.
- Complete video prompt questions and a personal essay.
- Interview with the program director.
Upon admission, students can expect to take general education courses like psychology, human biology, and chemistry, as well as courses in occupational therapy foundations, principles of group dynamics, and principles of adult and pediatric populations.
Wondering if Goodwin is the right fit for your future as an OTA? Check out our downloadable Get Started Guide to learn everything you need to know about our OTA associate degree program!
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
In addition to coursework, students should study in a program with hands-on training and experience at least sixteen weeks of fieldwork.
Fieldwork starts as early as the first semester in Occupational Therapy Assistant programs by working alongside and experiencing the routine of a professional occupational therapist or an occupational therapy assistant. Students then move on to level two fieldwork to complete more hands-on training in hospitals or other healthcare facilities.
Upon completing this fieldwork and the coursework, students receive a document from their supervisor and their associate degree stating they can now work as an occupational therapy assistant.
Step 3: Pass the National Certification Exam
All states regulate the practice of occupational therapy assistants, with most requiring licensure.
To be licensed and practice as an OT assistant, you must complete an OT Assistant program, complete fieldwork training, and take and pass the national certification exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).
The five-hour exam requires candidates to pay a fee and obtain a passing score of 450 or higher. Candidates can take the exams as often as possible to pass, but they must wait forty-five days between attempts.
Step 4: Apply for State Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) Licensure
Upon passing the national certification exam, individuals will need to check with the licensure board in their state to determine what is required to apply for their occupational therapy assistant license.
Many states, like Connecticut, require licensure to practice occupational therapy based on a certification exam. You may also be asked to submit a licensing fee, application, identification, background checks, and transcripts from your program.
Step 5: Apply and Obtain an Occupational Therapy Assistant Job
Once certified and licensed, it’s time to apply for OT assistant jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of occupational therapy assistants and aides is projected to grow twenty-five percent by 2031, and the median annual salary for individuals in these positions is $61,520.
Occupational therapy assistants find work in a variety of settings, including:
- Alternative community settings
- Assisted living facilities
- Nursing homes
- Rehabilitation centers
Remember that most states require occupational therapy assistants to fulfill continuing education requirements. This ensures they retain the knowledge they learned and stay informed of new developments in the occupational therapy field. Be sure to check with your state to know how many hours of continuing education will be required for each license period.
OT Assistants play a crucial role in treating and rehabilitating clients looking to live independent, fulfilling lives. If you are passionate about advocating for clients’ personal and healthcare needs and want to gain critical thinking and interpersonal skills, consider the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Goodwin University.
Goodwin’s program opens career possibilities by preparing students to gain their Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) certification and licensure after graduation. Contact us today to learn more about our career-focused, flexible, and affordable Occupational Therapy Assistant program. We’re ready when you are!