OT vs. OTA: Which Occupational Therapy Career is Right for You?

Are you considering becoming an OT or OTA? Occupational therapy is an up-and-coming, rewarding field full of opportunity for compassionate individuals interested in a healthcare career.

Occupational therapy practitioners are everyday heroes in the medical field — they are trained healthcare professionals who empower people of all ages to achieve independence and satisfaction in life, often in the face of injury, illness, disability, or old age. They work directly with patients to develop basic skills through the therapeutic use of daily activities such as eating, dressing, and self-care.

If you are just beginning to research this field of study and the different schools that offer it, take a step back and think about what you want to do long-term. There are many different career options you can pursue upon entering this field. There are many different educational paths you can take to get there.

Most often, aspiring students decide between an Occupational Therapist (OT) or an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program when starting down their career path. Each path leads to two distinct, yet gratifying careers in this in-demand field. Let’s take a look at each of these roles to decide which path is best for you.

Occupational Therapist (OT)

Occupational therapists (OTs) are highly-educated, licensed professionals who treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. These professionals are trained specifically in the biological, physical, and behavioral sciences to determine the most beneficial and successful recovery plan for each patient.

In general, occupational therapists:

  • Review patients’ medical history, ask questions, and observe them doing tasks
  • Evaluate patients’ conditions based on their physical, mental, and behavioral state
  • Develop personalized treatment plans for patients, identifying specific activities that should be used to meet specific goals
  • Teach patients exercises that will alleviate pain or discomfort
  • Educate patients’ families and employers about special aftercare and accommodations
  • Recommend and instruct patients on special equipment that will ease day-to-day activities
  • Assess and record patients’ progress with the help of an occupational therapy assistant

To become a licensed occupational therapist today, one must complete an accredited Master’s degree program. Following a Bachelor’s program, a Master’s in OT usually takes about two or three years to complete, including 24 weeks of supervised, hands-on fieldwork. Upon completion of their Master’s, graduates can sit for the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy to then achieve the title “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR).

Employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 27 percent by 2024. While much faster than the average for all occupations, employment of occupational therapists is still trailing behind the rising employment of OTAs.

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA)

Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work directly with patients to help them develop and improve the skills needed for daily living: motor, social, personal, academic, and vocational. Under the direction of a licensed occupational therapist, OTAs cultivate and carry out holistic treatment plans for each patient needing therapy.

If you choose to become an occupational therapy assistant, you can expect to:

  • Work with an OT to create custom treatment plans according to patient needs
  • Conduct therapeutic activities, such as stretches and other exercises, with your patients
  • Formulate activities that encourage coordination and socialization for children with developmental disabilities
  • Encourage patients to complete activities and monitor/record their progress regularly
  • Educate patients on how to use special equipment, if needed—for example, you may teach a patient with Parkinson’s disease how to use devices that will make eating easier

Like any healthcare profession, occupational therapy assistant jobs are on the rise. But according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapy assistants is expected to grow even faster than other occupations — 43 percent by 2024! If you are considering becoming an OTA, now is the time.

Occupational therapy assistants need to obtain an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant school. Typically, associate OTA programs require two years of full-time study, 16 weeks of hands-on fieldwork, and include courses in psychology, biology, and pediatric health.

As a leading career college in Connecticut, Goodwin’s OTA program focuses on credibility and flexibility. If you enroll in our full-time OTA program, you can complete your Associate’s degree in 18 months. If you are working, you can complete our program part-time in 36 months. All of our OTA classes are offered during the evenings and on weekends for added convenience.

Goodwin’s accredited OTA programs prepare students to sit for national certification upon graduation. After successful completion of this exam, they become Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants.

While OTs and OTAs differ in their educational paths and their overall responsibilities, both are critical to the healthcare field. Which type of occupational therapy practitioner will you become?

Interested in learning more about Goodwin College? Call us at 800-889-3282 or visit www.goodwin.edu/learnmore today.