When it comes to occupational therapy careers and credentials, you’ve got to know your ABCs. And by this, we mean, the letters that you can “earn” as you develop your career. Occupational Therapists, for example, may have the abbreviation OT following their name, or potentially OTR or OTD, depending on their level of education and certification. Occupational Therapy Aides and Assistants are no exception.
If you are considering becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you’ve likely come across the abbreviations OTA and COTA. The question is, how do these titles compare? Is there a difference between an OTA vs. COTA?
What is an OTA?
OTA stands for Occupational Therapy Assistant, which is the title you will receive after completing occupational therapy assistant school and obtaining your license to practice. OTAs, like their name entails, are essentially assistants to the Occupational Therapist, helping them to carry out treatment plans. You will most often find an OTA working directly with patients to develop and improve fine motor skills, or to work through the physical and mental challenges of a given condition or disorder.
Now, here’s where it can get confusing. Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) can also be Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTAs). There is just one key difference between the two titles.
What is a COTA?
A COTA, or Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, does all the duties of an OTA, but has taken an extra step to get certified in their field. Specifically, they registered with the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and completed the necessary certification exam.
It’s important to note that the NBCOT COTA certification is sometimes separate from state licensure. Depending on your state, becoming a COTA may not be required to practice. However, in the state of Connecticut, OTAs must become certified through the NBCOT, before they can practice in the field.
Beyond meeting requirements, becoming a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant has its benefits. The NBCOT-COTA exam will enable you to add “certified” to your job title, which can lead to increased opportunities in the field. This step forward will also make you eligible to pursue a master’s in Occupational Therapy, if your long-term goal is to become a Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR).
How to Become a COTA
Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant is one of the fastest paths towards a successful, practical career in occupational therapy. Unlike Occupational Therapists, there is no graduate degree involved. You will only need to spend a couple of years in school and training to become eligible for this career.
The right OTA program will not only prepare you to check off the required boxes, but also enable you to become fully certified in the field. To become a COTA and complete the NBCOT exam, it is required that you have an associate degree from an accredited occupational therapy program.
Goodwin University’s COTA program, for example, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). All graduates of our occupational therapy program are eligible to sit for the certification exam. Our OTA courses are specifically designed to position students for success, covering topics such as behavioral health, movement and function, and the application of occupational therapy across the lifespan. Not only do graduates walk away as certification-eligible, they also take with them great clinical and analytical proficiency.
If you would like to become a COTA – formally, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant – in Connecticut, Goodwin is an excellent place to start your journey. Our OTA school is flexible, forward-thinking, and career-focused. Not to mention, enrollment is hassle-free.
Call 800-889-3282, or visit us online to learn more.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.