OTA school information

What to Expect in OTA School: A Guide to Getting Started

Are you considering becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), and researching OTA schools? Find out what to expect in OTA school, and how to prepare for success.

Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) help patients with chronic illnesses, developmental disorders, and physical injuries to improve, maintain, and regain the functioning skills needed for daily living.

Occupational Therapists create and assess patient plans, while OTAs then put those plans into action — working 1:1 with patients on their wellness. For this reason, OTAs are a vital part of the healthcare team.

Everyday career tasks among Occupational Therapy Assistants include:

  • Demonstrating, and encouraging patients to complete, therapeutic activities like stretching and other exercises
  • Teaching patients how to use special equipment, in order to make complex tasks more manageable
  • Supporting children with developmental disabilities in play that promotes coordination and socialization

From 2020 to 2030, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the OTA profession will grow 34 percent — much faster than the national average — with 8,800 new job openings each year.

As of May 2021, the average annual wage for an OTA was $63,560.

OTAs must have an associate degree from an accredited OTA school and pass a certification exam before entering the workforce. An accredited OTA curriculum is endorsed by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), a branch of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

The OTA Curriculum: What to Expect

While core courses will vary by school, the standard pedagogy taught in an OTA program curriculum includes:

  • Advanced fieldwork
  • Case studies across the lifespan
  • Foundations of behavioral health
  • Foundations of function and movement
  • Principles of adult/geriatric/pediatric populations
  • Principles of group dynamics

OTA programs are generally two years of full-time study with classes focusing on subjects like biology and psychology. OTA students receive hands-on training in adapting home, school, and work environments and splint fabrication.

Clinical OTA Training: What to Expect

Clinical experiences are often required in part with the OTA curriculum. During clinical training, OTAs gather all they’ve learned and practice their skills on actual patients for four to five months. This clinical work provides OTA students with the opportunity to learn from experienced Occupational Therapists and OTAs in various industry settings. The fieldwork enables OTA students to be evaluated on their skills while receiving critical encouragement and feedback to improve their professional success.

OTA students at Goodwin University participate in clinical work at some of Connecticut’s top care facilities. Goodwin sustains professional partnerships with leading healthcare organizations in sectors such as:

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Geriatrics
  • Hospitals
  • Pediatrics
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Schools

OTA Skills Strengthened in School

Many Occupational Therapy Assistant students advance the following abilities in school:

  • Adaptability – OTAs must be tolerant and creative while working with patients on their unique needs and the methods to achieve their goals
  • Compassion – OTAs educating on essential life skills possess empathy and persistently encourage patients throughout their treatment
  • Interpersonal skills – OTAs actively listen, communicate clearly, understand cues, and are friendly when interacting with patients and their families

These skills are in addition to the technical skills learned in training, such as splint fabrication, therapeutic exercises, patient documentation, equipment operation, and more.

Flexibility for OTAs in School and the Workforce

Unlike many healthcare professions, becoming an OTA offers a relatively flexible path towards a career helping others in need. Typically, you can expect to complete OTA school in two years or less. Flexible course offerings are available.

A flexible OTA program fits into your schedule so that you can study for your classes at your convenience. At Goodwin University, academic courses are offered during the evenings, while internships occur during the day. When applicable, learners can also engage in hybrid/online coursework, and some Saturday classes are included. OTA students attend courses in a cohort model with the same peers throughout the program, and they can complete their degree in 16 months full-time.

Occupational therapy assisting also offers flexibility outside of school and in the workforce. OTA graduates start their careers soon after completing their associate degrees. From there, OTA occupations also offer a range of job settings — from inpatient and outpatient clinics, and schools helping children with learning difficulties, to personal homes, rehabilitation hospitals, and more. You can learn more about where OTAs work here.

What to Expect After OTA School: Real-World Results

To enable OTA graduates to practice in the field, OTA programs train students to sit for the nationally Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant exam (COTA).

Upon completing an OTA program, the entry-level employees are skillful in various outcomes, including clinical skillsets, analytical techniques, and more. COTA professionals apply comprehensive learning conclusions and demonstrate clinical practice proficiency, professional OTA skills, and job competency.

OTA School Application: 10 Steps to Get Started

OTA program requirements vary by school. The Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Goodwin University has the below admission requirements:

  1. Submit required documents: High school transcript, General Equivalency Diploma, or college/graduate school transcripts with marked date of completion, if applicable
  2. Present proof of your Cumulative GPA: OTA applicants must receive a 2.7 CGPA on their high school transcripts (if no college courses have been taken) or a 2.7 CGPA from their last 12 college credits
  3. Write a personal essay
  4. Complete OTA video prompt questions
  5. Apply for admission into Goodwin University
  6. Apply for the Occupational Therapy Assistant program
  7. Complete Goodwin University Placement Evaluations: OTA applicants must qualify for placement in ENG 101 and MATH 125
  8. Complete mandatory courses: All OTA prerequisite courses and general education classes must be completed before beginning the program
  9. Interview with the OTA program director
  10. Once all admission criteria are satisfied, applicants will be selected according to the program seats available and the point system.

Are you interested in becoming a compassionate OTA? Learn more about an OTA career!