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What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

Helping someone relearn how to perform routine daily activities is one of the many ways occupational therapy assistants improve lives every day.

An occupational therapy assistant (OTA) works with an occupational therapist to create and execute treatment plans for patients recovering from an illness or traumatic injury. Some work specifically with young children. Some work with adults, teaching them how to work around lost motor skills. Others work with patients of any age who have learning disabilities, behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or other disabilities. For example, an occupational therapy assistant could use play activities as a way to teach a child coordination and socialization skills.

OTAs work with clients in their homes, at hospitals and nursing care facilities, as well as at rehabilitation centers, schools, community centers and private clinics.

While OTAs work directly with patients, occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities, including preparing equipment for sessions and doing administrative tasks.

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Median Salary $
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An occupational therapy assistant helps a patient in a therapy session to improve mobility
The job outlook for occupational therapy assistants is projected to grow 35% from 2019 to 2029. That’s one of the fastest job growth rates for any health care occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Credit: ALPA PROD/Shutterstock)
Duties + Responsibilities
  • Evaluate patient abilities
  • Consult with occupational therapist to find the most effective activity or rehabilitation program
  • Assist patients with therapeutic activities, such as stretches and other exercises
  • Ensure patients are doing exercises correctly and encourage them to keep going
  • Teach patients exercise and therapy programs to be done at home, including use of equipment
  • Record patients’ progress
Education + Training

An entry-level occupational therapy aide role requires a high school diploma or equivalent and on-the-job training. Occupational therapy assistants must complete an associate degree from an accredited community college or technical school.

In addition to coursework in psychology, biology and pediatric health, OTAs must complete at least 16 weeks on hands-on clinical work. Occupational therapy assistants must also pass the NBCOT exam to reach Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) status. Continuing education classes are required to maintain that certification.

There are also many specialty certifications for OTAs, including programs that focus on patients with limited vision or eating and swallowing problems, such as Parkinson’s patients.

All states regulate the practice of occupational therapy assistants and many require a license. In addition, many employers require assistants and aides to be trained in CPR.

You May Be a Good Fit for This Position If You
  • Are compassionate and enjoy helping people
  • Are adaptable and creative in coming up with patient plans, as no two patients will respond the same way to a specific therapy  
  • Are detail-oriented
  • Have excellent interpersonal skills, especially with the elderly or children
  • Have good dexterity
  • Have the physical stamina to provide therapy while bending or stooping and to work on your feet for long stretches of time

Occupational Therapy Assistant training in your area


Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Lakeland Community College
Kirtland (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Metropolitan Community College (MO)
Kansas City (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant

LaGuardia Community College - CUNY
Long Island City (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.A.S.

Grand Rapids Community College
Grand Rapids (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

San Jacinto College District
Pasadena (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Lorain County Community College
Elyria (0.0 Miles)

Assistive Technology

Casper College
Casper (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Reading Area Community College
Reading (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Macomb Community College
Warren (0.0 Miles)
Lincoln Land Community College

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Lincoln Land Community College
Springfield (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

South Texas College
McAllen (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), A.S.

Casper College
Casper (0.0 Miles)
Meet Ambassador
CG Polirer
Occupational therapy assistant CG Polirer (far left) enjoys her job because it offers her the freedom to spend time with her family.
Meet Ambassador
CG Polirer

Occupational therapy assistants don't help people find jobs. “Occupation is a loose term," explains CG Polirer. She explains what the job really entails.

A therapy assists with therapy and provides patients with the necessary tools to accomplish their day-to-day routine — and that’s where the satisfaction comes in. 

“I enjoy helping people on a daily basis, and seeing them achieve their independence is rewarding,” she says.

It’s not an easy job, but it is extremely rewarding.”

Find Occupational Therapy Assistant Jobs in Your Area


Occupational Therapist Assistant

Signature Healthcare
Graceville ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 4 days ago


Baycare Health System, Inc
Sarasota ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Occupational Therapy Assistant COTA PRN

Therapy Management Corporation
Miami ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 2 days ago

Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)

Genesis Healthcare LLC
Lakewood ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 weeks 6 days ago

Occupational Therapist Assistant , Home Health Full Time (70749)

Gentiva Health Services, Inc.
Lumberton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week ago

Occupational Therapy Assist*

Loma Linda University Medical Center
Loma Linda ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week 1 day ago

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

Encore Rehabilitation Services
Downs ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week ago

Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)

Genesis Rehabilitation
Saint Albans ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 week ago