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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 $
47,000
Jobs Available
1,600+
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

Coordinates

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.S.

Manchester Community College (CT)
Manchester (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Health and Safety Certificate

Lamar Institute of Technology
Beaumont (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.S.

Bristol Community College
Fall River (0.0 Miles)

Activities Therapy Assistant Certificate

Central Community College
Grand Island (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

San Juan College
Farmington (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Tulsa Community College
Tulsa (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Central Community College
Grand Island (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

South Arkansas Community College
El Dorado (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Mountain View College
Dallas (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy, A.A.S.

Greenville Technical College
Greenville (0.0 Miles)
Gateway Community College

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S

GateWay Community College (AZ)
Phoenix (0.0 Miles)

Occupational Therapy Assistant, A.A.S.

Piedmont Technical College
Greenwood (0.0 Miles)
Image
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

Coordinates

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Circle of Care
San Antonio ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 year 3 months ago

Therapy Assistant-Entry LTE (Activities)

State of Wisconsin
Waupaca ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 3 months ago

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) / PRN

Select Medical Corporation
Tulsa ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months 3 weeks ago

COTA-Nursing

Encompass Health
Pittsburgh ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 1 week ago

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) - PRN

Daybreak Venture
Clifton ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months 1 week ago

Occupational Therapist Assistant

National Healthcare Corporation
Okatie ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 2 months ago

Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) - Part Time - 278 Raleigh North Carolina (59040)

Legacy Healthcare Services
Raleigh ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 3 weeks ago

Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA)

Genesis Healthcare LLC
Wakefield ( 0.0 ) Miles
Posted 1 month 2 weeks ago