Occupational therapy assists patients who have difficulty performing work and daily activities due to physical, mental, and/or developmental conditions. The goal of the therapy is to enable patients to gain more confidence and independence as they learn or regain their ability to carry out daily functions. There are many reasons why a patient may require occupational therapy rehabilitation services. Some of the conditions are birth defects, motor vehicle accidents, heart diseases, mental health problems, mental disabilities, sports injuries, falls, and spinal cord injuries.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Description

Occupational Therapy Assistants (also know as OTAs) provide treatment to children and adults of all ages with disabilities, injuries, and illnesses under the supervision of occupational therapists. Initially, the assistants work together with occupational therapists to develop a treatment regimen for the patient. They then provide direct hands-on assistance by walking patients through the treatment plan step by step. They rely on therapeutic use of everyday routine work in treating patients; for example, an occupational therapy assistant may teach a patient, who lost their motor skills from an accident, to eat, dress, tidy up, and may bring them to and from the occupational therapy facility. Sometimes they may teach patients to use special equipment to ease certain daily activities.

Proper documentation and evaluation of a patient’s progress is critical in the treatment process. It is an occupational therapy assistant’s duty to observe and write down the details of the patients’ progress and distribute this information back to the therapists. Periodically, the therapist will examine these reports, evaluate the patient’s condition at that point, and adjust the treatment if needed. OTAs often handle administrative and clerical duties as well, but depending on their work environment these duties may be carried out by occupational therapy aides. They typically answer phone calls, maintain equipment, book appointments, and file insurance claims. Occupational therapy assistants usually work in hospitals, senior homes, physician clinics, occupational workshops, and special schools. An occupational therapy assistant’s job description includes:

  • Assist patients in carrying out daily activities
  • Help patients with poor social skills and learning disabilities
  • Teach patients how to use special equipment to assist with daily function
  • Work in collaboration with occupational therapists to establish a rehabilitation plan
  • Supervise patients’ activities to ensure they are done properly
  • Work with disabled children and assist them in play activities that enhance skillfulness
  • Report the patient’s progress to occupational therapists
  • Handle administrative/clerical tasks

How to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant

To become an occupational therapy assistant, a student must go to an accredited community college or technical school that offers the OTA program. There are currently just over 300 programs in the United States that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The program is 2 years long and graduates are considered to have earned an Associate’s degree. The 2-year occupational therapy assistant programs include both classroom and clinical fieldwork. The hands-on training component provides them with practical experiences.

Occupational therapist “bridge” education programs are available for qualifying occupational therapy assistants to advance further in their career.

Find a OTA Program

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Occupational Therapy Assistant Certification

Most states require occupational therapy assistants to be licensed before they can practice. To become licensed, one must complete the 2-year Associate degree program and pass an exam.

Occupational therapy assistants do not require any certification to practice. However, the title COTA (certified occupational therapy assistant) can only be given to an individual that has successfully passed the written exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Occupational therapy assistants that want to take this exam are required to complete the accredited programs.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary

Click here for Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary Page

Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the occupational therapy assistant job description:
  • Provide patient with aid to work and daily activities
  • Work with occupational therapists and aides
  • 2 years of education
  • Most states needs license for practice
  • 43% employment growth by 2022