Occupational Therapist Assistants Overview

Though many entry-level occupational therapy assistants obtain an associate’s degree, some States regulate that occupational therapy assistants should be certified, licensed, or registered, depending on the State. Job prospects will be good for occupational therapist assistants since more and more occupational therapists are using assistants.

Nature of the Work for Occupational Therapist Assistants

Occupational Therapist Assistants

Under the supervision of an occupational therapist, occupational therapist assistants work to provide services to those with mental, physical, emotional or developmental impairments. The ultimate goal for occupational therapist assistants is to improve the quality of life for each patient as well as getting them to perform daily activities.

After the occupational therapist creates a treatment plan for the patient, occupational therapist assistants use the plan and provide the client with rehabilitative activities and exercises. Activities could be anything from how to move from a bed into a wheelchair or how to stretch muscles correctly. Occupational therapist assistants will record and monitor the patient’s performance and progress and deliver it to the occupational therapist. Occupational therapist assistants are also responsible for documenting the billing of the health insurance provider of the client.

Strength is an important part of the job for occupational therapist assistants who are kneeling, stooping, and standing for long periods of their day.

Depending on the facility and if they work full or part time, the hours an occupational therapist assistant works can vary.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Occupational Therapist Assistants

An associate’s degree is required by most employers for occupational therapist assistant jobs. Occupational therapist assistants are regulated to practice by registration, licensing, certification or other requirements that vary by State.

In order for occupational therapist assistants to take the national certification exam, they must attend an accredited school by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). With over 135 Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education programs available to occupational therapy assistants, students must attend one of these programs in order to take the national certifying exam for occupational therapist assistants.

Occupational therapist assistants studying in their first year will usually take introductory courses in healthcare, medical terminology, anatomy, and physiology. Those studying in their second year may take harder classes in mental health, pediatrics, gerontology, or physical disability. Sixteen weeks of supervised fieldwork must also be completed in a community setting or clinic.

Those who took high school classes in biology and health as well as those who volunteered for physical therapists’ offices or nursing care facilities will have better chances at gaining admission to an occupational therapist assistant program.

Guam, Puerto Rico, and 40 states require registration, licensing, or certification for occupational therapist assistants. Requirements can vary for occupational therapist assistants working in early intervention programs or schools. Those interested in obtaining a license should contact their State’s licensing board for the specific requirements necessary for occupational therapist assistants.

Occupational therapist assistants working in early intervention programs or in schools may have additional requirements. Requirements for these occupational therapist assistants can include an education practice certificate, an early intervention certificate or education-related classes.

The certification process for occupational therapist assistants is voluntary by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy. The title of those who become certified is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).

Continuing education classes and workshop attendance is expected of occupational therapist assistants as they continue on in their careers. Many States will require occupational therapist assistants to take continuing education classes and workshops in order to maintain their license.

Occupational therapist assistants should be patient, willing to take direction, want to work in teams and be responsible. Advancing into administrative positions, working as a director, teaching or leading health risk reduction classes for the elderly are ways occupational therapist assistants can advance in their career.

Occupational therapist aides who are looking to become occupational therapist assistants can do so with formal education.

Top 10 Most Popular Occupational Therapist Assistant Schools

1. Keiser University, Fort Lauderdale (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
2. Brown Mackie College (Multiple Campus Locations)
3. Navarro College (Corsicana, Texas)
4. CUNY LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City (Long Island City, New York)
5. New England Institute of Technology, East Greenwich (Warwick, Rhode Island)
6. University of Southern Indiana (Evansville, Indiana)
7. Fox Valley Technical College (Appleton, Wisconsin)
8. Lone Star College System (Spring, Texas)
9. Kaplan Career Institute (Multiple Campus Locations)
10. Greenville Technical College (Greenville, South Carolina)

See All Occupational Therapist Assistant Schools

Employment and Job Outlook for Occupational Therapist Assistants

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow much faster than average (increase 20% or more).

Occupational therapist assistants hold 26,680 jobs. Many occupational therapist assistants work in offices and for health practitioners while some work in hospitals and nursing care facilities. Occupational therapist assistants also work for government agencies, individual and family services, home healthcare services, and community care facilities for the elderly.

Employment for occupational therapist assistants is expected to grow due to the increase of individuals with limited function or disabilities.

Due to occupational therapists using occupational therapist assistants in their practice as well as the increasing number of disabled individuals, more job prospects will be available for occupational therapist assistants.

The demand for occupational therapy is also due to a growing elderly population as well as baby boomers that are entering stages of heart attacks and strokes.

Occupational therapist assistants with an associate’s degree and experience working in an occupational therapy office or healthcare setting will have the best job opportunities. Occupational therapist assistants who leave the occupation permanently will also create new job opportunities for those entering the field.

Earnings and Salary for Occupational Therapist Assistants

Median annual wages of occupational therapist assistants are $50,250. The middle 50 percent earn between $41,200 and $59,890. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $33,350, and the highest 10 percent earn more than $68,450.

Annual Salary for Occupational Therapist Assistants

On average, Occupational Therapist Assistants earn $50,250 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $33,350/yr $41,200/yr $59,890/yr $68,450/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook