The Scoop on Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational Therapy is an intense job that requires a great deal of intense labor and many times this job can only be completed with the help of an Assistant.

That's where this field comes into play. Occupational Therapists sometimes have workloads that they cannot handle all on their own and a Therapy Assistant gives the Therapist the relief they need; Not only relief in "manpower" but relief in the consultation of another professional. Even though you can't do EVERYTHING a therapist you can be a valuable resource in diagnosing and treating patients who need therapy. As the population grows and the need for health care grows more Occupational Therapists will need assistants and that is where you will come in. Let's take a look.

What in the World Does a Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

If you were an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) then you would be working with an OT to do work with patients who need services to rehab injuries. Now, since you are working under the supervision of another professional you are essentially working "under Doctor's orders". So, you take the treatment plan that was given by the OT and you run with it.

You would be taking the patient through the exercises and regimen that the OT prescribed and you would be charged with notating how the patient is doing, keeping their records up-to-date as you work with them, and then reporting back to the OT as to the patient"s progress.

In addition to helping with treatment you might also have to manage equipment that the OT uses for their patients or even help in the billing and insurance process (depending on the size of the company you work for.)

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

The training for this job is much less extensive than it is to become an OT. Typically, instead of needing a college degree you can get a certificate in Occupational Therapy Assistance from a training program at a community college, junior college, vocational school, or training school. Some of these programs are even housed in hospitals and health clinics.

The programs can take anywhere from 9-12 months and many also require up to 16 weeks of supervised "field" training before you can be certified.

The process takes you through everything you need to know to do the job and to get a license. Most states require you to finish your training program and then pass a national certification test. Typically, this is a written exam and some sort of "skills" test that measures how much you know. Once this test is done then you receive the title "Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant." Now you can go looking for work.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

When you're doing any kind of job that is the assistant to another job the first thing you should do is go where the "assistant needers" are. Occupational Therapists work in hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes and schools. So, these are the first places to look. Especially in school districts it is common to have an OT in every single building and some of those buildings may have a disproportionately high number of kids who need services. Well, that OT might need an Assistant.

At hospitals there are patients all over the place who need services after and accident or injury. Sometimes the number of OTs on the staff is limited because they make more than Assistants so more Assistants are hired to make sure the patients are getting treatment.

Nursing homes and health clinics work the same way because there may be a large number of people who need help, but not enough money for OTs to go around.

Advancement in this field usually means going to school, getting a Bachelor's and Master's Degree and becoming a full-fledged OT yourself. Beyond that you can get into research or even teaching, but the job of an OT Assistant is ground-floor so the only way to go is up to be an OT.

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Occupational Therapist Assistants Overview

Occupational Therapist Assistant Salary:$48,230
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:2 years
# Employed in US:25,610
% Who work Part Time:18%
Physical Difficulty:+ + + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being an Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • The training only takes 9-12 months
  • You can get a job wherever an OT is
  • You can work with lots of different types of patients
  • You can work in schools if you like kids

The Cons of being an Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • You spend a lot of time on your feet
  • You do a lot of manual labor and grunt work
  • The job is entry level