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Become A Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

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Working As A Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Getting Information
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Make Decisions

  • $77,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Do

Occupational therapy assistants and aides help patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Occupational therapy assistants are directly involved in providing therapy to patients; occupational therapy aides typically perform support activities. Both assistants and aides work under the direction of occupational therapists.

Duties

Occupational therapy assistants typically do the following:

  • Help patients do therapeutic activities, such as stretches and other exercises
  • Lead children who have developmental disabilities in play activities that promote coordination and socialization
  • Encourage patients to complete activities and tasks
  • Teach patients how to use special equipment—for example, showing a patient with Parkinson’s disease how to use devices that make eating easier
  • Record patients’ progress, report to occupational therapists, and do other administrative tasks

Occupational therapy aides typically do the following:

  • Prepare treatment areas, such as setting up therapy equipment
  • Transport patients
  • Clean treatment areas and equipment
  • Help patients with billing and insurance forms
  • Perform clerical tasks, including scheduling appointments and answering telephones

Occupational therapy assistants collaborate with occupational therapists to develop and carry out a treatment plan for each patient. Activities described in plans range from teaching the proper way for patients to move from a bed into a wheelchair to advising patients on the best way to stretch their muscles. For example, an occupational therapy assistant might work with injured workers to help them get back into the workforce by teaching them how to work around lost motor skills. Occupational therapy assistants also may work with people who have learning disabilities, teaching them skills that allow them to be more independent.

Assistants monitor activities to make sure that patients are doing them correctly. They record the patient’s progress and provide feedback to the occupational therapist so that the therapist can change the treatment plan if the patient is not getting the desired results.

Occupational therapy aides typically prepare materials and assemble equipment used during treatment. They may assist patients with moving to and from treatment areas. After a therapy session, aides clean the treatment area, put away equipment, and gather laundry.

Occupational therapy aides also fill out insurance forms and other paperwork and are responsible for a range of clerical tasks, such as scheduling appointments, answering the telephone, and monitoring inventory levels.

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How To Become A Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants need an associate’s degree from an accredited occupational therapy assistant program. They also must be licensed in most states. Occupational therapy aides typically have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Education and Training

Occupational therapy assistants typically need an associate’s degree from an accredited program. Occupational therapy assistant programs are commonly found in community colleges and technical schools. In 2014, there were more than 200 occupational therapy assistant programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, a branch of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

These programs generally require 2 years of full-time study and include instruction in subjects such as psychology, biology, and pediatric health. In addition to taking coursework, occupational therapy assistants must complete at least 16 weeks of fieldwork to gain hands-on work experience.

People interested in becoming an occupational therapy assistant should take high school courses in biology and health education. They also can increase their chances of getting into a community college or technical school program by doing volunteer work in a healthcare setting, such as a nursing care facility, an occupational therapist’s office, or a physical therapist’s office.

Occupational therapy aides typically have a high school diploma or equivalent. They are trained on the job under the supervision of more experienced assistants or aides. Training can last from several days to a few weeks and covers a number of topics, including the setting up of therapy equipment and infection control procedures, among others. Previous work experience in healthcare, as well as certifications in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and basic life support (BLS), may be helpful in getting a job.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Occupational therapy assistants and aides frequently work with patients who struggle with many of life’s basic activities. As a result, they should be compassionate and have the ability to encourage others.

Detail oriented. Occupational therapy assistants and aides must be able to quickly and accurately follow the instructions, both written and spoken, of an occupational therapist. In addition, aides must pay attention to detail when performing clerical tasks, such as helping a patient fill out an insurance form.  

Flexibility. Assistants must be flexible when treating patients. Because not every type of therapy will work for each patient, assistants may need to be creative when working with occupational therapists to determine the best type of therapy to use for achieving a patient’s goals.

Interpersonal skills. Occupational therapy assistants and aides spend much of their time interacting with patients and therefore should be friendly and courteous. They also should be able to communicate clearly with patients and with patients’ families to the extent of their training.

Physical strength. Assistants and aides need to have a moderate degree of strength because of the physical exertion required to assist patients. Constant kneeling, stooping, and standing for long periods also are part of the job.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nearly all states require occupational therapy assistants to be licensed or registered. Licensure typically requires the completion of an accredited occupational therapy assistant education program, completion of all fieldwork requirements, and passing the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Some states have additional requirements.

Occupational therapy assistants must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant” (COTA). They must also take continuing education classes to maintain their certification.

The American Occupational Therapy Association also offers a number of specialty certifications for occupational therapy assistants who want to demonstrate their specialized level of knowledge, skills, and abilities in specialized areas of practice such as low vision or feeding, eating and swallowing.

Occupational therapy aides are not regulated.

Advancement

Some occupational therapy assistants and aides advance by gaining additional education and becoming occupational therapists. A small number of occupational therapist “bridge” education programs are designed to qualify occupational therapy assistants to advance and become therapists.

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Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Career Paths

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
Certified Nursing Assistant Team Leader Case Manager
Director Of Social Services
6 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Certified Nursing Assistant Administrator Case Manager
Medical Case Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Therapist Clinical Coordinator
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Senior Technician Specialist Nursing Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
PRN Senior Technician Specialist Nursing Director
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse Supervisor Nursing Director
Interim Director
10 Yearsyrs
PRN Registered Nurse Supervisor Nurse Manager
Managed Care Director
9 Yearsyrs
Massage Therapist Adjunct Instructor Nurse Manager
Nursing Services Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Massage Therapist Administrator Nurse Manager
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Massage Therapist Clinician Speech Language Pathologist
Therapy Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Consultant Nurse Regional Director
Director Of Rehabilitation
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Consultant Nurse Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Clinic Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Case Manager
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Therapist Office Manager House Manager
Home Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Registered Occupational Therapist Senior Technician Specialist Director Of Social Services
Rehabilitation Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Assistants Radiation Therapist Lead Therapist
Rehab Director
6 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Top Careers Before Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
PRN 5.3%
Internship 4.7%
Cashier 4.0%
Volunteer 3.2%
Manager 2.5%
Server 2.2%
Top Careers After Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
PRN 12.5%
Volunteer 1.8%
Manager 1.8%
Teacher 1.7%
Internship 1.5%

Do you work as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Average Yearly Salary
$77,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$40,000
Min 10%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$77,000
Median 50%
$148,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
INTEGRIS Health
Highest Paying City
Anchorage, AK
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
5.4 years
How much does a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant in the United States is $77,378 per year or $37 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $40,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $148,000.

How Would You Rate The Salary Of a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Have you worked as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant? Help other job seekers by rating your experience as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.

Top Skills for A Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

  1. Occupational Therapy Services
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. ADL
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Provided occupational therapy services to children and adults with a variety of developmental/sensory delays and physical impairments.
  • Followed individual treatment plans monitored patient activities to ensure correct performance and provided encouragement.
  • Complete ADL and cognitive assessments to determine ability to function independently.
  • Worked on functional transfers, ADL/IADL training, home training, therapeutic exercise, therapeutic activities, client centered activities.
  • Apply concepts of infection control and universal precautions in coordinating and performing patient care activities.

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 6,281 Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Resume

View Resume Examples

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Demographics

Gender

Female

79.6%

Male

14.9%

Unknown

5.5%
Ethnicity

White

66.8%

Hispanic or Latino

14.1%

Black or African American

10.3%

Asian

5.9%

Unknown

2.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

81.0%

French

5.2%

Portuguese

1.7%

Chinese

1.7%

German

1.7%

Albanian

1.7%

Japanese

1.7%

Tagalog

1.7%

Russian

1.7%

Polish

1.7%
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Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Education

Schools

Keiser University

29.1%

New England Institute of Technology

8.7%

Macomb Community College

4.4%

Maria College

4.3%

Fox Valley Technical College

3.8%

Brown Mackie College-Indianapolis

3.7%

Rockland Community College

3.5%

Pennsylvania College of Technology

3.5%

North Shore Community College

3.4%

Anoka Technical College

3.4%

Stark State College

3.4%

Lehigh Carbon Community College

3.4%

Community College of Allegheny County

3.4%

Brown University

3.3%

Brown Mackie College-Fort Wayne

3.3%

University of Louisiana at Monroe

3.3%

Mercy College - Dobbs Ferry

3.1%

Brown Mackie College-Merrillville

3.1%

Owens Community College

3.0%

Pennsylvania State University

3.0%
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Majors

Occupational Therapy

84.9%

Health Sciences And Services

2.1%

Business

1.7%

Psychology

1.5%

Medical Assisting Services

1.4%

Nursing

1.3%

Health Care Administration

0.9%

Liberal Arts

0.8%

Education

0.6%

Rehabilitation Science

0.6%

Management

0.6%

General Studies

0.5%

Clinical Psychology

0.5%

Secretarial And Administrative Science

0.5%

Military Applied Sciences

0.4%

Social Work

0.4%

Special Education

0.4%

Health And Wellness

0.3%

Communication

0.3%

Physical Therapy

0.3%
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Degrees

Associate

71.1%

Other

10.6%

Bachelors

9.7%

Masters

5.9%

Certificate

1.9%

Doctorate

0.3%

License

0.3%

Diploma

0.3%
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What is it like to work as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

3.0

Meaningful work when you can find it.

November 27, 2019 on Zippia

What was your job title?

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.. Show More

What do you like the most about working as Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant?

I absolutely loved working with the elderly and veteran populations in skilled nursing facilities and at the VA hospital. I thoroughly enjoy empowering people to live their best lives and I'm heart broken that I will no longer be able to find employment in this field. .. Show More

What do you NOT like?

I absolutely loved working as a COTA these past seven years but it has been filled with ups and downs. Working at skilled nursing facilities is difficult due to high productivity demands impacting therapist ability to give patient centered care. Now with the new patient driven payment model change to medicare laws, therapists are being laid off left and right. These therapists, like myself, will have the impossible task of trying to find work in the Seattle area - which has been flooded with newly graduated COTAs due to several OTA schools opening in this area. The jobs in pediatrics and at hospitals that are left will see in increase in competition as the displaces/laid off COTAs rush to those jobs. .. Show More

How Would You Rate Working As a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant?

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