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Become A Therapy Aide

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Working As A Therapy Aide

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
  • Getting Information
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Angry People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • $30,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Therapy Aide 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 Therapy Aide

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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Therapy Aide Career Paths

Therapy Aide
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Team Leader
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Nurse Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Staff Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor
Assistant Director Of Nursing
7 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Staff Nurse Team Leader
Account Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse Supervisor Case Manager
Patient Care Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Utilization Review Nurse Case Manager
Executive Director
10 Yearsyrs
Counselor Team Leader Owner
Co-Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Counselor Therapist Supervisor
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist Outpatient Physical Therapist Case Manager
Clinical Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist Therapist Supervisor
Unit Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist Clinical Instructor Nurse Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Senior Technician Specialist Manager
Chief Executive Officer
8 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Senior Technician Specialist Assistant Manager
Center Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Occupational Therapist Senior Technician Specialist Office Manager
Business Office Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Executive Assistant Assistant Property Manager
Resident Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Instructor Adjunct Professor Clinical Supervisor
Director Of Rehabilitation
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Special Education Teacher Therapeutic Support Staff
Residential Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Lead Teacher Director Clinical Director
Rehab Director
6 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Psychiatric Aide 3.5 years
Restorative Aide 3.3 years
Therapy Aide 3.0 years
Rehab Technician 2.5 years
Service Aide 2.5 years
Rehab Aide 2.4 years
Community Aide 2.3 years
Therapy Technician 2.2 years
Aide 1.9 years
Top Careers Before Therapy Aide
Cashier 10.1%
Internship 9.2%
Volunteer 7.0%
Server 3.1%
Assistant 2.4%
Hostess 2.3%
Nanny 2.3%
Top Careers After Therapy Aide
Cashier 6.3%
Volunteer 6.2%
Internship 5.1%
Supervisor 2.9%

Do you work as a Therapy Aide?

Therapy Aide Demographics

Gender

Female

62.3%

Male

25.9%

Unknown

11.8%
Ethnicity

White

62.9%

Hispanic or Latino

15.2%

Black or African American

11.8%

Asian

6.3%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

72.7%

Korean

5.5%

Hindi

3.6%

Arabic

3.6%

Swedish

1.8%

Portuguese

1.8%

French

1.8%

Gujarati

1.8%

Tagalog

1.8%

Urdu

1.8%

Italian

1.8%

Russian

1.8%
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Therapy Aide Education

Schools

Temple University

9.9%

University of Phoenix

7.9%

State University of New York College at Oswego

7.2%

University of the Sciences

6.6%

Kean University

5.9%

Idaho State University

5.9%

Eastern Washington University

4.6%

Harcum College

4.6%

Pennsylvania State University

4.6%

Erie Community College

4.6%

California State University - Los Angeles

4.6%

University of North Florida

3.9%

Bryant and Stratton College

3.9%

Madison Area Technical College

3.9%

University of Southern California

3.9%

West Chester University of Pennsylvania

3.9%

Drexel University

3.9%

Rockland Community College

3.3%

Villanova University

3.3%

Brigham Young University

3.3%
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Majors

Kinesiology

13.0%

Occupational Therapy

13.0%

Psychology

10.2%

Physical Therapy

10.0%

Nursing

8.3%

Medical Assisting Services

6.2%

Health Care Administration

5.1%

Business

4.9%

Social Work

4.0%

Liberal Arts

3.0%

Biology

2.8%

Criminal Justice

2.8%

General Studies

2.6%

Nursing Assistants

2.6%

Human Services

2.4%

Rehabilitation Science

2.3%

Public Health

1.9%

Health Sciences And Services

1.9%

Mental Health Counseling

1.5%

Communication Disorders Sciences

1.5%
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Degrees

Bachelors

33.3%

Other

22.3%

Masters

18.8%

Associate

14.7%

Certificate

5.1%

Doctorate

3.3%

Diploma

1.7%

License

0.8%
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Top Skills for A Therapy Aide

  1. Occupational Therapy
  2. Patient Care
  3. Physical Therapy
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Consulted with other direct-care staff and worked with caregivers to implement home programs that achieved occupational therapy goals.
  • Prepare and distribute statistical reports work as a therapy aid, assist therapists (occupational./physical) with patient care under supervision
  • Prepare patients for physical therapy treatment by welcoming, comforting, providing and/or assisting patient into physical therapy apparel.
  • Assisted occupational therapist in individual and group therapy sessions of patients aged 3 to 10.
  • Prepared a comprehensive staffing plan for the new Sexually Violent Persons facility based on departmental recommendations and statutory program goals.

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