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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
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Getting Information
  • Handling and Moving Objects
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • $26,100

    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 jobs

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Therapy Aide Career Paths

Therapy Aide
Office Manager Operations Manager General Manager
Area Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Assistant Director Office Manager
Business Office Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Case Manager
Career Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapy Aide Massage Therapist Therapist
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Counselor Program Manager Deputy Director
Department Director
6 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Case Manager Assistant Director
Director
8 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapy Aide Physical Therapist
Director Of Rehabilitation
8 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Instructor Training Manager
Director Of Training
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Registered Nurse Nurse Manager
Emergency Services Director
8 Yearsyrs
Registered Nurse Clinical Coordinator Program Director
Executive Director
10 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Office Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Counselor Service Coordinator Service Supervisor
Patient Services Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Licensed Practical Nurse Case Manager
Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Home Health Aid Security Officer Technician
Project Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist Assistant Physical Therapist
Rehab Director
7 Yearsyrs
Medical Assistant Technician Service Manager
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Licensed Practical Nurse Instructor Operations Manager
Site Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Technician Specialist Occupational Therapist
Therapy Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Case Manager Account Manager District Manager
Warehouse Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist Assistant Massage Therapist Licensed Practical Nurse
Wellness Director
7 Yearsyrs
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Therapy Aide Demographics

Gender

  • Female

    71.8%
  • Male

    26.7%
  • Unknown

    1.4%

Ethnicity

  • White

    79.8%
  • Hispanic or Latino

    11.1%
  • Asian

    6.5%
  • Unknown

    2.0%
  • Black or African American

    0.7%
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Languages Spoken

  • Spanish

    73.0%
  • Korean

    8.1%
  • Arabic

    5.4%
  • Portuguese

    2.7%
  • French

    2.7%
  • Hindi

    2.7%
  • Russian

    2.7%
  • Italian

    2.7%
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Therapy Aide

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Therapy Aide Education

Therapy Aide

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Top Skills for A Therapy Aide

OccupationalTherapyPhysicalTherapyFacilitySpeechTherapyPatientCareDailyLivingSkillsProceduresTherapySessionsRehabTreatmentAreasUltrasoundTreatmentPlansADLTherapyEquipmentSchedulingAppointmentsMedicalRecordsVitalSignsCustomerServiceTherapyGymDailyActivities

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Top Therapy Aide Skills

  1. Occupational Therapy
  2. Physical Therapy
  3. Facility
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Manage all aspects of office, aid in providing home health occupational therapy to children and adults.
  • Implemented physical therapy programs established by the Physical Therapist.
  • Trained volunteers on facility and volunteer protocol.
  • Assisted physical, occupational, and speech therapy departments in administering therapy programs by preparing patients for treatment.
  • Encourage daily living skills and family members to actively participate in patient care.

Top Therapy Aide Employers

Therapy Aide Videos

What We Look for in a PT Aide

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