What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

If you’re interested in the healthcare industry and particularly with helping patients with their daily life skills, you might be familiar with the role of an occupational therapist. These healthcare professionals help patients cultivate, improve and recover the life skills they need for their daily routines. Even if you know what an occupational therapist does, you might not know that it’s possible to attain a role in occupational therapy even without pursuing an advanced degree. Occupational therapy assistants are healthcare professionals who work directly with patients in the therapeutic process. All you need to get started is a two-year degree and a license.

An Associate’s Degree for Aspiring Occupational Therapy Assistants

Earning an associate’s degree is the first step to becoming an occupational therapy assistant. There are fewer than 200 occupational therapy assistant programs across the nation that have earned accreditation from the American Occupational Therapy Association’s Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Before a student enrolls in any occupational therapy assistant program, he or she should make sure that the program is accredited. Otherwise, this lack of accreditation may become a problem when it comes time to seek licensure.

In an accredited occupational therapy assistant program at a technical school or community college, students will study subjects such as biology, psychology and pediatric health in the classroom, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. They will also spend at least 16 weeks immersed in fieldwork experiences. Earning an associate’s degree from an occupational therapy assistant program takes two years if students are studying full-time.

Getting Licensed as an Occupational Therapy Assistant

While an associate’s degree is the only education you will need to become an occupational therapy assistant, you must still attain a license or registration to practice in most states. In addition to having an associate’s degree from an accredited program and completing all fieldwork requirements, candidates for occupational therapy assistant licenses must also score a passing grade on the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.

Upon completing the exam, candidates can begin using the title “Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant,” according to the BLS.

There are a number of benefits to being an occupational therapy assistant. For one thing, the job outlook for this career is so positive that the United States Department of Labor ranked the occupation eighth among the 10 fastest growing jobs. Over just a decade, the BLS predicts a 43 percent increase in new jobs for these professionals. The pay rate is another plus. Occupational therapy assistants earn a median salary of $53,240 per year, according to the BLS, which makes the profession’s earnings significantly higher than the $34,750 salary for all occupations. Considering that the career only requires an associate’s degree, the job outlook and wages are fair. For many occupational therapy assistants, the opportunity to help patients improve or regain the skills needed for their daily life is the most rewarding part of the job.

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