Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Careers

Overview

Certified occupational therapy assistants treat patients with medical conditions, injuries and/or disabilities under the supervision of an occupational therapist. You will help patients progress, recuperate and strengthen their so that they can perform their daily routines. In order to be certified as an occupational therapy assistant, you will need to follow these simple steps.

Educational Requirements

While in high school, you will need to take as many science classes (biology, anatomy and health) as possible. These classes will boost your chances of getting into the technical school, college or university of your choice. You will also want to sign up for volunteer work at a healthcare facility such as a nursing home, physical therapy center or an occupational therapy office.

In addition, you will need to obtain, at minimum, an associate’s degree (A.A.). Most community colleges and technical schools offer two-year occupational therapy assistant programs. These programs typically consist of a combination of coursework (psychology, biology, sociology) and a supervised internship in the occupational therapy field.

  • Licensure

It is important to note that most states require that occupational therapy assistants obtain licensure before practicing. Licensure typically consists of completing an occupational therapy assistant program and successfully passing the certification exam. You may also be required to complete continuing education courses every 3 to 5 years in order to maintain your certification.

  • Certification

Although certification is not required in order to practice as an occupational therapy assistant, most employers prefer that their occupational therapist be certified. To be certified, you will need to complete an approve occupational therapy assistant program and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy certification exam. Once you have completed all of the requirements, you will be classified as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.  

Job Duties

As a certified occupational therapy assistant you may complete the following duties:

  • Develop treatment plans for patients under the supervision of an occupational therapist.
  • Assist patients as they perform the tasks and/or activities listed on their treatment plan (teaching patients how to properly transfer from the bed to their wheelchairs and how to stretch their muscles before exercising).
  • Teach injured workers how to manage their illnesses and/or injuries so that they can re-enter the workforce.
  • Teaches patients with learning disabilities how to live and work independently.
  • Supervises patients to make sure they are performing the activities correctly.
  • Accurately documenting the patient’s progress so the occupational therapist can alter the treatment plan, if need be.
  • Assisting patients as they perform various therapeutic activities (stretches).
  • Teaching children with developmental disabilities how to use coordination during play.
  • Teaching patients how to use special equipment.

Salary Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), you can expect to earn approximately $50,000 per year, as a certified occupational therapy assistant. If you are in the lower 10 percent you can expect to earn approximately $33,000 per year and if you are in the upper 10 percent, you can expect to earn approximately $71,000 per year (bls.gov).  You will more than likely work full-time and you may be required to work evenings, nights, weekends, over time and/or on-call hours.

Job Outlook

The job outlook looks fantastic for certified occupational therapy assistants. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), this field is expected to increase approximately 43% by 2020. Your best chances for future employment will be at a healthcare facility such as an occupational therapy office. Job opportunities in this area will stem from a high turnover rate and the need to replace certified occupational therapy assistants that return to school to advance their careers.

Moreover, the demand for occupational therapy is expected to increase due to the aging baby-boomers who will continue to require more and more occupational therapy services. People are working later in life due to the current economy so there is a greater chance that older individuals will experience accidents, injuries and/or medical conditions that affect their mobility and their ability to work.

Certified occupational therapy assistants will be needed to help occupational therapists care for those in need. In addition, occupational therapy will continue to grow in the area of pediatric care. Occupational therapists and certified occupational therapy assistants will continue to provide services for children, teens and young adults who have autism and/or developmental disabilities.

Lastly, the need for certified occupational therapy assistants will continue to increase as occupational therapists increase their patient loads. Certified occupational therapy assistants will be able to provide a lot of the services needed to help patients recover from their injuries and/or medical conditions.

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