What are OTAs and What Do They Do?

OTA working with a patient in an OT setting

An OTA, or Occupational Therapy Assistant, works within the medical field helping patients—children or adults—who have an injury or debilitating illness that decreases mobility. OTAs work alongside Occupational Therapists in a variety of settings assisting patients both physically and emotionally.

Having the ability to relate well with patients and provide sympathetic care is a core component of this position. If you also possess good listening skills and are interested in providing caring therapy to those in need in your community, an OTA position in the healthcare field can be extremely rewarding.

Bryant & Stratton College is committed to helping students achieve career goals through high-quality educational tools, instructors, and courses. Our Occupational Therapy Assistant associate degree program prepares students for success in this growing field, helping them with the skills and insights needed to gain licensure as an OTA.

What is an OTA?

An OTA, or Occupational Therapy Assistant, helps an Occupational Therapist with patients who need occupational therapy and support due to a variety of conditions such as illness, accident, disability, or some other contributing factor. A focused therapeutic approach is employed to assist patients in rehabilitation and recovery from debilitating physical impairments. Different techniques and special equipment are employed, including balancing exercises and even gym equipment. However, OTAs offer more than just physical assistance to help patients achieve greater mobility. They provide encouragement, psychological assistance, and coaching. It is an important role that connects the care provider in a more personal way to their patients.

These critical professionals work in a variety of capacities, helping patients of any and every age. An OTA can help elder patients that may need assistance adjusting to changes that come with advanced age. Young school children with disabilities and challenges can also benefit from the services of an OTA to improve motor skills and other daily functions. A skilled OTA helps an Occupational Therapist with patients by using key exercises and tools designed to increase mobility and alleviate pain. They are often delegated managerial functions and, implement exercise plans for clients. An OTA helps patients gain or regain mobility as well as the ability to carry out daily activities to lead a more functional higher quality of life.

What Does an OTA Do?

An OTA works to treat patients with various therapeutic activities. These activities can include focused exercises that help patients achieve greater mobility. They will not only monitor these activities, but document and assess the progress of patients' recovery and rehabilitation for review by an Occupational Therapist.

In addition to these exercises, occupational therapist assistants often employ methods of encouragement and coaching to help individuals that are struggling mentally and emotionally with the issues surrounding a debilitating condition. Elder patients, adults who sustain accidental injuries, and children with developmental disabilities are among the types of patients OTAs help. Motivating these patients to succeed in their goals is part of the job. Teaching patients to use self-care practices and properly exercise with techniques like balancing and stretching are also included in the daily duties of an OTA. Work is usually done in small occupational and physical therapy clinics, private practices, home health agencies, and other clinical settings such as hospitals.

How Do You Become an OTA?

Becoming an OTA requires certain qualifications, starting with an associate degree from an accredited program by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). This is typically a two-year program that leads to an associate degree.

To become certified, students need to take and pass the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam, which is administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). This is required of all individuals wishing to obtain their license to work as an OTA. Once these requirements are met, aspiring OTAs then apply for a state-certified license. Licenses must be maintained by intervals of continuing education or certifications to stay current on trends and practices in the field. Job prospects are excellent for licensed OTAs and employment can often be found in occupational therapists’ offices, nursing care facilities, small clinics, as well as hospitals.

Start Your OTA Journey Today

OTAs are critical components to Occupational Therapy practices. There is an increased demand for skilled and licensed OTAs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of occupational therapy assistants and aides is projected to grow 32 percent from 2019 to 2029. If you’re considering OTA as a career, you should find excellent employment opportunities upon licensure in the coming years.

Bryant & Stratton College offers an Occupational Therapy Assistant program that can prepare students for a profession in occupational therapy settings. It offers a solid academic foundation with coursework that will help prepare graduates for success in a competitive workplace.

In addition to top-notch academics and the latest educational tools, Bryant & Stratton College also helps students with life skills surrounding critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Our Career LifePrep helps students find internships, tap into the networking power and knowledge base of instructors, and be equipped to handle professional challenges. Learn more about Bryant & Stratton College today and how we can help you succeed with your career goals.

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