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Occupational Therapist Assistant Job Description, Career as an Occupational Therapist Assistant, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Median—$38,430 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Occupational therapist assistants, also known as occupational therapy assistants, provide rehabilitative services to people with mental, emotional, physical, or developmental impairments. They work under the supervision of occupational therapists. Many occupational therapist assistants work in hospitals. Others work in homes for the aged, clinics, special schools, or occupational workshops.

Assistants help patients work through rehabilitative exercises and activities outlined in a treatment plan by an occupational therapist. Assistants may help patients learn how to feed and dress themselves, compensate for lost motor skills, or achieve a more independent lifestyle.

Occupational therapist assistants may be responsible for ordering supplies and taking care of the equipment used in therapy. They may write up observation and progress reports on the patients and do other paperwork. Sometimes they may handle clerical duties.

Education and Training Requirements

To enter a training program for occupational therapist assistants, a person must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. Courses in crafts, health, science, and typing are helpful. Work experience in summer camps or hospitals is useful.

Training for occupational therapist assistants is given in community colleges and vocational and technical schools. Most programs last two years and lead to an associate degree. Some lead to a certificate only. Courses may include basic medical terminology, anatomy, mental health, and pediatrics. If individuals graduate from a program accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association and pass a test, they can become a certified occupational therapist assistant (COTA).

An occupational therapist assistant helps a patient work through rehabilitative exercises and activities. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Getting the Job

Interested individuals can apply directly to hospitals or clinics for a job. Job openings are sometimes listed in newspaper want ads or job banks on the Internet. School placement offices can also help candidates find a job, as can state and private employment agencies.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

In large hospitals and clinics, assistants can become supervisors. With further training and experience, and by passing an examination, a certified occupational therapist assistant can become a registered occupational therapist (OTR).

The employment outlook for occupational therapist assistants is expected to grow much faster than the average through the year 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Due to the increasing numbers of persons with disabilities, the aging population, and children with sensory disorders, there will be a demand for rehabilitation services and long-term care. Also, there is an anticipated high rate of turnover among occupational therapist assistants, which should result in openings. The employment outlook is best for graduates of approved programs.

Working Conditions

Occupational therapist assistants usually work forty hours per week. Some weekend or evening hours may be required. Most occupational workshops are nicely decorated. Assistants should be friendly and understanding. They often work with people who are in pain or who need to be cheered up. Assistants should be good at working with their hands and should enjoy helping others.

Where to Go for More Information

American Occupational Therapy Association
4720 Montgomery Ln.
PO Box 31220
Bethesda, MD 20824-1220
(301) 652-2682

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary with education and experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in May 2004 the median salary for occupational therapist assistants was $38,430 per year. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine