Occupational therapy is on the rise, and there is a great need for occupational therapy assistants to enter the workforce. The promise is of a dynamic and rewarding career, with plentiful job opportunities. That all sounds pretty good, but before you can get started, you have to know how to go about it. Here’s a guide you can use to see for yourself how to become an occupational therapy assistant.
The first step that occupational therapy assistants will need to undertake will be to enroll in an associate’s degree program. These programs are designed to take about two years in length, and will leave students completely prepared to enter the workforce. Not just any program you might find off the streets will be acceptable, however. You need to ensure that you enroll in a program which has been fully accredited.
The accrediting body is the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, or ACOTE. As of 2009, there were 135 fully accredited programs for occupational therapy assistants, and that number has been on the rise every year. Therefore, there’s no shortage of options to consider, and you should be able to find a school and program that’s close to you and fits your needs on every level.
Not only will you receive in-classroom education for these two years, but you’ll also be required to complete fieldwork in terms of internships or training programs and partnerships. About 16 weeks of supervised fieldwork is typically required for graduation and completion of the program.
Once you have your degree, the next step will in most cases be certification and/or licensure. The majority of states require licensure for OTAs. At last count, 40 of 50 states did, and Washington D.C. did as well. In many cases, taking and passing the national certification will be sufficient to obtain your state-level licensure.
The national exam is provided by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy, and successful completion of this will bestow onto you the title of COTA, or Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. Some states may require additional steps before you get your licensure, whether it’s a number of hours of work or supervised training, an additional exam, or so forth. It’s always important to look into your local requirements and what standards or regulations are in place so you’re fully prepared. After completing your associate’s degree program and getting the required licensure or certification you need, you’ll be all set, and you’ll be ready to start your new career.
Becoming an occupational therapy assistant will be a great decision, and it will provide you with a wonderful career for the rest of your life. It’s relatively easy to get started and pursue, and in a few short years, you can enter the workforce as a highly trained and capable individual, ready to take on the world. When you do, you’ll have plenty of jobs awaiting you, and a rewarding career in every way. The time to get started as an occupational therapy assistant is now.