Occupational therapy is a field on the rise, and more students than ever before are interested in becoming full-time, licensed occupational therapy assistants. OTAs will enjoy a career with many different benefits, but before you can find that dream job, you’ll need to complete your education. Luckily, everything is all laid out for you so all you have to do is follow the right path. Use this guide to learn more about the education that an OTA will need.
OTAs will need to obtain an associate’s degree in order to enter the field. Associates degrees typically take two years to complete, and an increasing amount of evening, weekend and part-time educational programs are also available today. Your degree must come from an ACOTE accredited program, which is the Accrediting Council for Occupational Therapy Education. In 2009, there were 135 such programs in the United States, with more in the works and on the way in the coming years.
Once you’re in your program, it will be divided into basically two halves. Your first year is going to cover a lot of introductory material, including the basics of medical terminology and treatment, introduction to healthcare and providing healthcare, anatomy and physiology courses, and so forth. This will give you the background and baseline information you need to begin gaining more specific, technical and clinical knowledge.
Courses in year two will really dive into occupational therapy and what you’ll be doing in your career. You’ll be taking courses on mental health, physical disabilities, gerontology, pediatrics, kinesiology, and much more. You’ll be learning about various disabilities of all kinds, and what kinds of treatments are appropriate for them, and of course how to go about treating patients. This is really the nuts and bolts of what your career entails and how you’ll be approaching it.
In addition to all of these classes, the most important part of your education will really be your fieldwork. In order to complete accredited programs, 16 weeks of supervised clinical fieldwork will be necessary. Depending on your program, you may have established partnerships with local institutions to provide training, or you may have to seek out independent internships or training opportunities.
After all of this is done and successfully completed, you’ll be ready to take the next step with your career. All that’s left to do will be to get your licensure or certification, and in most cases that entails passing the national certification exam and becoming a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, although different states and locales may have different regulations or requirements.
Hopefully by now you’ve learned a bit more about the education that an occupational therapy assistant will need. It’s a two year journey with a required associate’s degree from an accredited program. You’ll begin with basic courses and then move to classes specifically for occupational therapy, and you’ll need to complete your supervised coursework. From there you’ll be ready to get your license or certification and you’ll be able to enter the workforce and begin your exciting new career.