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Occupational Therapy Assistant

What they do:

Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) work with patients who require occupational therapy due to an accident, stroke, or lifelong medical condition such as cerebral palsy. OTAs will help these patients to live independently, or independently as possible, by teaching them ways to perform daily tasks and routines of life. For example, an OTA will construct a plan to help a wheelchair bound child navigate school hallways, locker room, and cafeteria all on her own.

OTAs provide treatment according to the goals written by the occupational therapist in the treatment plan for the patient. 

OTA should be interested in interacting with others between the work they must do with their patients and treatment teams. In addition, since OTAs are working with patients during very difficult times, it is important for OTAs to be encouraging and compassionate.


An OTA will need to get an associate degree, which can typically be completed in two years or so. There are currently 326 occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. The coursework includes an array of topics, which range from anatomy to oral communication. Beside classes, OTA students will need to get 16 weeks of fieldwork, which might take place in a hospital, nursing care facility or OT office, among other places. After graduating, students will also have to take the OTA certification exam that’s administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Most states will then require OTAs to acquire a license to practice.

What they make:

The median annual wage of an OTA was $54,520 in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Where they work:

  • Home care programs

  • Ambulatory care centers

  • Hospitals

  • Day and rehabilitation centers

  • Special schools

  • Nursing homes

  • Community centers

  • Industry and private enterprise


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapy assistants and aides is projected to grow 40% from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Occupational therapy will continue to be an important part of treatment for people with various illnesses and disabilities.



Updated February 2017