Occupational Therapy Assistant Program

Are occupational therapy assistants licensed?

Occupational therapy assistants are licensed in nearly all states. As of this writing in 2011, forty states require OTA’s to be licensed. Because occupational therapy assistants work with more fragile populations within medical settings, many states want to ensure the protection of the consumer by licensing individuals who work closely with these populations in a recuperative therapeutic capacity. This allows the state’s licensing body to assure the public of the fact that these professionals have completed education and testing requirements that denote competency and ethics.

Are occupational therapy assistants certified?

The requirement for certification is dependant on the mandates set by each state, as well as on the setting in which an occupational therapy assistant intends to practice. Some states accept national certification in lieu of licensure to ensure

In order to become a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA), an OTA must pass the certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). In order to be eligible to sit for the exam, applicants must graduate from occupational therapy assistant schools accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Transcripts that verify attendance and graduation must be provided to the NBCOT in order to be eligible to take the examination.  Additionally, all fieldwork through clinical rotations must also have been completed.

What’s the difference between a license and national certification?

A license is issued by the state in which an OTA intends to practice. More than seventy-five percent of states within the US currently regulate the practice of occupational therapy assisting through a licensing process. Licensure is granted through a designated state office, and typically requires proof of education, proof of residence, the paying of fees and may also include fingerprinting.

Certification is a credential that is earned by passing the examination administered by the National Board of Certification for Occupational Therapy. In some states licensure is dependent on NBCOT certification. The issuance of a state license may require a state administered examination in addition to the NBCOT exam.

What sort of training do I receive in order to become an occupational therapy assistant?

The fieldwork component of occupational therapy assistant programs is progressive in nature and eventually advances to include all the duties OTAs would perform on the job. There are two levels of fieldwork: Level I field work is mostly observation, Level II fieldwork is where hands-on practice starts evolving.

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education requires sixteen weeks of Level II fieldwork. The fieldwork is also broken up into sections to allow students to practice with senior clinicians in a variety of settings. Fieldwork rotations will make an effort to allow an occupational therapy assistant to get as much exposure to as wide a range of diagnoses and patient populations as possible.

What can be expected from occupational therapy assistant programs?

Occupational therapy is a very broad discipline that involves working with a wide array of medical conditions and age groups. While OTAs do learn about many of the more common disorders they will encounter on the job, a large part of the education is spent teaching therapeutic principles and how to apply them.

An OTA will learn about normal and abnormal movement with regard to muscle and joint function. Ambulation is vital to daily function for anybody, so helping to restore this function is among the key occupations facilitated by occupational therapy assistants. Retraining clients in the ability to walk, transfer and move in the ways necessary to perform daily activities safely is integral.  Occupational therapist assistants will find themselves applying exercise principles as well as neurologic retraining through neuromuscular activities that involve coordinating thought patterns with physical movement.

An OTA will study developmental theory and practices to facilitate the therapy of pediatric patients and explore some aspects of developmental cognition and sensory development. Occupational therapy plays a large role in the treatment of children with congenital conditions or those that suffer illness or injury when very young, and the therapeutic principles applied to a developing body are very different from those applied to adults.

Additionally, an OTA will learn how to teach and retrain ADLs, or the activities of daily living. What these activities are vary based on the age and needs of the patient or client, but they can be everything from simply getting dressed and performing personal care, to cooking and maintaining a house. They may also include job-related activities, or the ability to use public transport. While the treatment plan is set by the occupational therapist, an OTA is often the person who executes the treatment. This means the training OTAs participate in is thorough and challenging, and ultimately develops a professional with strong interpersonal skills who is well able to take on these responsibilities with the intent of improving the quality of clients’ lives.

Learn more about occupational therapy assistant salaries.

Occupational Therapist Assistant Schools