Occupational therapy assistants provide rehabilitative services that improve the quality of life for people with mental, emotional, developmental or physical impairments. They typically work under the supervision of occupational therapists, with the goal of helping people return to their jobs, increase their ability to perform daily living activities and help them cope with lost motor or learning skills.
By collaborating with occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants develop treatment plans for clients, including rehabilitative activities and exercises. Anyone seeking to launch an occupational therapy career can consider enrolling in an associate’s degree in applied psychology program.
Job Outlook for Occupational Therapy Assistants
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that occupational therapy assistant jobs are projected to grow by 43% between 2014 and 2024. That will far outpace the national average growth rate of 7% for all occupations during that same period.
Employment will increase due to a growing elderly population, increasing health issues for the baby boomer generation and a focus on lowering healthcare costs.
Occupational therapy assistants perform a variety of duties designed to help patients improve their quality of life through rehabilitation. Whether patients are experiencing mental, physical or developmental difficulties, occupational therapy assistants carry out treatment plans developed by occupational therapists. They may teach clients mobility-enhancing exercises, or how to bathe, feed and dress themselves.
Preparing materials and assembling equipment used during treatments are additional tasks performed by occupational therapy assistants. These professionals may also monitor a patient’s activities. They record details of a patient’s progress so the occupational therapist can determine whether to continue or change the course of treatment. Additional job duties may include recording insurance billing data.
Occupational therapy assistants typically work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes or other private facilities. They may be required to travel to visit clients, and physical activities such as lifting patients, standing and kneeling are often required.
The BLS reports that the average annual income for occupational therapy assistants nationwide was $59,530 as of May 2016. The top 10% of earners had salaries exceeding $80,090 a year. Recent associate’s degree program graduates will typically start out at the lower end of the scale and may advance as they attain additional experience and educational qualifications.
Earning potential and employment opportunities are determined by many factors, including local market conditions, the type and size of employer, and a candidate’s work history and highest level of education.
Education and Training for Occupational Therapy Assistants
Occupational therapy assistant jobs may require an associate’s degree and completion of an academic program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association. Applicable licensing, registration or certification regulations vary by state.
The road to becoming an occupational therapy assistant can begin with an associate’s degree in applied psychology. Coursework typically includes general physical science, human behavior perspective, and lifestyle development and psychology.
Graduates of an associate’s degree in applied psychology program should be prepared to:
- Identify and solve problems through critical thinking
- Distinguish various psychological and interdisciplinary theories of human behavior
- Value key concepts of socio-cultural diversity
- Exhibit testing and measuring skills
Eligible professionals may have access to continuing education support through their employer. For example, it may be possible to enter the field with an associate’s degree and use a tuition assistance program to pay for a bachelor’s degree program.
Is an Occupational Therapy Assistant Career a Good Fit for You?
If you have a high level of responsibility and patience, along with the desire to help people live more fulfilling lives, you might consider an occupational therapy assistant career. This profession requires strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work on a team and an understanding of human behavior.
With the relevant training and educational background, a career as an occupational therapy assistant could provide you with personal and professional satisfaction.