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The 10 Best Schools For Becoming a Occupational Therapy Assistant or Aide: Degree and Job Info

occupational therapists

Have you thought about entering the healthcare field but are unsure in what capacity would be a good fit for you? If so, check out our guide to becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant or Aide.

Every day, we all take for granted simple tasks, such as cooking breakfast, brushing our teeth, and going on about our business. Unfortunately, many are not that fortunate due to physical disabilities, accidents, or illness. Through Occupational Therapy, you can help someone become independent again.

In this choice of career, there are several levels to consider, such as: 

  • Occupational Therapy Aide
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Occupational Therapist

All positions can be obtained through varying levels of education. Check it out today! 

Related Article: 40 Highest Paying Jobs With A Trade School Education


10 BEST SCHOOLS FOR AN OCCUPATIONAL THERAPY ASSISTANT OR AIDE DEGREE

Casper College

Casper College

(Hybrid) AS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

One of the top-rated Occupational Therapy Assistant programs is offered at Casper College. This program is designed to guide aspiring COTAs to help people with disabilities, physical ailments, impaired mental functioning, behavior patterns, and those experiencing aging. Students can choose between in-person and hybrid classes.

This program gives students, online and in-person, direct access to assistive technology laboratories, therapy gym, occupations lab, private study rooms, kitchen classrooms, outdoor learning space, and library resources and technology. Erik Erickson’s psychosocial phases of development are also used to assist and improve each student’s journey to an entry-level generalist practitioner.

Students complete five consecutive semesters of mandatory academic course work, plus two eight-week fieldwork placements, for a total of 78 credit hours during the program, which lasts six semesters. The sequence starts in the fall semester and lasts two years, including one summer session. The classes expand on the knowledge gained in prior semesters. Fieldwork is conducted following the conclusion of academic coursework.

Coursework includes: 

  • Introduction to Sociology plus core courses of
  • Professionalism in Healthcare
  • Intro to Human Diseases
  • Practicums completed in the community

Start your OTA career journey by enrolling at Casper College’s AS in Occupational Therapy Assistant. 


Houston Community College

Houston Community College

(Online and Hybrid) AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

The Community for Accredited Online Schools has named Houston Community College’s (HCC) Occupational Therapy Assistant program the best in the US among two-year colleges. Hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, public and private schools, nursing homes, home care settings, and developing areas of practice participate in remediation activities.

This curriculum equips students to work for clients who need to optimize their independence in functional activities relating to daily living, work, or play/leisure due to injury, illness, the aging process, developmental delays, poverty, or cultural differences. Students are not left unattended with clients; everyone will be under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist.

Students must complete 45 courses plus requirements to complete the program. This program focuses on assisting those in need at school, home, work, or in the community suffering from sicknesses, disorders, conditions, injuries, handicaps, illnesses, or anything else that impacts people’s daily well-being.

Coursework includes:

  • Handwriting interventions
  • Sensory integrations
  • Re-training activities
  • Therapeutic exercises
  • Neuromuscular facilitation techniques

Check out HCC’s AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant program and see why it’s the best in the country for aspiring healthcare assistants! 


Bristol Community College

Bristol Community College

(Traditional and online) AS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

Bristol Community College has a 73-credit-hour Occupational Therapy Assistant program that prepares entry-level occupational therapy assistants in hospitals, senior care homes, rehab clinics, and schools. The curriculum will be taught to students through coursework (both online and in-person), lab work, and off-site learning excursions.

Program courses include:

  • Introduction to Occupational Therapy
  • Psychosocial Performance
  • Cognitive and Sensorimotor Performance
  • Movement in Human Performance
  • Psychosocial Therapeutic Modalities
  • Common Conditions of Physical Dysfunction
  • Level II Occupational Therapy Clinical Practice
  • Seminar in Occupational Therapy

Traditional option OTA courses are primarily available throughout the day, Monday through Friday; online program option OTA courses are available Thursday through Friday. The typical program option necessitates 2-3.5 days per week on-site, whereas the online program necessitates 1-2 days per week on-site.

Coursework includes:

  • Clinical fieldwork assignments 
  • Additional 20+ hours/week

This program is very competitive, and only limited applications will be considered. Graduates will be prepared to work in the healthcare field as licensed occupational therapy assistants.

If you think you’re ready, visit Bristols’s AS in Occupational Therapy Assistant to start your admission. 


Herzing University-Minneapolis

Herzing University-Minneapolis

(Online) AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

Herzing University provides an AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant that can be completed in two years. In its career-focused curriculum, Herzing University provides both hands-on learning and personalized instruction. Students will master the fundamentals of kinesiology, pediatrics, assistive technology, geriatrics, and medical terminology.

This 71-hour curriculum will educate students for various professional settings, including hospitals, clinics, and private offices. The curriculum blends academic and theoretical knowledge with on-the-job training. 

Students begin by learning occupational therapy principles and then engage in tasks that demonstrate their knowledge and comprehension of the content taught. Students are subsequently provided an opportunity to put their knowledge into practice through human employment and activity analysis. Students go to the next level by developing and presenting structured groups, writing new programs, and developing adaptable, assistive equipment.

Required Occupational Therapy Assistant Core Courses includes:

  • Life Span Development
  • Occupational Therapy in Physical Disabilities I
  • Functional Kinesiology
  • Occupational Therapy in Physical Disabilities II 
  • Psychosocial Dysfunction and Group Dynamics
  • Occupational Therapy in Geriatrics and Community Settings
  • Occupational Therapy in Program Development
  • Assistive Technology
  • Team-Based Case Synthesis and Intervention

Let Herzing University jumpstart your career as an Occupational Therapist Assistant by enrolling at their AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant program. 


St. Catherine University

Catherine University

(Blended Learning) Associate in Occupational Therapy Assistant

St. Catherine University established the first two-year occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program in the US. It has a long history of successfully educating Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants. The curriculum is intended to assist students in acquiring occupational therapy skills while also developing and refining leadership, interpersonal, and communication abilities.

Students connect with individuals and groups with physical, psychosocial, or developmental challenges. They will work in various settings and do so in partnership with other healthcare team members. 

Each student completes over 700 hours of supervised fieldwork in various clinical and community settings. Students may have fieldwork experiences within driving distance of their homes, but due to unforeseen events, traveling to a site outside that distance may be required to enhance opportunities.

Required OTA courses include:

  • Foundations of Human Occupation with Lab
  • Psychosocial Approaches I with Lab
  • Professional Growth and Engagement
  • Psychosocial Approaches II
  • Rehabilitation Practice I with Lab
  • Pediatric Practice I with Lab
  • Aging with Lab
  • Primary Care and OT
  • Applied Skills with Lab

Ready for the challenge? Explore the Associate in Occupational Therapy Assistant program and see if their curriculum fits your needs. 


PIMA Medical Institute

PIMA Medical Institute

(Hybrid) Associate in Occupational Therapy Assistant

Pima Medical Institute, a college known for producing mature, competent health care professionals, has established one of the most effective Occupational Therapy Assistant Associate degree programs on its San Marcos campus. The roughly 20-month curriculum equips graduates to assist patients with all types of disabilities and obstacles in participating in daily activities and living independently.

Except for Las Vegas, the total program hours are 1,712 across all campuses and online. The program hours at the Las Vegas campus total 1,757. The Las Vegas program contains one more three-credit class. Graduates will be awarded an Occupational Associates degree, except those from the Houston and El Paso programs, who will be awarded an Associate of Applied Science degree.

Pima Medical OTA students are taught in small groups by experienced professors. The hands-on lab classrooms are equipped with everything needed to give the finest care possible when students enter the workforce. The program covers the following topics:

  • Anatomy And Physiology
  • Occupational Analysis
  • Principles Of Occupational Therapy In Mental Health
  • Growth And Development

Visit Pima’s Online Occupation Therapy Assistant program page for the admission process and requirements to make your resume more attractive to the health care field. 


Penn Foster College

Penn Foster

(Online) Career Diploma Occupational Therapy Aide

Enroll in Penn Foster Career School’s Online Occupational Therapy Aide program, and you might have your certification in as little as one month. Penn Foster’s approved Occupational Therapy Assistant curriculum teaches students the fundamentals required to work as an entry-level professional occupational therapy aide. This program emphasizes the necessity of a safe healthcare environment by discussing the impact of injuries on a human’s normal development and how daily therapies help patients recover.

With five courses covering topics like medical terminology, safety in the health care setting, and professional obligations, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an occupational therapy aide. Among the classes are:

  • Occupational Therapy Orientation
  • Medical and Body Systems Terminology
  • Activities of Daily Living and Adaptive Equipment
  • Therapy and Safety Skills
  • Clinical Work Experience Option

Students can use an online library to supplement their studies. They can use this resource to conduct needed research for their classes and general reference and links to relevant resources. The library has articles, databases, books, and Web links to help you throughout the curriculum.

Start a career in healthcare with Penn Foster’s Occupational Therapy (OT) Aide Program.


Pueblo Community College

Pueblo Community College

(Hybrid) AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

Pueblo Community College offers an AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree. The school includes modern classrooms and labs that aid students in acquiring actual chances as an OTA. This program teaches students how to work under the supervision of a registered occupational therapist. You will be guided on building customized rehabilitative programs, creating goals, and assisting clients in meeting their goals while monitoring their progress.

The program is available in two forms at the school. Option 1 is to take general education courses before enrolling in the program to earn more application points, which plenty recommend. Option 2 is to take general education classes while enrolled in the core program. Furthermore, both require 18 months of academic preparation and 16 weeks of fieldwork before graduation.

OTA courses include:

  • Human Anatomy and Physiology I with Lab
  • Introduction to Occupational Therapy
  • Occupational Disruption and Activity Analysis
  • Assessing Movement Through Occupation
  • Geriatric Concerns, Diseases, and Treatment Techniques

Visit their AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant website to kick-off a career in Occupational Therapy. 


Cleveland University

Cleveland University

(Brick-and-mortar) AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

Cleveland University-Kansas City offers an Occupational Therapy Assistant Degree Program that is thorough and accredited. The curriculum prepares students for national certification and professional occupational therapy work prospects. The program consists of 15 core courses and roughly 4-5 months of fieldwork education.

The program requires 75 credit hours to be completed, with a minimum of four of those hours being completed at Cleveland. The Occupational Therapy Assistant program admits students three times a year. Academic and fieldwork courses are conducted throughout the day, with weekend rotations on occasion depending on the fieldwork assignment, and courses are administered in an 8-week structure.

OTA coursework includes:

  • Analysis Of Performance
  • Rehabilitation And Disability Topics
  • Methods, Techniques, And Adaptive Technologies

Hands-on exercises, such as wheelchair-to-car transfers, reinforce what OTA students learn in courses and labs.

The final phase of OTA education consists of four to five months of Level I and Level II fieldwork, overseen by certified fieldwork assessors.

Be one of the most in-demand and people-first professions in the healthcare field by exploring Cleveland University’s AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant.


Hawkeye Community College

Hawkeye Community College

(Traditional) AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant

Hawkeye Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant degree is a campus degree that prepares you for a job in healthcare. But some students are permitted to have some classes online. However, clinical experiences are done off-campus regardless of the class type. Local, in-state, and out-of-state sites are all possible.

You will most likely have to travel at least 2-3 hours away from campus for one placement to accomplish your fieldwork requirement. You cannot choose specific clinical education venues, but you may request special needs or geographical locations.

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program has two phases, each with its own application. Students can complete Pre-program prerequisites on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time enrollment in OTA professional courses is required.

Core courses include:

  • Medical Terminology
  • Introduction to Health Professions
  • Introduction to Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Neuroanatomy for the OTA
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology (Lab I and II)
  • Human Movement and Occupation
  • Task Analysis
  • Assistive Tech and EM

Check the AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant at Hawkeye Community College and determine if you find it to your liking.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What does an Occupational Therapy Assistant or Aide do?

The Occupational Therapy Assistant and Aide are both focused on helping the patient recover or improve their skills used in everyday life. The two positions are similar; however, each has the following responsibilities: 

Occupational Therapy Assistant

  • Works closely with Occupational Therapists to design a therapy program for the patient, 
  • Assists with stretches and exercises,
  • Teaches patients how to navigate everyday chores, according to their abilities,
  • Monitors patient’s activities and progress, 
  • Demonstrates how to use exercise equipment,
  • Performs administrative tasks, keeping patient records.

Occupational Therapy Aide

  • Aides provide support to the Assistant, 
  • Transports patients as needed,
  • Cleans and sets up therapy equipment for each patient, 
  • Does laundry, monitors inventory supplies,
  • Handles clerical tasks, such as answering phones, making appointments, and filing insurance claims.

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides must have a heart for helping others, as they will work with young children and the elderly, and all ages in between. Also, they work with patients from all walks of life, such as those born with disabilities, those who have had debilitating accidents, and people who have an illness or are afflicted by a terrible disease. 

How do I become an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

To become an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you will need an associate degree. Programs are easily found at community colleges or trade schools. Your program will need to be properly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

How do I become an Occupational Therapy Aide?

To become an Occupational Therapy Aide, you will need a high school or equivalent diploma and on-the-job training by an experienced therapist or assistant.

How long will it take to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

An associate degree in this field will take up to two years to complete. In addition, you will be required to complete fieldwork lasting up to at least 16 weeks.

What will I learn in an Associate of Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program?

Generally, coursework will include topics, such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Patient Assessment
  • Assistive Technology
  • Biology
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Pediatric Health
  • Medical Terminology
  • Healthcare Fundamentals
  • And, much more! 

Both assistant and aide jobs in this field will require CPR and Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.

What do I need to do to become an Occupational Therapist?

Occupational Therapists must have a master’s degree and a license to practice. They earn approximately $86,280 annually, with the highest 10% earning $122,670 per year, according to the BLS

As an assistant, you may locate a “bridge” program that will allow you to advance to therapist status. 

How much do Occupational Therapy Assistants earn?

As of May 2020, the BLS states that the average annual salary for an Occupational Therapy Assistant was $62,940, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $84,090 or more per year. 

How much does an Occupational Therapy Aide earn?

According to the BLS, Occupational Therapy Aides earned a salary of $30,180 per year as of May 2020. The highest 10% made upwards of $58,800 annually, depending on experience. 

Is there a demand for Occupational Therapy Assistants or Aides?

There is an expected 34% job growth rate for Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides over the next ten years, adding approximately 8,800 new jobs per year to the workforce, according to the BLS. These opportunities are due in part to health issues that tend to plague the aging population. 

How much do Occupational Therapists earn in comparison to becoming an Assistant?

If you decide to advance in your career and become a fully-licensed Occupational Therapist with a master’s degree, naturally, you would expect an exorbitant pay raise, right? After all, the costs incurred in getting your degree needs to bring you an excellent return on your investment.

So, you decide if it’s worth it… The BLS states, as of May 2020, licensed Occupational Therapists earned $85,280 annually on average, with the highest 10% earning upwards of $122,670 yearly.

Will I need a license?

The field of Occupational Therapy is well regulated. To become licensed as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA), you will need to receive your training from an accredited training facility, complete the fieldwork and pass the exam provided by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

Continued education is a must as well.

State laws do not regulate Occupational Therapy Aides; therefore, certification is not required.

If you would like to showcase your expertise in a particular area, such as in eating and swallowing, or for those who are vision-impaired, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers specialty certifications.  

Is being an Occupational Therapy Assistant a hard job?

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides often suffer injuries due to the physical demands of the job. Prepare to spend a lot of time on your feet with wear and tear on the knees and back from the heavy lifting of patients.

Although physically demanding, OT is considered one of the less mentally stressful jobs within healthcare. 

What sort of patients will I work with as an OTA?

The type of patients you will work with may depend on your employer, for some clinics focus on a specific demographic, such as children or geriatric patients.

In addition, you will work with people who have physical disabilities or debilitating illnesses. They typically need assistance with sharpening their sensory-motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, and cognitive skills. 

Often, patients need help learning how to cook, feed themselves, bathe, get dressed, and possibly drive.

How To Become An Occupational Therapy Assistant - fact

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor