Occupational Therapy Assistant, The Truth Behind the Fiction


There are currently hundreds if not thousands of articles on the internet about occupational therapy assistants, also known as Ota and Cota. Though there has seemed to be reasonable information on websites, there are also a lot of bad information out there on the web. The purpose of this article is to break down the different sections of a career as COTA and to show true and factual information. This article will cover all aspects from start to finish for a new occupational therapist assistant and will cover topics such as salary, schooling and workplace environment.

Ota Schools

The first area to look at is occupational therapy assistant schools. There are a lot of questions concerning if schooling is even required,and if so can it be taken online if classes are required?

Ota accredited schools and classes are generally found in college campuses in every state, with most courses being found in community colleges. These schools must be acknowledged by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) to earn your degree.

Contrary to rumors, there are no online schools for occupational therapy at this time. The course work is about two years, with the first year being mostly classroom instruction and with the second year having the student do hands on training in a hospital or private care practice. Some of the course work a student will have to take includes pediatrics, gerontology, medical terminology, and physical rehab. There may be other classes required depending on the state and the school.

A person who is seeking a career in the occupational therapy field needs to be wary and keep away from at home course work or promises of schooling that can be done in just a few weeks or months. All states with the exception of Hawaii require a two year degree.

At this point in time, all states that require licensure only require a two year degree. There are many rumors that a Bachelor’s degree is needed and this is not true. Though continuing ones education in occupational therapy can lead to a higher salary and other benefits, it is up to each individual at this point in time.

Licensure information.

At the point of graduation a person seeking a career will need to become licensed as an occupational therapist assistant. Licensure is issued by state run boards in each fifty states. Each state has its own rules and regulation that are governed by an occupational therapy board, with some being private and some run by the state exclusively. Though each state is different, there are a number of similarities to obtain licensure which includes the following.

A person seeking an occupational therapy assistant license must be a U.S. citizen, must have a social security number and must have taken and passed appropriate college course work as well as taken and passed the NBCOT exam.

Every state requires a federal background check, but convictions are not necessarily immediate grounds for dismissal. Some states may consider processing an occupational therapy license if a written affidavit is turned in to explain the circumstances of the conviction.Other factors including time and nature of the offense may be reviewed and be considered to grant licensure.

Each state will have an Occupational Therapy Assistant licensure package that will include many forms to fill out. Do not pay for these forms from a third party as they can be accessed online from reputable sites. It is advised to take a very thorough look through the forms before attempting to complete them. There will be official transcripts required; notarized signatures and many states will want you to turn in a fingerprint card which can be completed at a local police station.

COTA Salary.

There are many websites claiming that occupational therapy assistants can make over one hundred thousand dollars a years starting off, and this is simply false information. The median wage for an occupational therapy assistant across all fifty states is approximately thirty six dollars and five cents. The leading states in pay are currently, Texas, California and Nevada.

Though these numbers are averages, as there are different employers within the occupational therapy field, and each employer or setting generally pays different than another. One example is home care health services. These employers generally pay the most while local public schools will not pay as much. In summary, your state, employer and benefits offered will all be greatly different, and in turn each ota salary will be different. There is no guaranteed number for each individual entering the field as a cota.Though there are many in the occupational therapy field making a great salary, the hard work and time involved is not overnight and does take time.

Ota workplace

The next area to consider is the ota workplace environment. There are those who speculate that an ota works in substandard settings while other dream of onsite hair salons and other perks. The truth is just like any other career, each employer will be different and those in occupational therapy can tell you there is no exception with their field as well.


An ota will work with a variety of patients who have needs that are different than from the previous patient. You may be working in a public school with children with physical issue or a hospital treatment facility working with a middle age woman with emotional struggles. Though an occupational therapy assistant has many job skills, some of the basics such as following direction, keeping up to date with the latest technology and implementing and using the technology are just a few examples.

A Cota must also be reasonably physically fit, for there will be many instances of moving patients around, such as from a bed to a wheel chair. There are many job duties including answering phones, checking and mapping out charts of patients and a host of other task. Though the salary can be rewarding the job of an occupational therapist assistant is very demanding.

An occupational therapist assistant job is demanding and there are no shortcuts. Through the two years of attending an accredited school, to taking the NBCOT exam, to finding and starting a career is a long road. The hope is that this article enlightens those who are seeking an education in occupational therapy or looking to continue their education.

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Larry K Douglas


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