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3 Reasons OTA is an Associate’s Degree

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Have you ever wondered what kind of degree OTA is? If so, you’re not alone. A career as an occupational therapy assistant requires determination, commitment, and compassion — not to mention some solid skills and creative problem-solving. It’s no wonder why some people are surprised to learn that OTA is an associate’s degree. In fact, St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program prepares students to become capable OTAs in as few as 16 months.

So, how is the requirement for a healthcare job as rewarding and flexible as OTA an associate’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree? Well, we’re glad you asked. Read on for three reasons OTA is an associate’s degree.

1. Associate Degrees Are More Accessible

Demand is a major factor that affects what kind of degree OTA is. Having a fast-tracked path to becoming an OTA is important because the number of people who would benefit from occupational therapy is rising, whether from simply growing older or from complications due to COVID-19, among many other reasons.

To accommodate this trend, the number of available OTA jobs is rising as well. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 34.6 percent employment growth for occupational therapy assistants between 2019 and 2029. During that time, the BLS expects 16,300 jobs to open in the profession.

Not to mention because OTAs work with such a diverse spectrum of patients, the demand for their skills is pressing. OTAs work with patients of all ages, ability and walks of life. Their skills help people to live their lives more effectively, and the need for compassionate and capable OTAs is universal. OTAs can also work in hospitals, schools, private practices and workplaces.

Fieldwork for OTA students

2. OTAs Have OTs to Lean On

Because OTAs are assistants, they report to occupational therapists. This is another factor that plays into why OTA is an associate’s degree rather than a bachelor’s degree.

Occupational therapy assistants work under the guidance of an occupational therapist (OT) across all different practice areas and settings. Occupational therapists spend four years completing a masters-level education and are involved in all of the evaluation and setting goals for patients. They work to communicate effectively with OTAs to pass on the information collected from the evaluation and goals of the treatment plan, which both the OT and OTA will then collaborate on.

The OT is responsible for evaluating and developing treatment plans for clients and patients, and overseeing them while the OTA puts those plans into action, teaching individuals how to overcome the challenges of performing daily activities because of an injury, illness or disability.

One major difference is OTAs may need to take on a greater caseload than the OT due to the extra paperwork required of the occupational therapist. Additionally, an OTA has to have their daily notes signed by an OT, whereas OTs do not have to have a cosigner.

OTs support the OTA and discuss any concerns, questions, or suggestions the OTA has to help create the best possible outcomes for patients. The pair works hand-in-hand to help patients live more meaningful and happier lives.
Because of this different level of responsibility between an OTA and an OT, an OTA program can be shorter than the path to becoming an occupational therapist, which is generally a master’s track.

3. Shorter Doesn’t Mean Less Comprehensive

Fun fact: St. Kate’s launched the nation’s first Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in OTA program in 1964. Since then, we’ve seen how the profession has grown and seen the need mentioned earlier, so we pivoted to meet that need. With our students’ lives and schedules in mind, we became the first university to offer an AAS in OTA program that blends 80 percent online and 20 percent on-site curriculum.

By creating this hybrid program, we can ensure people like you are able to receive a quality education to become an OTA without sacrificing unnecessary time — meaning they can help the people who need it sooner.

two OTA students studying together with books and laptops

A big part of having an effective AAS in OTA program is making sure it’s well-rounded. At St. Kate’s, you don’t need to earn a bachelor’s degree to have a comprehensive educational experience.

Our accredited online OTA program provides:

  • A well-rounded science and liberal arts education
  • A unique blend of online and on-site curriculum
  • Personalized attention via small faculty-to-student ratios
  • Diverse fieldwork opportunities that develop clinical and leadership skills

Over your 16 months in the program, you’ll also learn to work cooperatively with interdisciplinary teams under the supervision of an occupational therapist, registered in a diverse healthcare and community environment.

OTA Fieldwork Sites Explained

So what is OTA fieldwork? Fieldwork is where you’ll get critical hands-on experience in real-world settings.

As a student in St. Kate’s Online Occupational Therapy Assistant program, you’ll complete a total of 71 credit hours. You’ll start by taking 1-3 semesters of Liberal Arts and Sciences courses, which are available online, followed by the 4-semester OTA professional course sequence. These two phases allow you to explore different topics and ideas that may interest you while becoming an OTA.

This blended curriculum allows you to earn a degree and sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT) Exam, which is necessary to pass to become a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA).
Our Online OTA program can be an associate’s track because we’re deeply committed to our students’ success through the program. Our fast-tracked curriculum can be rigorous, but we offer resources to ensure our students receive the support needed to put their best foot forward when entering the profession.

For example, we offer an NBCOT prep coaching program, career development assistance and other student resources. We also offer three start dates a year in Winter, Summer and Fall semesters.

Our program is well-rounded, convenient and has a history of producing skilled OTAs. If you love to help people and want a fulfilling career in a growing sector of the healthcare industry, you owe it to yourself to get more information about the St. Kate’s OTA program.

Three students standing and smiling

Learn More About How You Can Make a Difference as an OTA.

Now that you know what kind of degree OTA is, give us a call or fill out the form, to learn more about how you can transform lives by becoming an occupational therapy assistant in as few as 16 months. When you do, you’ll be assigned a dedicated admissions counselor who will help guide you through the process every step of the way.

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