5 Things You Didn’t Know About Occupational Therapy Assistant School

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It’s one of the fastest growing healthcare occupations in the country and ranks #1 in Best Healthcare Support Jobs by U.S. News & World Report – Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA). Now, the demand for OTAs is on the rise across the U.S., specifically in California, Virginia and Texas, due to the growing elderly population and increased health needs of baby boomers. That’s why occupational therapy assistant schools are more important than ever before. One great option for earning an associate’s degree in a s few as 16 months is through St. Catherine University‘s Online OTA program.

The program not only offers online coursework combined with hands-on experience, it also offers unparalleled support to ensure your success from the first phone call through NBCOT® certification.

Here are the five things you need to know about St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program that sets it apart from other occupational therapy assistant schools.

1.  It’s 80% online

person typing on a laptop

Our Online OTA program allows you to complete 80% of your coursework online, with the remaining 20% involving on-site skills labs and fieldwork that you must complete in person. Overall, this accredited program provides a rigorous, well-rounded education that prepares you to take the NBCOT® Exam for OTA certification.

The online classes allow you to learn on your schedule, although you still have to adhere to the deadlines your instructors set. For graduates like Marie, the flexibility of the online portion of the program provided exactly what she needed for her lifestyle.

The coursework includes audio/video lectures, interactive activities and learning modules so you can stay engaged through your lessons. Our online platform, Canvas, brings together various multimedia features to support the subject matter and help set you up for success. It also allows you connect with your classmates and instructors, so you are not on your own.

Canvas features include:

  • Text support through images and graphics
  • Video/audio lectures you can replay as needed
  • Engaging simulation learning modules
  • Forums for student and faculty interaction

2.  It’s not just online

OT helping patient with lifting weights

The Online Occupational Therapy Assistant program is not 100% online. The Online OTA program is part of a comprehensive plan that puts what you learn online to work in on-site skills labs and fieldwork so you gain the knowledge and skills required to earn OTA certification and pursue a career in this rewarding profession.

Along with online coursework, our online OTA program includes:

  • 8 skills labs, which let you apply your knowledge in the six core OT practice areas.
  • 720 hours of supervised fieldwork, which provide diverse professional experiences.

Skills labs

Skills labs allow you to apply concepts you learned online in various rehab settings, many of which are affiliated with Genesis Rehab Services.


Extensive fieldwork experience helps you transition from student to practitioner, exposing you to the different areas of occupational therapy. We separate these experiences into Level I and Level II.

There are two Level I fieldwork experiences, which are a short introduction to practice areas and are about 40 hours long. You complete these experiences in a small group setting with a certified instructor. Level II also comprises two experiences, which are each eight weeks long. By the end of Level II fieldwork, you can expect to be working like an entry-level OTA.

3.  You don’t have to live where the skills labs are offered

Online OTA student Alex
Alexandra J., Online OTA Student

In order to complete the online OTA program, you must successfully complete a series of 8 skills labs located in real-world rehabilitation settings. Our skills labs are located in various locations in Virginia, Texas and California. You don’t have to live in those states to participate in the program. You just have to be willing to travel to the same site for all 8 labs.

Traveling is not unusual for many of our students. Alexandra, an online OTA student, travels once a month from New Mexico to her skills lab in San Diego, California.

4. Support doesn’t end at graduation

St. Catherine University just launched a new program to help our online OTA graduates prepare to sit for and pass the NBCOT® Examination for OTA certification. Passing the NBCOT® is required in order to practice, but most OTA programs don’t have coaching programs for graduates.

“Our NBCOT® Preparation Coaching Program starts during the third semester with a practice exam that assesses where a student would need the most coaching,” says Kristen Maisano, OTD, OTR/L, CPAM, Assistant Professor. “A 7-week study plan is developed based on those results and it includes group sessions as well as one-on ones with a coach, who not only helps you prepare mentally for the exam, but also emotionally.”

5.  Learn Where it All Began

St. Catherine University played an essential role in the growth of Occupational Therapy. In 1964, it became the first occupational therapy assistant school to offer an OTA degree in the country. St. Catherine’s is also one of the few universities to offer all levels of OT education, from associate’s degrees through master’s and doctoral degrees.

Start your Career as an OTA today

From job demand to course flexibility, to hands-on training, everything you need to become a certified OTA is available through St. Catherine University. Now is the best time for you to change careers or transfer your existing college credits and earn your associate’s degree through the 16-month Online OTA program. Contact us today and find out how you can get started.

outside shot of st. kate campus

The Ultimate Guide to Occupational Therapy and OTA

Get answers to your questions about the field, about the OTA career path, and about St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program.

book with cover title: Occupational Therapy Assistant Explained