Many people have known from a young age what they want to be when they grow up. Some are meant to be teachers, others want to work as writers, and still, others want to work in the medical field. Most of these lucky individuals will gravitate towards becoming a doctor or a nurse, probably because they do not know what occupational therapy is.
Occupational therapists (OT) provide rehabilitative services to individuals with mental, physical, or developmental impairments. They show their patients how to live their best, independent life, regardless of their ailment. It is the role of an OT to come up with a treatment plan and, with the help of an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), put the plan into action.
Even if your long-term plan is to become an OT, by earning your associate’s in occupational therapy, you can get started in the field of OT sooner. So now that you’ve found a career you’re interested in, how do you go about landing a job as an OTA? Let’s first talk about finding the right occupational therapy assistant program.
You can never do too much research about a certain field. When you decide you want to pursue a career as an occupational therapy assistant, it’s important that you look into the various aspects of the job to know if you will enjoy your career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists all important metrics on their website, such as number of positions in the United States, expected growth and median income. You’ll also want to look at the various places you can find a position as an occupational therapy assistant. You don’t want to be fixed in a city setting when you thrive in rural settings. Luckily, OTAs can find jobs at hospitals, schools and various other facilities. Join OTA chat rooms, where you can discuss career aspects with current OTAs.
2. Find the Right OTA School
It’s important to know what education level is required to become an occupational therapy assistant. Becoming an occupational therapy assistant doesn’t require nearly as much schooling as becoming a doctor. Students can earn their associate’s degree and become an OTA as long as they have graduated high school or earned their GED. You’ll also have to decide if you want to attend a traditional school or earn your degree online. While you may feel you thrive in a traditional classroom setting, online programs, such as St. Catherine’s online OTA program, allows students to fit your education into your schedule, offering more flexibility.
Also, don’t forget that you’ll want to be sure your school’s OTA program is accredited. This will help to ensure future employers will accept your degree and help you avoid scams.
3. Talk to an Advisor
You don’t want to have to go through a long application process only to find out that you missed a crucial starting step. An academic advisor will be with you throughout the entire application process, from when you gather information about the program to the moment you’ve been accepted and start classes. Your academic advisor will walk you through the application process, beginning with the requirements of being accepted into the program, any prerequisite courses you may need to take and what documents are required when you apply. Your advisor is your go-to person for any questions you have about the process or the program.
4. Complete Your Prerequisite Courses
The courses you are expected to complete prior to admittance to the OTA program are meant to provide you with a strong academic foundation and prepare you for the classes you will take. Many universities, including St. Catherine, will grant students conditional acceptance into an OTA program, so long as all of the prerequisite courses are successfully completed by the time they begin their OTA courses.
5. Apply for the Program
Applying for an occupational therapy assistant program is similar to applying for any other higher-education program. You’ll have to have all of your transcripts and financial aid turned in when you fill out your application for admission, which can typically be found on the university’s website.
Each program will have different application dates. Some programs may only start once a year, while others start multiple times a year. It’s important to make sure all required documents and paperwork is turned in by these dates so you can stay on the academic timeline you established with your advisor.
6. Go Through the OTA Program
St. Catherine’s online OTA program consists of just four semesters of online coursework, as well as hands-on experience in labs and clinicals for students to bolster their theory-based coursework. Your coursework will consist of basic classes such as Role of the OTA and Human Occupations I to advanced classes such as Human Ecology and Ethical Problems in Health. Because the program is mostly online, you’ll be able to set up your own classroom wherever and whenever you want, whether it’s at a coffee shop on a Tuesday afternoon or at a library at 9 pm on a Friday. The hands-on practice is also valuable. Your labs will provide you a safety net to make mistakes, and fieldwork will allow you to work with actual patients, learning the day-to-day operations and treatment techniques you will use in the future. You can also use this time to build up your network of OTA professionals through your peers, coworkers and instructors.
7. Graduate and Go
Once you’ve completed all of your courses, labs and fieldwork, you will be ready to graduate. Graduation can be an exciting and scary time for anybody. Luckily, because OTAs are so high in demand, positions are available throughout the country. You can rely on tried-and-true search engines such as Indeed.com or Monster.com, or you can reach out through your LinkedIn network to get in touch with OTA professionals who are willing to recommend you for a job.
Contact an advisor today to get started on your OTA career.