Laying a Stronger Foundation: Become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with Support from Start to Finish.
Posted on October 16, 2017 by St. Catherine University Online OTA
When it comes to designing careers, the Online Occupational Therapy Assistant Program at St. Catherine University builds upon Aristotle’s notion that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s why we’ve created an accredited program that combines key building blocks—talented faculty, stringent curriculum and hands-on mastery—into a long-lasting masterpiece: You.
So if you’re looking for exceptional insights, expert guidance and strong support to become a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA), set your sights on St. Kate’s. Part of the reason we’re so well-recognized in this arena is that, from pre-admission to post-grad, we help students build solid futures every step of the way.
A Blueprint for Success
According to U.S. News & World Report, occupational therapy is one of the top healthcare fields today, with COTAs ranking as the number one healthcare support job. These assistants work under the guidance of occupational therapists in various settings such as private homes, hospitals, rehab centers, schools, skilled nursing homes and workplaces to carry out prescribed treatment plans for clients and patients. For students who can envision creative solutions and help and encourage others, St. Kate’s Online OTA Program offers both challenges and rewards.
COTAs excel at the juncture between problem and solution, facilitating possibilities and boosting autonomy. Their clients may need help addressing their mobility, modifying their environments, strengthening their activities of daily living or navigating their work or school setups.
COTAs work regularly with:
- Older Adults
- People with chronic illnesses
- People suffering from workplace injuries and disabilities
“I wanted to become a certified occupational therapy assistant because when I was in high school I used to take care of my grandfather, who had Alzheimer’s disease,” says St. Kate’s alumnus Rich Surewood. “What I love most about coming to work now is the satisfaction of helping another person get better.”
Rely on Experienced Architects
St. Kate’s launched the nation’s first OTA program in 1964 and also was the first to offer an Online OTA Program in 2014 with 80% online coursework…so we know how to best help our students design their futures.
Our flexible Online OTA Program offers our students options during the admissions process and mixes online and onsite curriculum for an innovative blended learning model.
“I started talking to the OT at school and she asked me, ‘Have you thought about this route?’, meaning becoming a COTA. When I looked online, St. Kate’s popped up, and right away I was set up on the phone with a counselor who carried me through step by step,” says Alexandra Judycki, who will graduate from St. Kate’s in December 2017. “I really wanted to start the program that fall. St. Kate’s did a great job of understanding my needs and desires.”
With three starts annually in January, May, and September and cohorts in Virginia, Texas, and California, there are plenty of opportunities for you to become a COTA.
Requiring a total of 58 credit hours, St. Kate’s Online OTA Program covers curriculum specific to the OTA profession along with liberal arts and sciences (LAS) requirements. There are two curriculum options:
- Complete the LAS and OTA classes separately for a lighter course load over a longer period of time, or
- Complete the classes simultaneously for a heavier course load with a timelier finish.
Students with high school diplomas and GEDs may apply, though some prerequisite classes are required and it helps to have some college credits under your belt; that said, most students can complete the curriculum within 16- to 24 months.
A student who wants to become a certified occupational therapy assistant at St. Kate’s gains knowledge and proficiency through a multimedia approach that features a dynamic e-Learning platform (Canvas) for the required mix of OTA and LAS classes.
This platform allows students to:
- Read collateral
- Watch/listen to lectures
- Complete assignments
- Participate in discussions
No matter whether you’re a visual, aural or kinesthetic learner, St. Kate’s can help you succeed. Additionally, our future COTAs are invited to learn when and where it’s most convenient: Complete your coursework at your own pace and own times, just as long as you meet your instructors’ deadlines. Finally, with its student-to-faculty ratio of 24 to 1, St. Kate’s boasts professors who also are OT experts and provide a highly personalized teaching approach alongside regular office hours and private appointments, as needed, for additional support.
Tearing Down Walls
In conjunction with St. Kate’s innovative online curriculum, our 12 hands-on skills labs offer students the opportunity to put what they’ve learned into practice. With a student-to-instructor ratio of 12 to 1, these lab sites are established by partners in real-world rehabilitation settings with lessons taught by certified, highly experienced instructors. All labs must be completed at your same chosen site, offered in Virginia, California or Texas.
“These labs allow you to apply knowledge to the six core OT practice areas, and are based on your chosen curriculum option—the simultaneous or separate completion of LAS and OTA courses,” explains Sharon West, Manager of Academic Success. Labs prepare students for fieldwork, which helps them make that final transition from student to practitioner.
OTA Fieldwork Experience
Divided into Fieldwork I and Fieldwork II, St. Kate’s requires 720 hours of supervised activity in various areas of occupational therapy. The former will introduce you to the fieldwork experience so you can get a basic understanding of patient needs, including direct observation and select participation. Then, the latter allows you to apply the theoretical and scientific principles you’ve learned toward addressing actual client needs; this is where you’ll start to develop a professional identity as an OTA in an interdisciplinary context.
“The advice I’d give is to make sure, when you’re in school, to broaden your horizons—whether it’s with a geriatric population or pediatric population or whether it’s in a hospital or an outpatient setting. That way you have a really good understanding of where you want to be in the field.” – Melissa Emmons, COTA
West also notes that St. Kate’s has a dedicated Fieldwork Coordinator who works with students to identify the fieldwork locations that would best fit their needs. Further, after students assist clients of all ages and levels of abilities in such a real-world setting, they can put their fieldwork hours on their resumes as experience.
“My Fieldwork Educator is amazing,” Judycki adds. “You don’t meet until your first day, but they are there to support and help you. They really want you to succeed.”
The Finishing Touches
St. Kate’s support doesn’t end once you graduate from our Online OTA Program. Becoming an OTA takes more than a degree—you have to become certified. Of special importance here is the fact that St. Kate’s Online OTA Program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education®, which means our program has been evaluated thoroughly and certified for maximum educational effectiveness.
Furthermore, it means our graduates have the most current OTA knowledge and skills, which help them prepare to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT®) exam.
NBCOT Prep Coaching Program
Toward that end, St. Kate’s offers a model for success with its NBCOT Prep Coaching Program. This begins in semester three to provide future graduates with practice exams, peer education and more to help them prepare to sit and successfully pass the NBCOT exam, which is required to practice.
“Our NBCOT Prep Coaching Program starts with a practice exam that assesses where a student would need the most coaching,” West explains. “A seven-week study plan then is developed based on those results, which 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. Our goal is to have no fewer than 85 percent of participants pass the NBCOT exam successfully within three months of graduation.”
Finally, in addition to national certification, OTAs must meet state licensure requirements, which include completing fieldwork, graduating from an accredited OTA program like St. Kate’s, applying for and passing the NBCOT, and applying and paying for a license for each state or jurisdiction in which they wish to practice.
If you’re ready to design a better future, take the first step by contacting us. And know that St. Kate’s Online OTA Program is ready to help build those dreams right alongside you.