How Long Does it Take to Become an OTA? Why the Answer is Up to You.

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It’s one of the fastest growing healthcare occupations in the country — Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA). Now, the demand for OTAs is on the rise across the U.S. due to the growing elderly population and increased health needs of baby boomers. That’s why St. Catherine University’s accredited Online OTA program helps students become certified OTAs and enter the workforce faster.

How long does it take to become an OTA through St. Catherine’s Online OTA program? It depends on which curriculum option you choose. Our program gives you flexibility in your course load to ensure your success.

St. Catherine University OTA students must complete series of prerequisite courses and Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) courses prior to graduation. The prerequisite courses must be taken prior to starting the online OTA courses, but the LAS courses may be completed before the program or simultaneous with the OTA coursework.

How you want to take these required courses is up to you, and that determines how long it will take to complete the Online OTA program and become an OTA. We explore the options available to OTA students below.

Learning Option 1: Take OTA Courses and LAS Courses Simultaneously

Option 1 allows you to take your OTA classes while you take LAS courses so you can finish sooner. As opposed to completing some or all required liberal arts classes before beginning the OTA coursework, this option allows you to take them simultaneously.

This academic route typically takes students about 16 months to complete the program, assuming all prerequisite courses are completed. And while a faster learning option, it is a bit of a heavier course load.
It is also important to note that this quick timeline does not diminish the quality of education you receive. Students who choose Option 1 will take the same classes as and receive the same quality education as students who pursue Option 2.

Both options will give you the resources and experience needed to become a successful OTA upon graduation and completion of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) examination. Option 1 just gets you there faster.

two OTA students studying together with books and laptops

Benefits of Option 1

Taking LAS and OTA courses simultaneously will help you complete the program in as few as 16 months, which gets you started on your career as an OTA that much quicker compared to Option 2.


Students who have successfully completed all online OTA program prerequisites can choose Option 1.

Learning Option 2: Take LAS Courses through St. Kate’s First

The other option is for you to start off taking your LAS courses through St. Catherine University, then start your OTA classes later. How many previous college courses you must transfer in will determine how long it would take you to complete the program. With this option, the program will take longer than 16 months. While you will have a lighter course load each semester, it will also affect how long it takes to become an OTA.

Before starting the Online OTA courses, you may need to complete the required college-level prerequisites, which you can take at the same time as LAS courses.

Benefits of Option 2

  • If you complete your prerequisites and LAS courses first, you will have a spot reserved in the OTA classes.
  • By completing your LAS courses first, you have a lighter course load while taking the OTA coursework.

Option 2 is best for students who:

  • Need to complete prerequisites
  • Don’t meet the minimum GPA required to start OTA courses
  • Are new to online learning
  • Need schedule flexibility

Do You Have a Bachelor’s Degree?

If you have an existing bachelor’s degree, St. Catherine’s Online OTA program has a faster path for you to earn your occupational therapy assistant degree.

The Online OTA program has updated its course-by-course transfer evaluation for previous bachelor degree holders. That means your classes would automatically transfer and count toward your LAS coursework.

student sitting at desk studying with laptop and textbook

You would still need to successfully complete any prerequisite courses and all the OTA coursework, but you can start your OTA classes sooner and earn your degree in the minimum timeframe of 16 months.

  • LAS Credit Hours Required without a BA or BS: 18 total credit hours
  • LAS Credit Hours with your BA/BS: 7 credit hours (maximum)

What Option Will Work Best for You?

While choosing a curriculum option that works best for you depends on your previous academic experience, there are other factors that can help determine the best path to choose. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • How fast do I want to complete the program?
  • Can I continue to work while enrolled the program?
  • Just how much coursework am I comfortable completing?

Graduating in as Few as 16 Months

If you want to finish the Online OTA program in as few as 16 months, Option 1 is your best bet. First, you need to make sure you are eligible to choose this option.

  1. Have you successfully completed all prerequisites?
  2. Are you able to manage a full-time course load?

If you can answer yes to these questions, option 1 would be a good fit for you.

Working During the Program

While St. Catherine University does have students who work full- and part-time during the Online OTA program, keep in mind that the 16-week Fieldwork II portion of the OTA curriculum requires students 40 hours a week of work, typically Monday through Friday. For this reason and so you can focus fully on your studies, we generally advise against working during this portion of the program.

Your Comfort Level

How much coursework are you comfortable completing? That is something you and your admissions counselor can discuss. It is our job to make sure you choose an academic plan that you can complete successfully.

Consider this: Our OTA classes are 7 ½ weeks long and are fast-paced. You need to feel comfortable completing the OTA coursework AND the LAS courses at the same time in order to choose Option 1. Otherwise, Option 2 would be best for you so you can take on less of a course load.

Are you Ready to Become an OTA?

St. Catherine’s Online OTA program allows you to complete 80% of your coursework online, with the remaining 20% involving onsite 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.

Why wait any longer? Contact an admissions counselor today and find out how long it will take to become an OTA.

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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