OTA Fieldwork

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OTA fieldwork prepares you for a rewarding career as an OTA through hands-on experiences. In Fieldwork I, you’ll learn about psychosocial conditions as well as a variety of occupational therapy practices, care settings, and patient populations. In Fieldwork II, you’ll practice under the supervision of a certified fieldwork educator.

OTA helping patient with stretching bands

If you’re interested in a career as an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), you’ve likely heard the term “fieldwork.” OTA fieldwork is where you apply your learning in a clinical setting. The goal of fieldwork is to transition from OTA student to OTA clinician. It occurs after completing the online coursework in St. Catherine University’s 16-month Online Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. Experiential learning in the classroom, as well as in labs and during fieldwork, is vital to becoming an OTA professional.

What is Occupational Therapy Fieldwork?

OTA fieldwork helps you bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-life practice as an OTA. It’s an exciting time in your OTA education where you build the skills needed to become a confident and competent OTA professional. As a student in the St. Kate’s Online OTA Program, through fieldwork, you’ll gain real-world, hands-on experience while engaging with clients with a variety of needs in different practice settings.

Fieldwork courses are a required part of every OTA curriculum. These courses play a pivotal role in preparing you for the national certification exam, the NBCOT exam. By actively engaging in OTA fieldwork, you’ll develop the skills necessary to become an entry-level generalist clinician. Fieldwork is divided into two parts: Fieldwork I and Fieldwork II, which we break down below. Next, we’ll discuss the differences between Level I and Level II Fieldwork and explain how we work with students to find the right OTA fieldwork sites in their areas.

woman helping a child with a walker

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Fieldwork I

All students complete two Level I Fieldwork experiences, in two different settings, during the first 12 months of the program. Each is an intensive, three-day experience. Level I Fieldwork experiences may be held virtually or in person. In these sessions, you’ll learn about psychosocial conditions as well as a variety of occupational therapy practices, care settings, and patient populations.

This is also an opportunity for students to work on communication skills. Discussions of your experiences occur as part of assignments within the Fieldwork I courses. Students may ask questions and problem-solve any issues related to their Fieldwork I experience. These sessions take place in small groups of students and are directed by certified OT or OTA instructors.

Fieldwork II: Supervised Firsthand Experience

During Fieldwork II, you’ll start to practice under the supervision of a certified fieldwork educator. You’ll apply all the knowledge you’ve gained from the online portion of our program and from Fieldwork I and start to get a feel for what an OTA does every day while building your skills under the supervision of your fieldwork educator.

This part of your occupational therapy fieldwork experience will start during your fourth semester, ensuring that you can confidently put the skills you’ve learned in your coursework and labs into practice.

Fieldwork II consists of two full-time, 8-week rotations in a variety of different practice settings.

man high-fiving an elderly woman

Some examples of occupational therapy fieldwork settings:

  • Acute care or rehabilitation hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities
  • Home health or outpatient settings
  • Pediatrics clinics or schools

Our knowledgeable fieldwork educators will work with you to make sure you get the most out of your fieldwork experience. They’ll guide you through each step of the process while also giving you the space you need to learn and grow. Take it from Kelsey Bialozynski, a student in St. Kate’s Online OTA Program:

“Fieldwork helps to ensure that we have the skills and knowledge to go on our own and be successful therapists. It allows us to put to use what we have learned online and in lab while also giving us interaction with actual patients.”

What are the Benefits of Occupational Therapy Fieldwork?

Fieldwork provides a supervised, real-world environment in which to hone your skills. Your fieldwork educator is there to support you and answer any questions. Through their guidance, you’ll be prepared to enter the field of occupational therapy and gain a clear idea of the day-to-day role of an OTA.

Additionally, fieldwork provides an opportunity to network with healthcare professionals and clients. Not only will you gain contacts in the occupational therapy field, but also learn what healthcare facilities look for in an OTA, which will prove helpful during your job search after completing the program.

OTA using stretching bands with patient

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How We Find the Right OTA Fieldwork Sites for You

Fieldwork is one of the most important components of becoming an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), providing critical hands-on experience in real-world settings. It’s also required to graduate as an OTA.

That’s because in order for an OTA program to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), students must complete the fieldwork requirements laid out by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

The fieldwork placement process begins in the first semester of the OTA program. Students complete a Fieldwork Planning Form, which assists the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator in obtaining Level II Fieldwork placements for all students.

While the OTA program can’t guarantee preferences for location or settings, the OTA program does guarantee it will provide all students with two Level II Fieldwork placements. It’s important to remember, however, that the most important goals of Level II Fieldwork are to learn the skills needed to become an entry-level generalist clinician and to prepare for the NBCOT exam.

Specialization in areas of interest comes later through on-the-job training, continuing education, and even specialty certifications. There are many opportunities for continued learning and growth in the OTA field.

Fieldwork allows us to gain real-life experience within the help and supervision of our fieldwork educator. It helps prepare us to become therapists on our own. In addition, it gives us the ability to learn about diverse practice settings and work with a variety of different patients.

-Kelsey Bialozynski, St. Kate’s Online OTA Program student

Become an OTA in as Few as 16 Months

You can graduate from St. Kate’s Online OTA Program in as few as 16 months. After graduating, you’ll be ready to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam — the final step toward becoming a certified OTA.

Contact our admissions team to learn more about how St. Kate’s can help you become an OTA.

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