The healthcare industry is filled with many job opportunities for first-time students and career changers. But there is one healthcare career that stands out from the rest because of its diversity, growth, and high demand: Occupational Therapy Assistants.
Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) is among the top healthcare jobs in demand right now. In fact, U.S News & World Report ranked the #1 best healthcare support job in 2016. It’s one of the fastest-growing healthcare jobs you can have with an associate’s degree and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the OTA profession will grow 43% by 2024, faster than almost any other occupation and more than 14,000 new jobs will be open between now and 2024.
What is an OTA?
Occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) work under the guidance of registered occupational therapists (OTRs) in various practice areas and settings. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to help clients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities learn how to perform everyday tasks as independently as possible. While OTRs evaluate and develop treatment plans for clients, OTAs put those plans into action with their clients and document their progress.
As in demand as OTAs are right now, many people have still never heard of the profession. But its history can be traced back to 100 BCE when Greek physician Asclepiades used therapeutic baths, massage, exercise, and music to help treat his patients.
Occupational therapy began as a profession in 1917, in the midst of World War I as the demand increased for occupational therapists to help wounded soldiers heal and return home. As society began to see the benefits of OT, it began to spread from veterans to the workplace to public schools.
In 1964, St. Catherine University established the nation’s first non-profit, accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant Program and developed a first-of-its-kind OTA program that combines online learning with hands-on skills labs and fieldwork.
OTA Practice Areas
The field of occupational therapy encompasses several core practice areas. As a certified occupational therapy assistant, you’ll find yourself treating clients in one or more of these segments.
Children and Youth
Example: OTAs work with children who are at risk for developmental delays, helping them improve their motor skills, cognitive skills, and sensory processing to minimize the potential of delays.
Example: OTAs help dementia patients cope with memory loss, while also addressing any personality changes that are upsetting family members and/or caregivers.
Health and Wellness
Example: OTAs teach people with arthritis how to manage inflammation or identifying orthotic devices that help them control pain.
Example: OTAs teach individuals with Down syndrome self-care activities such as eating, dressing, and playing so they can be more independent.
Rehabilitation and Disability
Example: OTAs help people overcome physical challenges, recommending mobility adjustments to everyday equipment such as adding foot straps to bicycle pedals.
Work and Industry
Example: OTAs help employees manage work-related injuries through supervised therapeutic exercises, work reconditioning, and on-site interventions.
OTA Practice Settings
Occupational therapy assistants can work full-time or part-time in a variety of practice settings including:
- Rehabilitation centers
- Skilled nursing homes
- Therapists offices
- Work places
How to Become an OTA
No matter what your educational background is, St. Catherine University can get you moving on a quality OTA degree. While it is possible to graduate from this associate degree program in as few as 16 months, the timeframe for your completion ultimately depends on your level of prior coursework and your individual needs. St. Catherine’s OTA program is customizable, offering two options to fit your needs.
If you have already completed the necessary prerequisites and have enough college credits, you can complete the program 16 months of study, taking both your LAS courses and OTA courses at the same time.
If you are looking for a slower pace so you can focus exclusively on your OTA coursework, you can elect to complete some or all of your LAS courses before beginning your OTA coursework. This option will take longer than 16 months, but you will have a lighter course load each semester.
This is a good option for student who:
- Have not completed the required prerequisites
- Need to boost grades to reach the minimum GPA required to start OTA curriculum
- Need time to adjust to online learning
- Do not have the opportunity to complete a full-time program
- Prefer to complete the curriculum one track at a time
Start your Rewarding Career as an OTA Now
Healthcare jobs, like occupational therapy assistants, are in demand so now is the perfect opportunity to seize the moment and your future. Still need a little more background about exactly what an occupational therapy assistant does before you make the call? Download this free guide that explains everything you need to know about this rewarding career.
If you are ready to take the next step now to find out if St. Catherine’s online OTA program is the right fit for you, contact an admissions advisor today.