OTA vs OT: What’s the Difference?

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The difference between OT and OTA is mainly education. When you are making the choice between OTA vs OT, the decision will depend on your salary expectations, how much responsibility you want to have and what kinds of duties you want to perform.

adults with nurse helping child with physical therapy

When you are trying to decide between occupational therapy career options, it’s important to look at what you will be doing in OT vs OTA roles and compare. You will want to learn about your day-to-day tasks, the people you will work with and the education you will need before you can begin your career. Keep in mind that if you do decide you want to become an OTA, St. Catherine University offers an Online Occupational Therapy Assistant Program that can be completed in as little as 16 months.

Working as an occupational therapy assistant requires the ability to work with a team. Not only do you work with your patient, but you will work closely with an occupational therapist to develop and carry out treatment plans. We share some information on the specific roles, differences and the relationship between an occupational therapist and an occupational therapy assistant.

What is an OT?

An occupational therapist, or OT, provides therapy for their patients to help them complete day-to-day activities that may be difficult for them, due to an injury, disability or illness, with the goal of helping them either regain or maintain their independence. Occupational therapists can work with clients of all ages in a wide variety of settings.

The everyday activities of an OT are heavily dependent on the setting in which they work, however, generally OTs should expect to evaluate clients and create treatment plans based on these evaluations. They will also be actively overseeing their clients’ therapy sessions by demonstrating an activity or how to use certain equipment, helping the patient with their exercises, educating patients on exercises they can complete at home and more. Additionally, OTs will communicate their patients’ progress with their families and other healthcare professionals so that everyone can work as a team and be informed.

OT student helping elderly woman lift bag in kitchen

What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Occupational therapy assistants partner with occupational therapists to develop and carry out a treatment plan tailored to each client’s specific needs. Generally, the OT will evaluate the clients and create the plan, and the OTA will implement it.

OTAs are responsible for guiding their clients through the activities that are part of their treatment plan. OTAs monitor client progress and give feedback to the OT, who will use the feedback to update or change the treatment plan to accommodate their client’s needs and goals.

The Online OTA Program at St. Kate’s prepares its graduates to work with these patients through hands-on skills labs. These labs allow our students to practice some of these skills before entering the workforce, so that they can interact with and treat patients confidently.

OTA using stretching bands with patient

What does an occupational therapy assistant do at work? Find out in this blog.

OTA vs OT: The Main Difference

One major difference between an OTA vs. OT is education level. Occupational therapists can spend four years completing a masters-level education, while you can earn your certification to become an OTA by completing a two-year associate degree, or an accelerated program like the 16-month Online Occupational Therapy Assistant program through St. Catherine University.

Occupational therapists are also involved in all evaluation and goal-setting for patients, and certified occupational therapy assistants (COTAs) use the information gleaned from the evaluation and goals of the treatment plan. At some facilities, the certified OTA may have a greater caseload than the OT due to the extra paperwork required of the occupational therapist — a COTA must have an OT sign their daily notes, whereas OTs do not have to have a cosigner.

What’s the Difference Between OT and OTA?

While there are many similarities between Ots and OTAs in their job description and daily duties, there are a few key distinctions you must be aware of so that you can decide which route is the best for you.

student sitting down with elderly woman

Salary and Job Outlook

Along with more responsibility and education comes increased compensation for Ots. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median salary for an OT to be $85,570 per year whereas the estimate OTA salary to be around $61,520 per year as of September 2022. Both occupations have incredibly high job outlooks for 2021-2031, however OTAs have a higher outlook at 34% whereas for OTs it’s about 14%.

St K. OTA student in purple shirt standing outside

Here’s everything you need to know about going back to school for a career change to occupational therapy.

COTAs and OTs Working Together

Despite differences between OTA vs OT, the most important aspect of the OTA/OT relationship is communication. Both the OTA and OT needs to be strong communicators to allow each professional to treat their patients to the best of their ability.

For example, if during treatment, the OTA or OT feels like the treatment plan needs to be updated, they work together to make those adjustments.

Overall, both OTs and OTAs have important roles to play, and both professionals rely heavily on each other. Teamwork and communication between the OTA and OT and other members of the team is imperative to provide the best care for the patients.

Earn Your OTA Degree from St. Catherine in as Few as 16 Months

A career as an OTA is a fulfilling job that leaves a lasting impact on your clients’ lives. You can graduate ready to step into the healthcare industry in a few as 16 months through St. Kate’s online OTA program. Are you ready to start a rewarding journey into the world of occupational therapy?

three OT students posing and smiling in class

If you’re considering becoming an occupational therapy assistant, you owe it to yourself to talk to an admissions counselor from the St. Catherine University Online Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. As the first university in the nation to offer an occupational therapy assistant program, we set the standard by which all OTA programs are judged.

Complete the form to talk to an admissions counselor about whether our program is right for you.

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