Occupational therapy is one of the fastest-growing healthcare fields right now, with occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) in increasingly high demand across the country.
The demand is particularly high in states with large populations — especially Texas. As of May 2017, there were 4,040 practicing Texas OTAs, making the Lone Star State not only the highest paying state for OTAs but also the largest employer of OTAs.
The good news is you can join this much-needed profession in as few as 16 months with St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program. However, don’t let the name fool you … it’s not all online. Fortunately, though, the program is structured so that it’s possible to travel for the in-person labs and Level I Fieldwork experiences (more on that later). But with a growing number of Texas OTA skills lab and fieldwork sites, if you’re a resident of Texas, chances are you won’t have to travel far to complete your education.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how our hybrid online/in-person program works, as well as discuss reasons for this growing demand and what St. Kate’s is doing to increase OTA educational opportunities in the state of Texas.
Increasing OTA Educational Opportunities in Texas
Because our Online OTA program attracts students from across the country, it was important that we set up our lab and Level I Fieldwork sites where the greatest number of students could benefit — currently in California, Texas, and Virginia.
In Texas, where demand for OTAs is high — and the distances between communities can be great — we are excited to announce the addition of another cohort beginning January 2019. This is in addition to offering three program starts each year. As a result, we’re effectively doubling the number of lab and Fieldwork I locations in Texas, meaning more Texans have the opportunity to become occupational therapy assistants. Though we work with students across the country to identify Fieldwork II opportunities near them, we’ve also doubled the number of Level II Fieldwork partnerships in Texas, ensuring OTA students have diverse fieldwork experiences where the demand is greatest.
Speaking of demand for occupational therapy assistants…
Demand for Years to Come
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics — the agency responsible for tracking and analyzing employment data — the OTA profession is expected to grow 29% between 2016 and 2026. This is big, especially when you consider that the BLS predicts overall job growth in the U.S. to be only about 7% for the same period.
To understand the demand for occupational therapy services, one need only look at the diverse range of practice areas. There’s a common misconception that occupational therapy only deals with work-related injury therapy and rehabilitation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. At its core, occupational therapy seeks to help people of all ages live their lives to the fullest extent possible. Often this means finding ways to adjust to new norms or to live with conditions.
For example, in a given day, an OTA might:
- Work with a child with a developmental disability
- Make recommendations to an elderly patient on how best to adapt his or her home for a mobility limitation
- Help a veteran to find productive ways of coping with PTSD
Preparing Students for Successful Careers in OTA
One way our Online OTA program is helping meet this growing demand is by putting a quality education within reach of people all over the United States rather than just those lucky enough to live within a convenient driving distance of an OTA school. We’ve done this by structuring our program to accommodate students who need to travel for labs and fieldwork. To understand how it works, we’ll break down our program by component.
Online coursework is where you’ll learn the underlying theory behind occupational therapy. Constituting the majority of your time in the program, online coursework includes interactive exercises, online forums where you’ll discuss assigned readings and other OTA-related assignments, quizzes, and more. Whether you prefer to study in the morning or the evening, you have the freedom to complete your coursework whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you, so long as you meet any assignment deadlines.
Skills labs allow you to gain hands-on experience practicing the skills you’ve learned about in the coursework, as well as watch instructor-led demonstrations. Because these sessions are held only once a month, it’s possible to travel to and from each session — and, in fact, many students do.
Fieldwork I is where students get their first taste of real-world practice, under the guidance of dynamic, skilled and highly professional Level I Fieldwork Educators. These educators have dedicated their time to focus on improving the clinical awareness of St. Catherine University OTA students. Because Fieldwork I consists of two, three-day intensive sessions, it’s also possible for students to travel to attend Fieldwork I, and often coincides with visits to skills labs.
Fieldwork II is where students will gain a wealth of hands-on, real-world experience. Consisting of 320 hours in a physical disabilities practice setting and another 320 hours in an emerging practice or special interest settings, Fieldwork II occurs at the end of the program. Because Level II represents the bulk of students’ time in the field, in order to accommodate learners across the country, we work with students early on in the program to find them fieldwork near where they live, making it possible to study to become an OTA from anywhere in the United States.
Why Wait to Pursue a Career in OTA?
Whether you live in Texas or anywhere else in the country, it’s possible to graduate from our Online OTA program in as few as 16 months. Contact an admissions counselor today to learn more.