Career OptionsOTA ExplainedOTA Field

What to Expect from a Career in OTA

You want to work in healthcare and you are thinking about becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant, but you’re not sure it’s the right path for you. Well, if you really want to work with people instead of spending your days pushing paper and if you’re a creative person who loves helping others, then becoming at OTA could be the right fit for you. But it’s best to start at the beginning to explain exactly what to expect from a career in OTA.


What is an OTA?

Occupational therapy or OT is an area of medicine that aims to help people live their best lives. Occupational therapy assistants, OTAs, work closely with registered occupational therapists, OTRs, to help people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities learn to work within their limitations to perform everyday tasks more independently. Occupational therapists wants to know what matters to their clients -what patients are called in the OT field. What exactly does that mean? Here are a few examples:

  • Imagine you have a dog who loves going on walks – and you love taking him! Now imagine that one day you can’t walk your dog anymore. Maybe you broke your foot and can no longer physically walk. An OTR and OTA would work with you to find out another way to walk you dog. Maybe they would attach the leash to a wheelchair or scooter so you can still walk your dog while you recover.
  • You love making dinner for your family. Chopping, cooking, and sautéing – you love the feeling of accomplishment you have when you create a meal that your family loves. Now imagine that you can no longer cook that meal because you can’t grip the utensils properly. You could work with an OTR and OTA to adapt how you cook – so you still can! Maybe it’s adapting your cutting knife, wooden spoon and tongs so you can grip them properly.
  • You love playing with your kids, but recently it’s becoming difficult. Maybe you have recurring pain and you can’t rough house like you used to. An OTR and OTA won’t just treat you, they’ll work with the whole family to come up with a plan of how you can all play – together.

OTA vs. Other Medical Career Paths

We’ve explained what occupational therapy assistants do, but how does OTA compare to other healthcare careers? We compared OTA to other medical careers that require similar education – an associate’s degree, certificate or certification. Take a look for yourself!

OTA Versus: How Medical Careers Compare

Trying to decide on which medical career to pursue? Take a look at how occupational therapy assistant and seven other health care professions compare in salary, work settings, job growth, and more.


According to the AOTA 2015 Salary and Workforce Survey, salaries for occupational therapy assistants have risen 9.1% since 2010. OTAs make the most money in academia, home health, and long term care/skilled nursing facilities.

The AOTA 2015 Salary and Workforce Survey reports that after just 6 years in the occupational therapy field, OTAs see, on average, a $9,000 salary increase.

2Work Setting

Unlike other professions with the same education level, occupational therapy assistants are able to work in many different settings. OTAs have the opportunity to work in a number of practice areas including infants, pediatrics, health and wellness, mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical rehabilitation, older adults, and more.

3Job Growth

Due to the aging baby-boomers and changes in health care legislation, the demand for occupational therapy assistants is growing rapidly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of OTAs is projected to grow 43% between now and 2024.

The OTA profession is listed among the fastest growing occupations that require only an associate degree from an accredited program.

4Direct Patient Contact

As an occupational therapy assistant, you won’t spend your entire career checking blood pressures, counting pills, or completing paperwork. OTAs work directly with their clients—the name given to patients in the OT field—every single day.

  • Yes
    Physical Therapy Assistant
    Medical Assistant
    Nursing Assistant
    Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • No
    Surgical Technologist
    Medical Records Technician
  • Maybe
    Pharmacy Technologist
    Dental Assistant

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 data

5Work Hours

When choosing a career in the health care field, consider what hours best fit your life. OTAs work in a wide variety of places and are able to have very flexible schedules. An OTA may work with kids at a school a few mornings a week, hospital with adults in the afternoon, teach one day a week for a university in the evenings, and take some on-call hours at a skilled nursing facility on the weekends.

Regular Hours

Interested in keeping a regular, set schedule? These professions typically work Monday-Friday from 9am to 5pm.

  • Pharmacy Technologist
  • Medical Records Technician
  • Surgical Technologist
  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Medical Assistant
  • Dental Assistant


Occupational therapy assistants enjoy a very flexible work schedule

Nights & Weekends

Don’t mind staying up late? These professions often work nights and weekends.

  • Pharmacy Technologist
  • Medical Records Technician
  • Surgical Technologist
  • Nursing Assistant
  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Medical Assistant

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014 data

Occupational therapy doesn’t ask what’s wrong; it wants to know what matters to you and how we can help you resume doing what you love. Think becoming an occupational therapy assistant sounds like the right healthcare career for you? Learn more about St. Catherine University’s online OTA program and contact an admissions advisor today.

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