What to Look for in an OTA Program: 3 Things You Need to Know

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Do you know what to look for in an OTA program? Convenience, a well-rounded curriculum and a great reputation are all program traits that will help you succeed in your journey to enter the growing field of occupational therapy. The St. Kate’s OTA program has all these elements. 

OTA students in classroom

It’s no secret that the demand for occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) is on the rise across the U.S., due to the growing elderly population and increased health needs of baby boomers. As a result, more and more people are considering an exciting career as an OTA. But where should you start?

The first thing you’ll need to do if you’re interested in joining the bustling field of occupational therapy is find the right program. In this post, we will outline what to look for in an OTA program so you can decide if a career as an OTA is right for you.

One great option for earning an associate’s degree in as few as 16 months is through St. Catherine University’s Online OTA program. Offered in a learning environment that embraces multicultural and social justice perspectives on health and healing. You’ll complete St. Kate's Online OTA program through a hybrid of online instruction, face-to-face instruction and hands-on fieldwork experiences.

Our program not only offers flexible online coursework combined with hands-on experience, but you can count on support every step of the way — from the first phone call through your fieldwork experiences, labs and even National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) certification.

Here are the three things to look for in a quality OTA program such as the one St. Catherine University offers and a few things that set our program apart from other occupational therapy assistant schools.

1. Convenience

Becoming an OTA on a faster timeline means the coursework and curriculum are going to be rigorous. You’ll need to dedicate a lot of your time and energy to the program, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a program that is convenient and easily assessable to set yourself up for success.

Our Online OTA program allows you to complete 80% of your coursework online, meaning you can learn at your own pace from anywhere you want. So long as you meet deadlines set by your instructors, you choose how fast or slow you get through the material.

OT students in classroom sitting at desk with computers

For graduates like Lilliana, the flexibility of the online portion of the program provided exactly what she needed for her lifestyle.

“I really like the convenience of online. I think that was the biggest player for me. At the time, I lived in California, and I was caregiving for my dad. So, being at home was really important for me to be able to still assist him and things that he needed like appointments and medication management,” Lilliana says.

Our online classwork includes audio and video lectures, interactive activities and learning modules to accommodate every kind of learning preference and keep you engaged, while our intuitive online e-Learning platform, Canvas, utilizes state-of-the-art multimedia features and is user-friendly to set you up for successful learning.

While you will be learning online, you won’t be alone. Chats, discussion boards and videos will connect you to your peers and professors.

Additional Canvas features include:

  • Video and audio lectures you can replay as needed.
  • Engaging simulation learning modules.
  • Forums for student and faculty interaction.

2. Multifaceted

The next thing on our list of what to look for in an OTA program is a program that is well-rounded and offers a good mix of elements to ensure you have a quality OTA education.

As such, the St. Kate’s Online Occupational Therapy Assistant program is not 100% online. The Online OTA program is part of an all-inclusive plan that puts what you learn online to work in on-site skills labs and gives you networking experience with leading healthcare facilities through your fieldwork experiences, so you gain the knowledge and skills required to earn OTA certification and pursue a career in this rewarding profession.

Skills lab for OTA students

Skills Labs

In addition to your online coursework, our online OTA program includes:

  • 12 skills labs, which let you apply your knowledge in the six core OT practice areas.
  • 720 hours of supervised fieldwork, which provide diverse professional experiences.

The skills labs will challenge you to put the concepts you learned online to the test. You’ll apply your skills in various rehab settings and get a feel for what you’ll encounter day-to-day as a working OTA.


The comprehensive fieldwork experience introduces you to the different areas of occupational therapy. We separate these hands-on experiences into Level I and Level II.

There are two Level I fieldwork experiences, which are a short introduction to practice areas and are about 40 hours long. You complete these experiences with your cohort under the supervision of a certified instructor.

Level II also comprises two experiences, which are each eight weeks long. By the end of Level II fieldwork, you can expect to be working like an entry-level OTA.

3. Respect and Support

The last thing you should look for in an OTA program is a respectable reputation and a supportive environment.

We started making an excellent reputation for ourselves here at St. Kate’s way back in 1964, when we became the first occupational therapy assistant school to offer an OTA degree in the country. St. Catherine’s is also one of the few universities to offer all levels of OT education, from associate degrees through master’s and doctoral degrees.

As pioneers in occupational therapy education, we strive to ensure our students feel supported every step of the way. From the enrollment process through classes and fieldwork experiences, our staff and faculty are here to help with any questions you may have.

We even offer a program to help our online OTA graduates prepare to sit for and pass the NBCOT® Examination for OTA certification. Passing the NBCOT® is required to practice, but most other OTA programs don’t have coaching programs for graduates.

At St. Kate’s we want to help you become the best OTA you can be and change lives everyday through a rewarding career in occupational therapy. Are you ready to become an OTA?

three OT students posing and smiling in class

Start Your Career as an OTA Today

Now that you know what to look for in an OTA program, it’s time to make a move for your future in the healthcare industry.

From job demand to course flexibility, to hands-on education, everything you need to become a certified OTA is available through St. Catherine University.

Now is the best time for you to change careers or transfer your existing college credits and earn your associate degree through the 16-month Online OTA program. Contact us today and find out how you can get started.

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