COTA Career Outlook

If you are creative and enjoy helping people, you might find your career niche as a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA). To join the profession, you must have an associate degree from an accredited OTA program and must have passed the NBCOT® Exam for certification. St. Catherine University developed the NBCOT Prep Coaching Program that helps prepare you to sit for the exam after graduation.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) also offers certification programs for post-graduate OTAs in the following specialty areas:

  • Driving and community mobility
  • Environmental modification
  • Feeding, eating and swallowing
  • Low vision
  • School system
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Job Outlook

Occupational therapy is currently one of the top healthcare fields in the United States, while the occupational therapy assistant (OTA) profession is in very high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that employment for the profession will grow by 35% between 2019 and 2029. For reference, the BLS expects overall U.S. employment to grow by just 4% over the same period.

It’s due to this exceptional growth—along with job flexibility, high job satisfaction, and only moderate work stress levels—that U.S News & World Report ranked OTA the No. 12 healthcare support role in 2020. OTA has also been cited in numerous other business publications as one of the most promising and fastest-growing careers.

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OTA Salary Data

OTAs are needed across the entirety of the country, but, for your interest, here is a list of the states with the highest employment levels, along with average OTA salary and hourly wage data, as of May 2021:

StateOTA Average SalaryOTA Average Hourly Wage
California$73,930$33.55
Texas$69,420$33.37
Virginia$68,710$33.04
Florida$67,540$32.47
Massachusetts$65,230$31.36
Georgia$64,770$31.14
Illinois$64,460$30.99
North Carolina$64,430$30.98
Tennessee$63,400$30.48
New York$62,220$29.91
Ohio$62,010$29.81
Pennsylvania$59,180$28.45
Minnesota$53,280$25.62
Indiana$52,120$25.06
Michigan$50,260$24.16

With an 80% online curriculum as well as skills labs and Level I Fieldwork sites in California, Minnesota, Texas, and Virginia, our online OTA program makes it possible for students in all 50 states to study to become OTAs.

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Through the St. Kate’s OTA Program, I get to do something that I know that I’m called to do. I’m going to get to be in a field that really is impactful in people’s lives and is foundational to helping people have a great quality of life.

Kristi Baker, Class of August 2021

Work Environment

In this highly diverse profession, occupational therapy assistants work full time in a wide variety of practice settings, from hospitals to schools to nursing homes. While most OTAs work in a hospital or nursing home setting, a growing number (one-third) are turning to private practice, while 10% choose in-home settings.

woman placing red tape on stair steps in woman's home
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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