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News / Career October 24, 2022

Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy: What’s the Difference?

October 24, 2022

Are you considering training as a physical therapist assistant (PTA) or occupational therapy assistant (OTA), but don’t know which one to choose? Physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) are only two of the many fields in healthcare that let you work directly with patients. Both help patients rehabilitate and regain or maintain their independence. Although PT and OT share some similarities, the goals and exercises can vary between these two fields.

If you think physical therapy or occupational therapy might be the right career choice for you, knowing the differences is vital in helping you make the right choice. Keep reading to learn more about what it means to work as a PTA or an OTA.

Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy

While physical therapy focuses on helping patients recover their mobility after accidents or injuries, occupational therapy activities put the emphasis on ensuring patients can complete day-to-day tasks.

For example, physical therapist assistants can help someone regain the ability to walk again after an accident. The focus of the activities is to improve the patient’s movement and lessen pain. Meanwhile, occupational therapy assistants are more likely to work with fine motor skills, helping ensure a patient can dress, eat, and participate in essential daily activities.

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Duties of Physical Therapist Assistants vs. Occupational Therapy Assistants

To give you a better sense of the distinct responsibilities OTAs and PTAs have in their respective roles, here’s a brief rundown.

 A physical therapist assistant may be tasked with:

An occupational therapy assistant may be tasked with:

 Similarities Between PT and OT

While goals and approaches can differ, PTAs and OTAs also perform some similar tasks.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, work responsibilities for both roles include:

Occupational Therapy Assistants and Kids

While PTAs work mainly with those recovering from accidents or injury, OTAs often work with kids who have developmental or learning disabilities. OTAs help children meet their developmental milestones, both physically and cognitively, so they can facilitate meaningful interactions in their environment. These activities are designed to help kids develop skills they’ll need in everyday life.

If you like working with children, training to be an occupational therapy assistant could be a rewarding and fulfilling career path. Learn more about how OTAs work with kids.

PT vs. OT: Which One Is Right for You?

Both physical therapy and occupational therapy are noble paths to pursue. Which one is right for you depends on what you would personally find the most fulfilling. ACC is here to help guide you towards reaching your goals.

In ACC's Occupational Therapy Assistant program, you can earn your associate degree through both online and in-person instruction at our Orange County campus in Anaheim. It can be completed in as little as 20 months!

ACC’s Physical Therapist Assistant program is available at both our Anaheim and Ontario campuses. The blended curriculum combines online classes with in-person instruction and can be completed in just 20 months!

For questions regarding program start dates, class schedules, and financial aid, please fill out the form at the bottom of this page and a representative will get in contact with you shortly.

ACC provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment.

1California Employment Development Department OCC Guide, Physical Therapist Assistants in California

2California Employment Development Department OCC Guide, Occupational Therapy Assistants in California

3Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides

4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Therapy Assistants and AidesBureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides

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