January 18, 2024
If you’re laying the groundwork for becoming an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), congratulations on embarking on this exciting career path! As an OTA, you will have the opportunity to help individuals build and regain functions and skills that they will use in their daily lives.
The first step of pursuing a career as an occupational therapy assistant is to complete an accredited OTA program so you can become certified and licensed and begin working with clients. To help you understand what to expect in your educational journey, here are some commonly asked questions and answers about OTA school.
When you sign up for an OTA associate degree program, you will be required to complete both general education courses and core courses that are focused on topics related to the field of occupational therapy.
Core courses will provide you with the essential education you need on the job, with training on medical terminology, conditions treated in occupational therapy, therapeutic techniques, strategies for effective communication, training on how to work with a diverse range of clients (various age groups, clients with disabilities, clients with injuries) and more.
To provide an example, here are the courses that are included in American Career College’s OTA program (as of January 2024):
General Education Courses:
Learn more about the OTA program curriculum at ACC.
Your OTA program will require you to complete a certain amount of fieldwork, which involves practicing your learned skills in a clinical setting under the supervision of a licensed OTA or OT professional. These clinical settings may be in a care-focused facility such as a rehabilitation center or nursing home, private practice OT offices or hospitals.
Fieldwork is a critical component of your OTA education as it provides you with hands-on training that will help prepare you for an entry-level position as an occupational therapy assistant. During your fieldwork, you will gain firsthand exposure to OT equipment, therapeutic methods, documentation procedures and best practices for communicating and interacting with clients and other healthcare professionals.
At ACC, the last four months of the program are dedicated to fieldwork. Students are required to complete 700 hours in the field, demonstrating and reinforcing the knowledge and skills they acquired learning hands-on throughout the program.
A good OTA program should help prepare you for your certification exam. Students who graduate from ACC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program are eligible to take the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), and they learn material that will be on the exam during their program.
Preparation for your certification exam is important considering that most states use passage of the NBCOT exam as a requirement for licensure, which is necessary in order to practice as an OTA.
Where and how you will complete your studies (in person or remotely) depends on the level of flexibility in your program. Certain programs (such as the OTA program at ACC) are blended, which means some courses can be completed online while others require on-campus or on-site attendance. Some courses may even include a combination of both learning modalities.
Blended programs can provide increased flexibility for students, especially those who are trying to balance school with work and family responsibilities.
OTA programs typically last about two years, though some programs may be shorter. ACC’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program requires 99 credit hours and can be completed in 20 months.
Students entering an OTA associate degree program are usually required to show proof of a high school diploma, provide their high school transcripts or present their GDE/HSE (which acts as a recognized equivalent of a high school diploma).
The college offering the program may also have additional requirements for enrollment, such as meeting with an admissions advisor, visiting the campus, signing an enrollment agreement, and/or paying a non-refundable application fee. All ACC programs have a required entrance exam.
Additionally, students enrolling in blended programs (which includes a combination of online and in-person learning) may need to meet additional requirements, such as confirming that they have the appropriate computer equipment and internet access for remote learning.
Learn about ACC’s general college admission requirements and additional requirements for students enrolling in programs with blended modules or courses.
American Career College offers an Occupational Therapy Assistant program that allows you to earn your associate degree through both online and in-person instruction. Our ACOTE-accredited program is available through our Orange County campus in Anaheim and can be completed in 20 months.
Learn more about the Occupational Therapy Assistant program.
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