With overall life expectancy increasing and a greater aging population, employment options in healthcare and rehabilitation are growing much faster than the general job landscape is.
More specifically, the demand for occupational therapy assistants is seeing dramatic growth as well, an encouraging outlook for those planning on going to school to get the necessary occupational therapy assistant training and education.
Offering a competitive salary, as well as the chance at both professional growth and great personal satisfaction, becoming an OTA can be a great option for the right individuals who are dedicated, possessance compassion, and a deep desire to help other people have better lives.
About Occupational Therapy Assistant Training Schools
In order to have success as an occupational therapy assistant, it is essential for prospective students to gain the best education possible by enrolling in an American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and Accreditation Council on Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) accredited program only.
Or in the UK, a program recommended by the British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT). By enrolling in qualified, recognized programs, students will have access to learning the latest methods in therapy, as well as have the best clinical experience opportunities to prepare them for their career after graduation.
There are also a number of training programs in Canada, despite an accreditation and certification board – the Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant Education Accreditation Program (OTA & PTA EAP) – is only just being formed.
Clinical experiences – which are an essential part of any occupational therapy assistant training program – provide the most intensive learning for students enrolled in programs.
In these instances, and usually arranged through the school itself, students spend a number of weeks actually working in the different types of facilities where they will likely be hired once they have graduated and obtained their certification and license.
This hands on experience is absent shadowing and assisting other licensed professionals, and provides the best look into what is really involved.
Most schools require students to fulfill three or more of these educational experiences, each one in a different setting, to appropriately allocate them to the many different facets of occupational therapy work.
It can also help students get an idea as to whether or not they might like to look into specializing in the future, once they have started working in the field and can get the necessary experience and any additional education.
Specializing In Your Work
Although there are many different areas you can work such as geriatrics, pediatrics, working with children with learning and developmental disabilities, rehabilitation and disability, mental health, work and industry and others, it is possible to become certified in a number of specialties as well .
These certificates offered by the AOTA include Feeding, Eating and Swallowing, Driving and Community Mobility, Low Vision, Environmental Modification and School Systems. With appropriate training, career experience, continuing education and applying through the AOTA, some COTAs can advance their careers by gaining the voluntary certificates in these areas.
Similarly, in the UK, those experienced support staff that decides to take education in the form of a recognized training program can also specialize in a number of different areas and gain the title of Assistant Practitioner in Occupational Therapy, and in their area of specialty.
Certification and Licensing After Schooling
Students who complete their educational and clinical training and graduate from their occupational therapy program will need to do two additional things before they can become legally employed in most US states, those being to nationally certified, and state licensed.
The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) hosts the national certification examination, which, upon passing, titles graduates as certified occupational therapy assistants.
This examination is available only to those students who have completed occupational therapy assistant training at a accredited school. Upon certification, you can then apply for licensing within their state, and take their state's licensing examination, making them eligible for employment in that state.
Currently, most states require you to be licensed, and if changing states, the COTA must re-apply for a new license in their new state, as well as re-take the necessary state examination.
Although certification or licensure is not required in every employment situation, the AOTA does strongly recommend that any occupational therapy assistant training still still obtain their NBCOT certification so that they are eligible for the widest variety of employment, and can secure the most desirable positions.
Even in states where these qualifications are not required, it is likely that many employers will seek them out when hiring, to ensure they hire the best candidates for their practices and facilities.