Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant in 8 Steps


Research the profession

Before starting your journey, make sure you have a good understanding of the OTA profession, including job duties, work settings, and the skills and qualities required for success. This will help you determine if this career is the right fit for you.


Complete high school or obtain a GED

A high school diploma or GED is required for admission to an accredited Occupational Therapy Assistant program. Focus on courses in biology, anatomy, psychology, and health sciences to prepare yourself for further education in the field.


Choose an accredited OTA program

Enroll in an associate degree program in occupational therapy assisting that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Accreditation ensures that the program meets the necessary educational standards and prepares you for the national certification exam.


Complete the OTA program

Complete your associate degree program, which typically takes about two years. Coursework will include subjects such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, occupational therapy principles, and therapeutic interventions. You will also complete supervised fieldwork experiences in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, and rehabilitation centers.


Complete fieldwork requirements

Fieldwork experiences are a crucial part of your OTA education. They provide hands-on experience and the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you’ve learned in the classroom. Fieldwork placements usually include Level I and Level II experiences, with Level II being more in-depth and focused on a specific area of practice.


Pass the NBCOT exam

After completing your degree and fieldwork requirements, you will need to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam for Occupational Therapy Assistants. This exam tests your knowledge and skills related to occupational therapy principles and practice. You will earn the title of Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) upon passing the exam.


Obtain state licensure

Most states require OTAs to obtain a license to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include passing the NBCOT exam, submitting an application, and paying a licensing fee. Some states may also require continuing education for license renewal. Check the specific requirements for the state where you plan to practice.


Seek employment and continue professional development

Apply for OTA positions in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, home health care, or skilled nursing facilities. Keep your skills and knowledge up-to-date by participating in continuing education courses, attending workshops, and staying informed about the latest research and best practices in occupational therapy.

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