When a person’s ability to take care of himself/herself is weakened, even simple tasks such as moving or lifting a finger are difficult. These impairment problems include issues in balance, sensation, endurance, muscle coordination, and strength.
In this situation, the role of the occupational therapy assistant is important. He or she is a key person in assisting the patient towards recovery. An occupational therapy assistant, therefore, is a qualified person who helps the occupational therapist.
If you are thinking of a career in the field of occupational therapy, consider being an occupational therapy assistant. The rewards of being one are many from ease of finding a job to receiving an attractive salary. In addition, you get the personal satisfaction of helping a patient regain cognitive and motor coordination.
The duties of an occupational therapy assistant include the following functions:
- Assist in the rehabilitation of patients with physical, mental, and cognitive impairment.
- Implement the treatment plan drawn up together with the occupational therapist; these activities include teaching patients to regain loss of mobility or motor skills through special exercises.
- Monitor the patient’s progress by recording entries.
- Prepare bills of the patient related to the treatment program for submission to the health insurance provider.
- Provide clerical assistance as needed.
- Associate degree
A person who wishes to become an occupational therapy assistant must receive an associate degree (AD) from a recognized institution that runs accredited programs. This degree may be awarded by a community, technical, or junior college. To fulfill the requirements, the institution must be accredited with the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). This accreditation is essential so that the candidate is able to take the national certifying exam.
An associate degree requires completing at least 60 units of academic credits for two years. The first year of study will usually cover subjects such as health care, anatomy, and physiology. During the second year, course subjects are on mental health, gerontology, pediatrics, and adult physical disabilities in addition to 16 weeks of fieldwork.
Licensing, Registration, and Certification
Each state in the US has different laws when it comes to practicing as an occupational therapy assistant. DC, Guam, Puerto Rico and 40 states require some sort of regulation such as licensing and registration. On the other hand, certification is voluntary although sitting and passing the ACOTE exam give solid proof that a person is fully certified to work as an occupational therapy assistant.
In all cases, taking continuing education classes such as workshops and seminars relevant to occupational therapy is a requisite in keeping the certification.
A person who works as an occupational therapy assistant must have ‘moderate’ physical strength as many of the tasks involve lifting, stooping, bending, and helping patients get on their feet. Without physical strength, it is difficult to keep up with the job.
According to the Occupational Employment Statistics Data (May 2010), there are 27,720 jobs filled as occupational therapy assistants. The median wage is at $51,010 per annum but based on statistics, an occupational therapy assistant can earn as much as $70,790 a year. 10% of these workers earned $33,110 annually while 25% had gross incomes of $25,540. Roughly 75% earned $60,610 a year.
US states that have the highest number of people employed as occupational therapy assistants are Ohio, Massachusetts, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island. Among urban areas, the biggest employers are Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Dallas, Cleveland, St. Louis, Boston, Houston, and Cincinnati. Salaries are at the highest in Nevada, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, and California.
Healthy Job Market
The market for occupational therapy assistants is growing each year with an estimated 44,800 jobs created and filled by 2018, signifying a 30% increase. The prospect for the sector looks very bright and promising.
Job requirements and qualifications are not enormous. Two years of education and training is not that long and there are plenty of schools that offer courses at reasonable prices. Those with significant work experience will have the best chances of landing lucrative jobs. Even if you are new to the field, odds are high that you’ll get a good paying and secure occupation.
Given the job market outlook, occupational therapy has a bright future. If you are considering a new occupation or a career change, think about becoming an occupational therapy assistant.
Inside Look At Education For An Occupational Therapy Assistant
This is a great video from Penn College that gives you an inside look at what it’s like to study to become an occupational therapy assistant.