Occupational Therapy Assistant
How to Become an

Occupational Therapy Assistant

The complete career guide to be an Occupational Therapy Assistant: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $58,340
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 42.7%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Occupational therapy assistants work under the supervision of occupational therapists. They work with patients who’ve suffered from motor or cognitive disabilities as the result of an accident or injury. They help patients recover lost motor function, and they teach them to use assistance equipment.

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What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in occupational therapy assistant roles:

  • Work with an occupational therapist to develop a plan of treatment for patients
  • Encourage patients to perform movements and exercises that may help them recover from lost motor function
  • Teach patients how to use equipment that’s designed to help them fulfill day-to-day tasks
  • Document patient progress, and report on progress to occupational therapists and other physicians
  • Collect documentation needed for submitting health insurance claims for services

A Day in the Life

When individuals suffer from cognitive or motor loss due to an accident, injury, illness, or disease, they are often sent to an occupational therapist. The occupational therapist—depending on the patient’s condition—performs a variety of tasks designed to help the patient overcome the loss of function. Occupational therapy assistants help occupational therapists with these responsibilities, working with therapists to document treatment plans, and assisting with patient education and recovery exercises.

In some cases, the loss of motor function may be able to be resolved. When this happens, the occupational therapy assistant works with the patient several times a week on exercising the injured area in a way that may promote healing. They also teach patients how to perform exercises on their own time to expedite recovery. Often, the exercises are very difficult for the patient to perform, and they may be depressed because of the injury. The occupational therapy assistant encourages the patient and provides him/her with advice and guidance to overcome feelings of depression and inadequacy.

When loss of function is not able to be healed, the occupational therapy assistant may recommend equipment and devices designed to assist with tasks. For example, he/she may teach a patient who has lost the ability to speak to use a speaking device, may teach a patient with vision loss how to read braille, or may teach a patient with Parkinson’s disease how to use tools that help them eat. These devices all help the patient live a life as close to normal as possible even after a debilitating incident.

Typical Work Schedule

Occupational therapy assistants in most cases have a full-time working schedule. They follow the standard business hours of about 40-50 hours per week. However, different types of clients and workplaces may require different available hours and you have to be flexible enough to consider different needs. In addition, many assistants may need to work in multiple facilities and have to travel from one job to another which may add longer hours to the working schedule. You will also spend much time on foot while setting up equipment and providing therapy to patients which may become stressful. It can still be a job of choice for students who are studying a degree in medicine, nursing or other related fields.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US bureau of labor statistics, there are currently around 55,000 occupational therapists registered in the country. The demand for the job is expected to increase by 32% from 2019 to 2029 which is much faster than the expected growth for other jobs. It is actually one of the highest growth rates expected in this period. Occupational therapy assistants will be needed to help therapists treat additional patients and to ensure the efficient run of the treatment. The demand for occupational therapy is only expected to increase as the older generations, who are more prone to serious conditions, keep demanding for their services in order to carry out a variety of daily activities. Some healthcare providers will employ assistants to reduce the cost of therapy services, especially for those specializing in long-term care where the assistant will provide many aspects of the treatment plan that the therapist prescribe.

Typical Employers

Occupational therapists work for public or private hospitals of different sizes. Other employers include educational institutions like primary and secondary schools particularly those dedicated to children of special needs. In addition, offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists will also be a viable option for employment. Some prefer to provide home healthcare services and others can be employed to work with different nursing care facilities and other different care facilities.

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How To Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant

The starting point for becoming an occupational therapy assistant is earning an associate’s degree from an occupational therapy assistant program. These programs usually last two years and teach students the basics of occupational therapy practices and techniques, as well as general biology and physiology. Additionally, the programs also typically include a residency component where students spend four months following experienced occupational therapists and assistants to earn hands-on experience.

In addition to earning an associate’s degree, most states require occupational therapy assistants to be licensed in order to practice in the state. Becoming licensed usually requires completing an associate’s degree, earning professional work experience through an in-school residency, and passing an exam administered through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Additionally, continuing education is also commonly required to maintain licensure.

To earn professional experience before completing an associate’s degree program, aspiring occupational therapy assistants may choose to work as occupational therapy aides. No formal postsecondary degree or state license is required to work in an aide position as it’s more of a support role. However, your experience as an aide can help you get a head start on learning the job and earning experience that may help you find a job more quickly after graduation.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Occupational Therapy Assistant salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Occupational Therapy Assistant's can make an average annual salary of $58,340, or $28 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $47,800 or $23 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #293 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • 0%   Doctorate
  • 0.3%   Masters
  • 11.1%   Bachelors
  • 76.2%   Associates
  • 9.4%   College
  • 2.1%   High School
  • 0.8%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Occupational Therapy Assistant job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 14,100 jobs for a total of 47,100 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 42.7% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #2 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Occupational Therapy Assistants

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 13,300 9,800 10%
Nursing care facilities (skilled nursing facilities) 6,000 1,200 1%
General medical and surgical hospitals; private 3,400 300 0%

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