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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Occupational Therapy Assisting

Majors Overview June 18, 2014

Providing treatment to those in need of physical recuperation is the role that the occupational therapy assistants play. An associate’s degree in occupational therapy assisting is a start for those interested in a career like this.

Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree Programs in Occupational Therapy Assisting

Those that aspire to become occupational therapy assistants are taught through associate degree programs in occupational therapy assisting to work under supervision of occupational therapists in aiding individuals with disorders, impairments, and illnesses. Earning an associate degree in occupational therapy assisting is the first step to attaining this career.

Coursework in the degree program involves teaching students to work with patients regardless of their age or the setting; the latter can include community centers, rehabilitation hospitals, private homes, schools, and nursing homes.

An occupational therapy assistant helps clients enhance their level of functioning to the highest possible extent and introduces them to meaningful activities, either in groups or individually. Students are provided with supervised fieldwork and lab work under supervision of occupational therapists that is aimed at imparting practical, hands-on experience in the field.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria in an occupational therapy assistant associate degree program typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma. In some programs, students are also expected to demonstrate competency in English, biology, reading, and math. Familiarity with occupational therapy service settings will also be an asset for an enrolled student.


Coursework focuses on human development across all levels by combining classroom lectures and hands-on training, including role playing. Classroom courses cover various topic areas such, as:

•Speech pathology fundamentals
•Developmental disabilities overview
•Human anatomy and physiology
•Rehabilitation methods
•Occupational therapy bioethics
•Principles of sociology
•Principles of psychology
•Issues in occupational therapy
•Disease pathology

Job and Wage Outlook

Graduates can seek entry-level occupations in various work settings, such as acute care hospitals, public school systems, vocational rehabilitation programs, addiction recovery programs, inpatient psychiatric units, and home health agencies. A high job growth rate of 30% has been predicted for occupational therapy assistants during the period from 2008 to 2018 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). In 2012, occupational therapy assistants took home an average annual wage of $48,940 (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Graduates of an associate degree program in occupational therapy assisting can seek continued education by earning advanced degrees in the field. They can also seek professional certification by taking an appropriate exam.

The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) administers the national certification examination, the passage of which will help a candidate acquire the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) credential. Graduates may also have to satisfy licensure norms that could vary by state.

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