How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant

How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistants must complete an associate’s degree from an accredited technical school or college to qualify for employment. Most states also require potential occupational therapy assistants to take and successfully complete a licensing exam.

1. Earn an Associate's Degree (2 Years)

You must get a two-year associate's degree by completing a program accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Courses vary by school, but the programs have both classroom instruction and clinical work loads. The program is designed to provide students with the skills to jump into the field after graduation.

A typical course load can look like the following:

  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Kinesiology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Occupational therapy

With your degree program, you will get to have hands-on-clinical-training under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist.

If your program doesn't provide this training, you must get a supervised internship separately, but most programs offer this training.

The required length of this field work varies by state, but is at least eight weeks in duration. The practicum offered with degree programs may last longer than minimum requirements.

2. Earn the Required License and/or Certification

Once you graduate, you must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification examination; this exam is the Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) exam.

Once you pass you can apply for state licensure which will grant you the ability to work in your area. Check with your state for the requirements.