Occupational therapist assistants provide rehabilitative services to patients with physical, mental, emotional or developmental issues. Occupational therapist assistants work under the supervision of an occupational therapist (OT) to increase the patient's quality of life and the ability to perform daily tasks.
Occupational therapist assistants execute treatment plans created in collaboration with the OT. Assistants monitor a patient's progress, document progress goals and alter treatment strategies if the treatment program is ineffective. Assistants may also process billing documents for the patient's health insurance provider, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Occupational therapist assistants typically have an associate's degree or certification from an accredited community college or technical school. According to the BLS, there were 126 U.S. occupational therapist assistant programs with accreditation in 2007. Basic coursework in the first year of school includes anatomy, physiology and medical terminology. Second-year course work includes mental health, adult physical disabilities and paediatrics. Sixteen weeks of clinical or community fieldwork must also be completed to graduate.
Successful program graduates must follow their coursework, reports the BLS, with a national certification exam to earn the designation of Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA). Most states regulate occupational therapist assistants, and may require continuing education.
According to the BLS, the 2006 median annual salary for occupational therapy assistants was £27,339. Earnings typically correspond with the cost of living in a given area. The middle 50 per cent earned between £22,184 and £32,649; the lowest 10 per cent earned less than £16, 050; and the highest 10 per cent earned £37,875.
Occupational therapist assistants also earn more or less depending on their work environment. May 2006 statistics compiled by the BLS show that employees working in an office with physical, occupational and speech therapists and audiologists had an average annual salary of £29,334. Those who worked in nursing home or assisted living facilities made £28,132 per year, on average, while occupational therapy assistants working in hospitals made about £26,000 annually.
Occupational therapist assistants have a physically demanding job. Lifting patients, kneeling, stooping and standing for long periods of time are required. The job outlook, according to the BLS, is expected to be better than average---more than 25 per cent growth by 2016---as baby boomers age and more OT services are needed.