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Occupational Therapy Assistant vs. Occupational Therapist

If you’re interested in studying occupational therapy in college, you’re likely aware of the option to pursue either an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) or occupational therapist (OT) degree. While these healthcare paths overlap, they also have a few key differences. Recognizing these distinctions is crucial to selecting a major that resonates with your future career aspirations and professional goals.

What Is an OTA?

An occupational therapy assistant is a healthcare support professional who works under the supervision of an occupational therapist. Their job is to implement treatment plans for patients of any age to overcome physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental challenges. Using adaptive equipment, online tools, and therapeutic activities, OTAs help their patients more easily accomplish daily life activities or goals.

Despite common myths, being an OTA is a hands-on, active job role. Though they don’t craft intervention plans themselves, OTAs do monitor a patient’s progress and have the ability to adjust treatment plans according to a patient’s needs. OTAs work in many settings, including schools, pediatric clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, and rehabilitation centers.

What Are OTA Education Requirements?

To become an OTA, you will need to complete a two-year associate degree. Within that degree program, students must also meet clinical internship requirements. OTA graduates must then pass the NBCOT exam to gain their license.

How Much Does an OTA Make?

How much an OTA makes depends on factors such as experience, location, and employment setting. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an annual low-end OTA salary is $47,940, a median salary is $64,250, and a high-end salary is $85,580.

What Is an OT?

An occupational therapist is a licensed healthcare professional who supervises OTAs. Their main responsibilities involve assessing patients and designing treatment plans based on a patient’s abilities, needs, and goals. Many OTs work together with an OTA. However, some OTs work on their own and perform typical OTA duties themselves.

What Are OT Education Requirements?

OTs must obtain a master’s degree. Though some choose to pursue a doctoral degree, these are not necessary for an OT to practice. Like OTAs, OTs must pass an NBCOT board exam to earn their license.

How Much Does an OT Make?

OTs make more than their OTA counterparts. Per the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, an annual low-end OT salary is $63,320, a median salary is $93,180, and a high-end salary is $123,870.

OTA vs. OT: Key Differences

Education: Though OTAs and OTs share similar core education and training, OTs require a master’s degree compared to an associate degree. Their coursework is more involved than that of an OTA.

Scope of practice: OTs have a broader scope of practice. They may hold more specializations than OTAs and work in a specific area of occupational therapy.

Decision-making: OTs have more decision-making power and authority since they personally assess patients and craft intervention plans. However, OTAs do have the ability to modify treatment plans if needed since they work directly with patients regularly.

Learn More About Becoming an OTA

Becoming an OTA is a great option for prospective students who are interested in making lifelong, positive impacts while having a great job outlook and pay without needing a lot of schooling. Villa’s OTA program has everything you need to succeed in the industry, including state-of-the-art lab facilities and unique clinical opportunities. Get in touch with us today to learn more.