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FAQ's for Occupational Therapy Assistant

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is a health profession concerned with promoting the quality of life of individuals as they participate in everyday activities. Occupational therapy may be indicated for persons whose lives have been interrupted by injury or disease, or those who are developmentally delayed or who have problems associated with aging. Occupational therapy serves a wide variety of individuals of all ages in settings such as schools, community agencies, mental health programs, hospitals, extended care facilities, and rehabilitation centers.

Characteristics of the OTA Student

What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant? What does an Occupational Therapy Assistant do?

Occupational therapy assistants work under the supervision of occupational therapists and work closely with clients, their families, and other members of the health care team.

Occupational therapy assistants use selected educational, leisure, vocational, and rehabilitation activities to help individuals reach the highest functional level possible, to increase self-reliance, and to assist clients in leading a balanced life of work and leisure.

Skills of the Occupational Therapy student

What are the pre-requisites to the program?

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program is a selective admission, college level program. Students must have successfully completed six requirements PRIOR TO APPLICATION to the Occupational Therapy Assistant program.

These requirements include high school or college cumulative grade point averages, minimum placement test scores or successful completion of specific courses, successful completion of the prerequisite for Anatomy and Physiology I (within the last five years), and completion of the OTA Observation Form.

Admission Criteria

When are courses offered? Can I work while completing this program?

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program accepts a new class of students each fall semester. The program requires two full academic years for completion. The program offers a combination of day and evening classes with a variable schedule each semester.

Students should not anticipate holding full time jobs while completing this program.

Is there a specific sequence of courses that I should take?

In the first year, students take general education and related science courses and two to three OTA courses each semester. The second year is a full concentration of OTA courses, some of which involve full time clinical work.

OTA Curriculum

What is the difference between an Occupational Therapy Assistant and an Occupational Therapist?

An Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) is the graduate of a certificate or associate degree program. An OTA works under the supervision of an Occupational Therapist when delivering direct patient occupational therapy services. These tasks may include: developing treatment plans, implementing treatment plans, and revising treatment approaches.

An Occupational Therapist (OT) is the graduate of a college or university with a minimum of a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. An Occupational Therapist is responsible for the overall treatment of the client from initial evaluation to the discontinuation of services. The Occupational Therapist may also be responsible for management, education, and research activities.

How many hours per week are required for clinical work?

Students enrolled in the OTA program complete clinical work each semester. In the first three semesters of the program, students complete Level I fieldwork requiring from 21 - 40 hours per week, in addition to regularly scheduled class time. During the fourth semester of the program, students complete Level II fieldwork. Level II fieldwork is a full time, 40 hour per week placement. The student adheres to the established schedule at the clinical site.

OTA Curriculum

Where do students complete their clinical work?

Students complete their clinical work in a variety of places in and around the metropolitan St. Louis area. These places include: hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, out-patient facilities, long term care facilities, and community-based services.

The STLCC OTA program develops these clinical sites and is responsible for assigning each student. The student is not responsible for establishing his/her own clinical placements.

Do I have to take a test when I’m finished? What is the pass rate on the national certification examination for an STLCC OTA graduate?

At the completion of the academic program and Level II fieldwork, students will earn an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) degree. In order to become a “certified” occupational therapy assistant (COTA), students must pass the national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy ( NBCOT).

STLCC OTA program graduates have an excellent pass rate on the national certification examination. The pass rate has been 100% for the past seven years.

What is the average entry-level salary for a new OTA graduate?

The average salary for an entry-level OTA graduate is approximately $35,000.00 per year in the metropolitan St. Louis area. This will vary depending on the practice area (i.e., school system vs. acute care setting). Other variables include full time employment vs. per diem hours, health insurance costs and other benefits, and continuing education opportunities provided by the employer.

Will I be able to find a job when I graduate and where will I find employment?

Most program graduates find employment in the field within a few months after graduation. Recent information published by the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the job outlook for occupational therapy assistant will continue to improve steadily for the foreseeable future.

Most graduates find employment in the metropolitan St. Louis area at hospitals, nursing homes, school systems, and other rehabilitation centers. Sometimes, the student’s Level II clinical site can become a potential employment opportunity.

If I complete Meramec’s OTA program, can those credit hours be applied towards an OT degree?

The college or university offering the OT degree would determine transferability of courses taken at STLCC. Many of the general education courses (i.e., English Composition, General Psychology, etc.) may transfer. However, the OTA courses may not. The curriculum for an OTA degree is distinctly different from the curriculum for an OT degree. The OTA curriculum focuses on technical skills and knowledge while the OT degree emphasizes theory, research, and management.

In addition, the OT degree is an entry level Master’s degree. In most cases, a student would need to complete a Bachelor’s degree before beginning an OT degree program.

Are you accredited?

The Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, P.O. Box 31220, Bethesda, MD 20824-1220. ACOTE's telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA.

Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy assistant administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). In addition, most states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination.

A felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to sit for the NBCOT Certification Examination or attain state licensure. For more information, contact the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).