What's Involved with Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant?

Those who are injured or have a disability can greatly benefit from the help of an occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistants. Occupational therapy assistants are some of the most incredible and patient professionals, working hard to help patients overcome hardships and heal. Although there are more and more positions opening up for this role every year, many don't know how quickly you can learn and become a true professional. 

Are you interested in starting a career as an occupational therapy assistant but don’t know where to start or what your future could look like? Here's what it takes to become an occupational therapist and why it might or might not be for you.

What Does an Occupational Therapy Assistant Do?

Occupational therapy assistants are huge assets to those who need help recovering from injuries or illness or those with disabilities. An occupational therapy assistant works alongside occupational therapists and with patients to help them with exercises and stretches to help them with their daily lives. While you can find occupational therapy assistants working in occupational therapy offices, many of them also work in hospitals and nursing homes where many patients require their services. While much of the work an occupational therapy assistant does is with patients, they often have administrative tasks to complete.

How Long Is Training?

Like any career in the medical field, you need the right education to qualify for a job as an occupational therapy assistant. Training to be an occupational therapy assistant is a two-year-long process. Programs that prepare students to become occupational therapy assistants often involve a combination of classwork and hands-on practice. Although the actual training is eighteen months, every moment of this is spent teaching you how to talk to patients and be a shoulder if they need to talk it out. You'll learn the best stretches to do for each joint, how to boost someone's enthusiasm when they're trying to heal. Most people who need a physical therapist have gone through something traumatic and need someone they can trust to be on their side through this process.

What’s The Payoff?

The pay for most occupational therapy assistants isn't fantastic, but it's livable! With a wage bordering on fifty thousand dollars, or $23 an hour, here's a lot of room for upward mobility. The longer these workers keep at it, and the more reliable they become, the higher their wages will be. Unfortunately, this can take a while, so it's essential to bring it up to your boss when you've hit your yearly bookmarks. Some might also choose to continue their education and earn a master’s degree to become an occupational therapist if they want to advance their careers.

Is There On-The-Job Training?

Although you must have a degree in occupational therapy, you can still learn many skills on the job. Many occupational therapists specialize in different ways of giving care to patients, and it's vital that you eventually know how to do their practice. Take notes, learn as you go, and don't be afraid to ask questions. If you're wrong, don't get defensive; take the time to understand what went wrong and correct it for the next time. A good occupational therapist will want to train you well to give back the best work possible.

How Many Jobs Are Available?

In 2019 there were over 55,000 occupational therapy assistant jobs that were open. There has been a steady increase, with more hitting the market, and the government is aiming for a 30% increase again within the next couple of years. This line of growth means that in the two years that it takes to get an associate's degree in occupational therapy, you could have a job waiting for you!

Is It An Easy Job?

Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as an easy medically related job. An occupational therapy assistant doesn't have a simple or easy job, but it's still worth it. These professionals work hard to help the therapist they work under, as they work with patients on everything from their minds to their fingers and toes. This job requires assistants to keep a good demeanor for patients while being honest and patient with them.

Most of the people they help are going through a lot and overcoming trauma; they need a good person to be at their side as this happens. Because of this, occupational therapy assistants need to be empathetic and caring when working with patients. Occupational therapy assistants are also on their feet most of the day, so anyone considering this career needs to physically handle the demands of this job.