Are you a certified occupational therapy assistant, also known as a COTA or OTA, looking to take your career to the next level? Consider becoming an occupational therapist (OT)! Becoming an OT will allow you to advance your profession and have greater autonomy in providing patient care.
How To Grow Your Career from Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant to Occupational Therapist
While “assistant” may be in the title, OTAs are much more than that to occupational therapists. If you’re into helping, connecting with others, and implementing personalized treatment plans, a career as an occupational therapy assistant may be the perfect fit. On the other hand, if you want more hands-on action and face time with patients, a career as an OT may be what you’re looking for. To figure out which occupational therapy profession floats your boat, consider the differences between an OTA vs OT.
OTA vs OT round one: educational requirements
The biggest thing that sets an OTA apart from an OT is the level of education. While OTAs only require a two-year associate degree in occupational therapy, OTs need a master’s degree at the minimum. Interested in going from an OTA to OT? Here’s what you’ve got to do.
Complete an advanced degree
First things first, you’ll need an advanced degree to become an OT. That means that you’ll have to go back to school to earn your bachelor’s degree if you don't already have one, and then work your way up to at least a master’s. If you’re feeling super spicy, you can go on to get your doctorate.
Depending on what level of education you land on, you’ll be back in school for at least another six to eight years. On the bright side, some of your completed OTA courses and prerequisites may be carried over to your OT bachelor program. Check with your alma mater to get a better idea which credits apply to your advanced degree.
Research OTA to OT bridge programs
To help ease the transition from OTA to OT, you can enroll in an OTA to OT bridge program. Bridge programs help streamline the education process so you can earn your master’s degree in occupational therapy even faster. Most OTA to OT bridge programs can be completed in two to three years and consist of a healthy combination of in-classroom, online, and fieldwork learning. Currently, you can find OTA to OT bridge programs in these states:
🌍 New York
Get your OT license
Before you can officially work your magic as an almighty and powerful occupational therapist, you have to get licensed. The way to do that is by taking the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Exam. Check out these study tips to pass the test with flying colors.
After you’ve taken the exam and received a passing grade, submit your results to your state OT licensure board, along with transcripts from your university, an application fee, and the results of a background check. Now that you’re licensed, you can start living your best life as an occupational therapist. Pro tip: get your occupational therapy compact license so you can practice your OT skills in multiple states under one license.
Like what you’re reading? You may also like: 10 Most Asked Questions About Travel Therapy with Alyssa Peters, OT
OTA vs OT round two: job responsibilities
Just like different kinds of nurses have different responsibilities, so do OTAs vs OTs. When it comes to being a certified occupational therapy assistant, you’ll largely work under the supervision of an occupational therapist. OTAs follow patient treatment plans as determined by the OT, execute treatments, and keep daily logs of patient sessions.
You take on more responsibility when you grow your career from OTA to OT. Registered occupational therapists complete patient assessments, develop individualized treatment plans based on a patient’s needs, track patient progress, finalize discharge evaluations, and offer occupational therapy treatment to patients.
“I would recommend OT because the possibilities are endless,” said Fusion OT traveler Alyssa. “You can work in any state in more settings than you can think of! Every day is truly its own adventure. There is no better feeling than watching someone progress toward functional outcomes using everyday occupations as therapeutic interventions. And it can be fun! I try to balance work and play; there are sessions where we strictly work on morning routines and some days where we dance, cook, and decorate the gym for the holidays.”
OTA vs OT round three: benefits of being an occupational therapy professional
You already know the major perk of being an occupational therapy professional: making a positive impact in the lives of others, obviously. When comparing the two paths, there are several overlapping benefits, like:
✨ A range of job opportunities for both OTAs and OTs (spoiler alert: employment for OTAs is expected to grow 25% between 2021 and 2031 and employment for OTs is projected to grow 14% between the same time)
✨ Starting a journey as a traveling occupational therapy professional
✨ The undeniable satisfaction of helping others
More exclusive benefits to being an OTA are:
✨ A variety of opportunities to advance your career
✨ Less time in school (aka less student loans to manage)
Occupational therapists have their own perks, including:
✨ More money
✨ The chance to work your way up the professional food chain to management positions
✨ The ability to inspire and lead OTAs, as well as other staff
Remember that both types of occupational therapy professionals play a large role in the grand scheme of things. When it comes down to it, there’s no ~right~ path to take — it all depends on what’s right for you and your professional career.
Explore a travel occupational therapy career
So, what’s it going to be: OTA or OT? No matter what, you’re signing up for a meaningful career path that gives you a front-row seat to changing the lives of others. And that’s pretty cool, if you ask us.
But what if we told you that you could take your occupational therapy career further by traveling? You can make even more money — and an even bigger impact — by becoming a traveling OT. The best part? There’s no waiting period after graduation to start your travel journey; you can start traveling right away!
And even better, when you travel with Fusion Medical Staffing, you get all kinds of perks, like access to travel therapy mentors. Through Fusion Medical Staffing’s mentorship program, you can learn the ropes from an experienced therapy traveler and receive extra support during the transition.
As a traveling OT, you can offer personalized care to patients across the country. And as a Fusion Medical Staffing traveler, you can do so knowing you’re taken care of, too. So, what are you waiting for? Start your traveling OT career today!
OTAs and OTs are the backbone to an occupational therapy division. While these professions may have different education requirements, licensing and certifications, and job responsibilities, both are instrumental to patient healthcare. Whether you’re an OTA or an OT, you can advance your career to the next level by traveling with Fusion Medical Staffing — give us a shout.