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Occupational Therapist Assistants

At a Glance

  • Work under supervision of occupational therapists
  • Help people with disabilities live independently
  • Duties are determined by treatment plans
  • May need a license
  • Train through occupational therapist assistant programs
  • Work closely with patients and health care workers
  • May work part time or full time

Career summary

Occupational therapist assistants help people with disabilities develop skills. They work under the supervision of occupational therapists.

#No alternate titles CJ

Occupational therapist assistants help people who have mental, physical, or developmental disabilities. They also help people who have injuries or illnesses. Their goal is to help patients develop or recover skills needed for daily living or work. Assistants also work with children with developmental delays.

Occupational therapist assistants help evaluate patients' daily living skills so that occupational therapists can develop a treatment plan.

Assistants help patients with the activities and exercises listed in treatment plans. Activities may include:

Assistants outline steps required to complete activities and help patients perform the steps. They may adapt patients' physical surroundings by moving items to places where patients can reach them more easily. Depending on the patient's physical ability, assistants may help them with grooming and getting dressed.

Occupational therapist assistants may set up equipment to help patients perform tasks. For example, they might put together splints and other devices. They also instruct patients about the care and use of special equipment.

Assistants keep occupational therapists informed of patients' progress. In addition, they keep records of what tasks they practiced with patients and how well patients did. They may recommend changes to treatment plans, if necessary. They monitor supplies and order more when needed. They may also schedule appointments, process bills, and maintain files.

In addition, assistants teach patients and their families about basic living skills at home.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to occupational therapist assistants.

Common work activities

Occupational therapist assistants perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, occupational therapist assistants:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Occupational therapist assistants frequently:

It is important for occupational therapist assistants to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for occupational therapist assistants to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Occupational therapist assistants need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as an occupational therapist assistant, you typically need to:

Education after high school

You can prepare to work as an occupational therapist assistant by completing a formal training program. Professional-technical schools and two-year colleges offer occupational therapist assistant (OTA) programs. These programs usually grant an associate degree or certificate. An associate degree is the most common way to prepare for this occupation.

During the first year of the program you study health care, medical terminology, and physiology. During the second year you learn about gerontology, pediatrics, and mental health.

Work experience

Volunteering with an occupational or physical therapist is good preparation.

On-the-job training

While you are a student, you get experience working with patients. Experienced occupational therapist assistants supervise your work. Training usually lasts a month, although this varies by employer.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be occupational therapy specialists. Training lasts 11 to 13 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job and through advanced courses.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Many states require occupational therapist assistants to be licensed or certified. In these states, many employers prefer to hire applicants who are already certified or licensed. In states that do not require licensing, employers may require assistants to have an associate degree in occupational therapy assisting.

Employers look for applicants who have good communication and analytical skills. Employers also look for creativity and imagination. Assistants must be able to develop new ways to adapt activities to meet patients' needs.

Some employers prefer applicants with some paid or volunteer experience in the health care field.


Take courses in human anatomy, physiology, and math. Experience working with disabled children or adults is helpful. Volunteer work is available in hospitals, nursing homes, private clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Observe or talk with therapists' assistants in various job settings to decide if this is the type of work you want to do.

Costs to workers

Occupational therapist assistants need comfortable walking shoes and uniforms. Costs vary depending on personal preference. Some workers join professional associations, which usually have membership fees and annual dues. Other expenses may include reference books and additional college classes, workshops, or continuing education to keep up with licensure requirements and changes in the field.

#Added CTW to this section 3/9/11, cj.


Occupational therapist assistants must be certified through the American Occupational Therapy Association. Occupational therapist assistants must also be licensed in Washington. Licensing requirements include:

The initial application and licensing fee is $166 and renewal every two years is $137.

#Added CTW content & updated fees 3/9/11, cj. Updated fees 2/17/12 lh. Updated fees 3/27/14 lh. Updated renewal fee 3/11/15 cj. Updated fees 1/12/16 cj. fine 2/8/18, 4/8/19 cj

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Occupational Therapy Practice Board (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865

# Updated url 3/18/09, cj. No changes 4/6/10 lh or 3/9/11, cj. Update PO Box #; no other #changes 4/11/13 cj. Contact info ok 3/11/15 cj. Licensing info unchanged 12/12/16, 4/8/19 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Occupational therapy assistants (SOC 31-2011)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $24.72 $26.87 $30.14 $34.72 $38.15
Monthly $4,284 $4,657 $5,223 $6,017 $6,611
Yearly $51,420 $55,890 $62,690 $72,210 $79,350
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $26.05 $30.20 $34.05 $37.39 $39.41
Monthly $4,514 $5,234 $5,901 $6,480 $6,830
Yearly $54,190 $62,819 $70,813 $77,787 $81,971
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $26.11 $28.26 $31.70 $36.39 $39.56
Monthly $4,525 $4,897 $5,494 $6,306 $6,856
Yearly $54,323 $58,775 $65,934 $75,684 $82,293
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $22.09 $24.06 $27.44 $31.32 $33.98
Monthly $3,828 $4,170 $4,755 $5,428 $5,889
Yearly $45,935 $50,049 $57,072 $65,164 $70,679
    Vancouver Hourly $26.60 $28.25 $31.00 $35.52 $39.19
Monthly $4,610 $4,896 $5,372 $6,156 $6,792
Yearly $55,330 $58,767 $64,484 $73,898 $81,506
United States Hourly $19.05 $24.28 $28.95 $34.53 $38.93
Monthly $3,301 $4,208 $5,017 $5,984 $6,747
Yearly $39,620 $50,510 $60,220 $71,820 $80,980

Wages vary by employer and area of the country. The worker's level of education, experience, and responsibility also affect wages.

Occupational therapist assistants who work full time usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance.

Employment and outlook

State Outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Occupational Therapist Assistants (SOC 31-2011)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 606 23.3% 16.1% 110
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 16 18.8% 13.4% 2
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 17 35.3% 8.6% 3
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 32 9.4% 15.2% 4
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 13 7.7% 14.1% 2
    King County 133 4.5% 19.6% 18
    Pierce County 68 27.9% 15.2% 13
    Snohomish County 227 32.6% 12.4% 46
    Spokane County 50 8.0% 13.9% 7
United States 43,800 33.1% 5.2% 7,000

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will grow significantly. This is due to the growth of the aging population. Doctors can also save more seriously injured people, and these patients usually need extensive therapy. New federal health care laws will mean that more people have access to health care service such as occupational therapy.

Job prospects will be best in occupation therapy offices and other health care settings.

Other resources

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (external link)
One Bank Street, Suite 300
Gaithersburg, MD 20878
The Washington Occupational Therapy Association (external link)
1402 Auburn Way N, Suite 236
Auburn, WA 98002


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster