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Career profile Occupational Therapy Assistant

Also known as Acute Care Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA), Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant/Licensed (COTA/L), Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA), Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant-Licensed (COTA-L), Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant, Occupational Therapist Assistant (OTA), Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA), School Based Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Staff Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant/Licensed (Staff COTA/L)

Occupational Therapy Assistant

Also known as Acute Care Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA), Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant/Licensed (COTA/L)

Interests Profile
  • Social
  • Realistic
  • Investigative
Pay Range
$43,180 - $84,090 (annual)
Required Skills
  • Active Listening
  • Speaking
  • Reading Comprehension
Knowledge Areas
  • Customer and Personal Service
  • Psychology
  • Therapy and Counseling
Core tasks
  • Select therapy activities to fit patients' needs and capabilities.
  • Monitor patients' performance in therapy activities, providing encouragement.
  • Observe and record patients' progress, attitudes, and behavior and maintain this information in client records.
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What does an Occupational Therapy Assistant do?

Occupational Therapy Assistants assist occupational therapists in providing occupational therapy treatments and procedures.

In addition, Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • may, in accordance with state laws, assist in development of treatment plans, carry out routine functions, direct activity programs, and document the progress of treatments,
  • generally requires formal training.

What kind of tasks does an Occupational Therapy Assistant perform regularly?

Occupational Therapy Assistants are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Select therapy activities to fit patients' needs and capabilities.
  • Monitor patients' performance in therapy activities, providing encouragement.
  • Observe and record patients' progress, attitudes, and behavior and maintain this information in client records.
  • Instruct, or assist in instructing, patients and families in home programs, basic living skills, or the care and use of adaptive equipment.
  • Maintain and promote a positive attitude toward clients and their treatment programs.
  • Implement, or assist occupational therapists with implementing, treatment plans designed to help clients function independently.
  • Aid patients in dressing and grooming themselves.
  • Communicate and collaborate with other healthcare professionals involved with the care of a patient.
  • Evaluate the daily living skills or capacities of physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabled clients.
  • Attend continuing education classes.
  • Report to supervisors, verbally or in writing, on patients' progress, attitudes, and behavior.
  • Alter treatment programs to obtain better results if treatment is not having the intended effect.
  • Work under the direction of occupational therapists to plan, implement, or administer educational, vocational, or recreational programs that restore or enhance performance in individuals with functional impairments.
  • Teach patients how to deal constructively with their emotions.
  • Demonstrate therapy techniques, such as manual or creative arts or games.
  • Perform clerical duties, such as scheduling appointments, collecting data, or documenting health insurance billings.
  • Assemble, clean, or maintain equipment or materials for patient use.
  • Order any needed educational or treatment supplies.
  • Attend care plan meetings to review patient progress and update care plans.
  • Transport patients to and from the occupational therapy work area.
  • Design, fabricate, or repair assistive devices or make adaptive changes to equipment or environments.

The above responsibilities are specific to Occupational Therapy Assistants. More generally, Occupational Therapy Assistants are involved in several broader types of activities:

Assisting and Caring for Others
Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Documenting/Recording Information
Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Performing General Physical Activities
Performing physical activities that require considerable use of your arms and legs and moving your whole body, such as climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, stooping, and handling materials.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates
Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.

What is an Occupational Therapy Assistant salary?

The median salary for an Occupational Therapy Assistant is $62,940, and the average salary is $63,420. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Occupational Therapy Assistant salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Occupational Therapy Assistants earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Occupational Therapy Assistants earn less than $43,180 per year, 25% earn less than $53,640, 75% earn less than $74,770, and 90% earn less than $84,090.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Occupational Therapy Assistants is expected to change by 36.0%, and there should be roughly 7,800 open positions for Occupational Therapy Assistants every year.

Median annual salary
Typical salary range
$43,180 - $84,090
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)

What personality traits are common among Occupational Therapy Assistants?


Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as an Occupational Therapy Assistant are usually higher in their Social and Realistic interests.

Occupational Therapy Assistants typically have very strong Social interests. Social occupations frequently involve working with, communicating with, and teaching people. These occupations often involve helping or providing service to others.

Also, Occupational Therapy Assistants typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.


People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as an Occupational Therapy Assistant tend to value Relationships, Achievement, and Working Conditions.

Most importantly, Occupational Therapy Assistants very strongly value Relationships. Occupations that satisfy this work value allow employees to provide service to others and work with co-workers in a friendly non-competitive environment.

Second, Occupational Therapy Assistants strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Lastly, Occupational Therapy Assistants moderately value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Occupational Therapy Assistants must consistently demonstrate qualities such as integrity, adaptability/flexibility, and self-control.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Occupational Therapy Assistants, ranked by importance:

Job requires being honest and ethical.
Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.

What education and training do Occupational Therapy Assistants need?

Occupational Therapy Assistants often have training in vocational schools, related on-the-job experience, or an associate's degree.

Occupational Therapy Assistants usually need one or two years of training involving both on-the-job experience and informal training with experienced workers. A recognized apprenticeship program may be associated with this occupation.

Educational degrees among Occupational Therapy Assistants

  • 2.2% did not complete high school or secondary school
  • 12.3% completed high school or secondary school
  • 16.0% completed some college coursework
  • 48.6% earned a Associate's degree
  • 16.3% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 4.0% earned a Master's degree
  • 0.5% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational Therapy Assistants may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as customer and personal service, psychology, or therapy and counseling knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Occupational Therapy Assistants might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

Customer and Personal Service
Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Therapy and Counseling
Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
Education and Training
Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Medicine and Dentistry
Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.

Important Abilities needed by Occupational Therapy Assistants

Occupational Therapy Assistants must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Occupational Therapy Assistants need abilities such as oral expression, oral comprehension, and problem sensitivity in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Occupational Therapy Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Problem Sensitivity
The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Written Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Occupational Therapy Assistants

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Occupational Therapy Assistants frequently use skills like active listening, speaking, and reading comprehension to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Occupational Therapy Assistants, ranked by their relative importance.

Active Listening
Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Time Management
Managing one's own time and the time of others.
Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.