Occupational TherapyOTA Program

How Long Does it Take to Become an OTA?

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As an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), your job is to help people of all ages and abilities develop, recover, or improve the skills they need for daily living and working. It’s a skilled profession that focuses on the physical and cognitive aspects of rehabilitation. So how long does it take to become an OTA?

The time it takes to complete an OTA program not only varies by school, but also by the full-time or part-time status of the student. However, there’s no better place to get started on your OTA career than Harcum College. Our accredited Online OTA program in Sun City, Arizona, can prepare you for the profession in as few as 16 months.

Ready, Set, Go!

Comprising 72 credit hours, our Online OTA program features a sequence of general education courses and a sequence of professional OTA courses. And, we can get you moving on your OTA education as soon as possible, with three program start dates a year—January, May, and August. All you need is a high school diploma (or the GED® equivalent) and a minimum 2.5 GPA to begin the admission process.

woman standing in doorway as man greets her

Occupational therapy helps keep aging adults independent at home for as long as possible.

Core Requirements

Before we can admit you into the Online OTA program, you must satisfy four core requirements, earning a minimum grade of C in each of the following general education courses:

  • Human Anatomy & Physiology I
  • English Composition I
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Introduction to Psychology

You can complete these courses online through Harcum College. If you have previous college experience and have completed one or more of these courses, be sure to ask our admission team about credit transfers.

General Education Courses

Once you’ve satisfied the core requirements, the next step is to complete a series of general education courses. You have the option to complete the below courses before or during the OTA course sequence.

  • Basic Medical Terminology
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology II
  • English Composition II
  • Health Care Law and Ethics
man in wheelchair speaking to woman with clipboard

Occupational therapy helps wheelchair-bound individuals increase their functional mobility.

OTA Curriculum

We organize our OTA curriculum into three successive phases of learning. Phase one focuses on your comprehension of basic concepts, while phase two involves your effective application of those concepts. Finally, phase three centers on clinical judgment and patient interventions. During these phases of full-time learning, you’ll experience a blend of online and on-site instruction as explained below.

Online Courses

Online coursework lays the foundation for your OTA education, focusing on the basic concepts and fundamental frameworks of the profession. With online learning, you can study at your own pace and attend “class” whenever it best fits into your daily schedule. Instructor deadlines still apply.

Skills Labs

Hands-on skills labs at our learning site provide a contextual environment for you to practice various physical and cognitive health-based interventions on fictitious patients. With eight labs in total, you’ll actively participate in role-play scenarios that involve your instructors and/or peers.

Fieldwork Experience

You will complete two levels of fieldwork experience, which represents more than 730 hours of learning in the real world. Fieldwork Level I introduces you to different occupational therapy settings and patient populations, enriching your knowledge through direct observation. Fieldwork Level II further develops your skills by having you work with patients in diverse practice settings.

Essentially, you learn the fundamentals of the profession online, convert that knowledge into psychomotor skills at our learning site, and then tie everything together within the scope of OTA practice via fieldwork.

man with aching shoulder sitting at table with laptop

Occupational therapy helps people with back injuries sit more comfortably at a desk.

OTA Program Completion

Upon completion of the program, you’ll have an associate of science degree that makes you eligible to take the national certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Passing the exam makes you a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA), who can apply for a license to practice.

Successful Outcomes

You’ll find that our national certification exam pass rates for 2017, 2018, and 2019 were all above 90%.

OTA Employment

Occupational therapy is a highly diverse field, with nationwide employment for OTAs growing at a much faster rate than the average for all occupations.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests that the number of OTAs working in the United States will grow 33% between 2018 and 2028. In Arizona, where there’s a growing aging population in need of more health care services, the Bureau projects OTA employment to grow 44% between 2016 and 2026.

As a licensed COTA, you’ll work under the direction of a registered occupational therapist (OTR). While the OTR will perform the patient evaluations and develops the treatment plans, you’ll carry out the direct patient care responsibilities.

Also, by entering the OT field at the assistant level, you’ll get a firsthand look at the advanced occupational therapist role. And should you decide to take your career to the next level, it helps to know there are accredited programs out there for OTAs seeking OT degrees.

OTA Practice Areas

As an occupational therapy assistant, you can seek employment in a variety of settings, from hospitals to rehabilitation centers to schools. You can also choose to focus on a specific area of practice. The table below highlights the six core practice areas of the OT profession.

Practice AreaJob FunctionExample
Children and YouthAssist children and young adults in their development of important life skills.Help a child develop better hand muscle control for tying his/her shoes.
Productive AgingHelp the elderly maintain their independence at home and in the community for as long as possible.Assist a dementia patient and his/her family in adapting to memory loss.
Health and WellnessAssist people of all ages in the prevention and management of chronic diseases.Help a diabetic adult with hand weakness manage his/her daily insulin shots.
Mental HealthHelp individuals overcome mental health challenges that prevent them from engaging in activities.Help a teen with an anxiety disorder build effective socialization skills.
Rehabilitation and DisabilityAssist people who are injured or have disabilities develop independent living skills.Help an amputee adapt to everyday life with a new artificial limb.
Work and IndustryFacilitate workplace success by improving the fit between an individual, his/her job tasks, and the environment.Help an office worker with a back injury implement solutions that let him/her sit comfortably at a desk.

Let’s Get Started

As you can see, it doesn’t take very long to become an OTA. And there’s no better time than now to get started on your education. Contact our admission team today to see how you can become a student in our 16-month Online OTA program.

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