OT vs. OTA: Comparing Careers in Occupational Therapy

Last Updated on March 29, 2024

OT vs OTA: Comparing Careers in Occupational Therapy for OT Month

Occupational therapists (OT) vs. occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) — what’s the difference? Discover career opportunities in occupational therapy! From education requirements to day-to-day expectations for OT vs. OTA jobs, discover the state of occupational therapy today and how to get started in this promising clinical career.

OTs vs. OTAs: How They’re Different, and How They Work Together

For many experienced occupational therapists (OTs), and occupational therapist assistants (OTAs), it’s no secret that CareerStaff is the source for great jobs and valuable career guidance. Healthcare employers across the United States trust us to connect them with the best possible OTs and OTAs for their facilities. As a result, we’ve always got an enticing list of available occupational therapy jobs.

But we also understand that this all may be unfamiliar ground for aspiring OTs and OTAs who haven’t yet decided on their career path. How can people new to the profession know where to begin? How do they choose between an OT vs. OTA emphasis?

OT vs. OTA Responsibilities

To start with, the two careers have a lot in common. Both involve helping people improve their quality of life and get back to normal after injury or illness. And both careers employ people to carry out this work in a huge variety of facilities and settings. Most jobs are in hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab centers and skilled nursing facilities. Schools and correctional facilities also frequently hire both OTs and OTAs.

On a day-to-day basis, both occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants can expect to help patients with their prescribed exercises and activities. They’ll also be asked to test, measure and observe any changes, while monitoring and tracking progress in general. The larger goal is to restore a patient to their ideal level of movement and activity. This helps them get back to work or daily life.

Education: Occupational Therapist vs. Occupational Therapist Assistant

The difference between OT vs. OTA is the level of education and job responsibilities. Occupational therapists are generally required to hold a graduate degree like a Master of Science or a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. They also have more duties and responsibilities. These include directly treating and evaluating patients, as well as directing the work of OTAs on their team.

Occupational therapy assistants, on the other hand, are usually required to have an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy. They also work under the supervision of OTs, and help to build care plans based on that guidance. Because the basic care they provide is the same, but the level of responsibility is not, OTA jobs are often the starting point for a later career as an OT. But not always! Many people find a career as an OTA rewarding in and of itself.

Related: 3 Tips for Developing Your OT Career

Both OTs and OTAs need to be certified. Occupational therapist jobs require workers to have passed the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) exam. Meanwhile, OTAs need to pass the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) exam. Both exams are overseen by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

Occupational Therapy Career Outlook

Whichever approach you take to a career in occupational therapy, you can count on a bright future! The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment for OTs to grow by 14% between 2021 and 2031, “much faster than the average for all occupations.” The BLS also predicts more than 10,000 job openings, and pins the average OT salary at $85,570 per year — although that will vary depending on location, facility type, experience level and other factors.

Get Started: OT and OTA Jobs Nationwide

At CareerStaff, we’re committed to making sure that the OTs and OTAs in our nationwide network have the best possible connections and jobs to choose from, and the support they need to build the career of their dreams.

If you’re looking for a new OT job, or just interested in exploring future career options, search local, travel, and PRN OT jobs nationwide, or fill out our quick online application below to get started now.

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