Occupational therapy is a popular choice for degree seekers who are looking to launch a successful career in healthcare. Certified occupational therapy assistants, also known as COTAs, play an important role in the field of occupational therapy.
COTAs work under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist to help patients develop or recover the basic skills needed for daily living and working. (I might add something about education given the pediatric picture above).
Typical responsibilities of an occupational therapy assistant include:
- Teaching patients how to use different types of assistive equipment.
- Working with individuals who have learning disabilities to help them build independent living skills.
- Documenting patients’ progress and relaying this information to the attending occupational therapist.
- Helping patients with various exercises, such as stretches. so they can regain function with activities of daily living.
- Coaching patients through their assigned therapeutic tasks.
How to Become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
To get started, you will need to earn an associate degree in occupational therapy assisting. This typically takes around two years of full-time study to complete. You will also have to pass a national certification exam. Some states may have additional requirements that you will need to fulfill before you will be able to work as a COTA.
Requirements for Occupational Therapy Assistants
- Go to School.
As mentioned above, the first step in becoming a COTA is earning your associate degree. When selecting a degree program, it’s important to check and make sure that it’s accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). ACOTE-accredited programs are recognized for the high quality and comprehensive nature of their curriculum. Without an accredited degree, you won’t be eligible to take the national certification exam to become a COTA.
- Do a Clinical Internship.
During the course of your studies, you will also complete a significant amount of fieldwork—at least three months’ worth is required to practice in the state of Michigan. These clinical experiences are designed to develop your skills through hands-on training. Working with real patients in real-world settings is a great way to put your classroom lessons into practice and will allow you to add valuable on-the-job experience to your resume before you’ve even graduated!
- Pass the National Certification Exam.
Once you’ve earned your degree and completed your in-field clinical training, you will also be required to take and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. After you pass the NBCOT exam, all that’s left to do is apply for state licensure.
COTA Requirements in Michigan
Provided that you’ve passed the NBCOT exam, you won’t have too many more hoops to jump through before you can work as an occupational therapy assistant in Michigan. You have to apply for a license and part of that is a Jurisprudence exam, which is part of the application process.
In addition to providing proof of your academic qualifications, clinical experience, and a passing score on the NBCOT exam, you will need to present the state licensing board with two professional references and pass a criminal background check. Satisfy those requirements, and you’ll be all set to start applying for jobs!
Finding an Occupational Therapy Assistant Program
If occupational therapy assisting sounds like a career you’d love, then you’re in luck. Baker College is home to two of the five ACOTE-accredited occupational therapy assistant programs that are available in the state of Michigan, with convenient locations in Muskegon and Owosso.
Like all Baker College programs, our occupational therapy assistant degree path is an affordable way to prepare for the career you want. Our tuition is one of the lowest in Michigan, and we also offer a variety of financial aid opportunities, including a $6,000 Board of Regents scholarship for students who qualify for our direct admission program.
Admin (September 1, 2020). Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: United States Department of Labor. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm
Admin (2020). How to Become an Occupational Therapist in Michigan. OccupationalTherapy License.org. https://www.occupationaltherapylicense.org/michigan-occupational-therapist.html