Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Description

Occupational therapy assistants provide therapeutic treatments to help patients become more independent, overcome illness or injury, and function more effectively on a day-to-day basis. Medical facilities of all types hire occupational therapy assistants to work full-time shifts, with evening and weekend hours required by some employers. Occupational therapy assistants are supervised by occupational therapists and work in a collaborative team environment. Travel is not required for this job, as occupational therapy assistants perform their duties within the facility itself.


Occupational Therapy Assistant Duties and Responsibilities

Occupational therapy assistants perform different job duties based on the hiring facility, their patient caseload, and the therapies designed by the occupational therapists in charge of each case. However, there are some core tasks common to all treatment environments:

Implement Therapy Plan

Occupational therapy assistants implement individual therapy plans as designed by the occupational therapist. This involves using multiple therapies when treating patients, including activities to build cognitive skills and coordination.

Maintain Client Records

Occupational therapy assistants add notes to patient charts to document occupational therapy sessions.

Collaborate with Rehabilitation Team

Occupational therapy assistants collaborate with the rest of the rehabilitation team to design programs and activities for patients. This includes attending regular care meetings to meet with other staff members and share notes on patient progress.

Clean Equipment

Occupational therapy assistants keep equipment and therapy areas clean and organized.

Talk to Family Members

Occupational therapy assistants speak with patient family members to tell them how they can help their loved ones continue therapy outside of clinical environments.


Occupational Therapy Assistant Skills and Qualifications

Occupational therapy assistants are caring professionals with strong interpersonal and leadership skills. They guide patients through therapeutic treatments to help them overcome physical, emotional, and mental issues that keep them from functioning at their best. Facilities hire occupational therapy assistants who display the following abilities:

  • Time management – because therapy sessions are timed, occupational therapy assistants need strong time management skills to accomplish multiple goals in every session and keep patient sessions on schedule
  • Leadership – occupational therapy assistants use leadership skills to guide patients through their sessions, delivering instructions and encouragement as needed to help patients complete their designed therapy plans
  • Interpersonal skills – occupational therapy assistants need excellent interpersonal skills to work with patients and guide them through therapeutic treatments
  • Problem-solving skills – good problem-solving skills are essential for occupational therapy assistants, who find ways to overcome challenges during therapy to help patients achieve their goals
  • Communication skills – occupational therapy assistants use verbal communication skills to speak with patients and staff members, and written communication skills to add detailed notes to patient charts
  • Physical fitness – occupational therapy assistants lift, support, and move patients, which requires physical strength


Occupational Therapy Assistant Education and Training

Employers require occupational therapy assistants to have a high school diploma or equivalent to pursue this career path. Additionally, occupational therapy assistants must complete a two-year occupational therapy assistant program. Some employers may require specific occupational therapy certification, programs for which vary on a state-by-state basis.

Some on-the-job training is provided to occupational therapy assistants to help them become familiar with the specific tools and techniques used by the hiring facility. While in training, occupational therapy assistants are closely monitored by an occupational therapist. The length of this training period varies by employer and may last for several weeks before the occupational therapy assistant begins performing their normal work duties.


Occupational Therapy Assistant Salary and Outlook

Job data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that occupational therapy assistants and aides earn a median annual salary of $56,690, or $27.25 hourly. The BLS estimates employment in this field will rise 28 percent by 2026. This rate is much faster than the national job growth average.

Occupational therapy assistants receive complete benefits packages that include medical, dental, and vision insurance coverage. Life insurance and retirement benefits are typically included. Paid vacation days, holidays, and sick days are also usually part of standard packages. Some facilities may provide occupational therapy assistants with additional perks that include free parking, free cafeteria meals, wellness program enrollment, and continuing education reimbursement.


Helpful Resources

Use these books and websites to find jobs for occupational therapy assistants, learn career techniques, and discover work strategies:

The American Occupational Therapy Association – the AOTA website is full of education and career resources for occupational therapists and assistants. The site also offers news updates, conference and event dates, and other professional resources

Physical Dysfunction Practice Skills for the Occupational Therapy Assistant – this book takes a client-centered approach to physical therapy, providing case studies, key terms, and useful content for all occupational therapy assistants

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy – find certification programs, education resources, and valuable training information for occupational therapists at the NBCOT website

Ryan’s Occupational Therapy Assistant: Principles, Practice Issues, and Techniques – learn techniques, guidelines, tips, and career strategies for occupational therapy assistants with this book

The American Occupational Therapy Foundation – check the AOTF website for scholarships and other education resources, industry programs, and news updates

Mental Health Concepts and Techniques for the Occupational Therapy Assistant – this book is filled with evidence-based techniques for occupational therapy assistants who work with mentally ill clients


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