Types of Occupational Therapists
What You Need to Know About the Types of Occupational Therapists
There are three types of occupational therapists, each requiring vastly different levels of education and responsibility. If you are considering moving into a career in the field of occupational therapy, then it will help to know as much about the difference between these two career paths. After reading this article you will be able to identify the educational requirements and job responsibilities of:
- An occupational therapist assistant (OTA),
- a registered occupational therapist (OTR) and
- an occupational therapy aide
Becoming an occupational therapist assistant
This is considered the entry level position in the world of occupational therapy and requires collegiate level education and training. As an assistant, you work under the guide of your registered occupational therapist to help rehabilitate individuals with mental, cognitive, or physical impairments.
Your will work from a treatment plan to help improve the life of your patients by restoring their freedom to perform tasks that are required for everyday living, including fine motor skills and the ability to perform more complex ambulatory activities (such as moving from a bed to a wheelchair, or properly walking with the assistance of a walker).
You will monitor the progress of the client for the occupational therapist to review, and help identify the level of success being achieved. You will also be responsible for some light book keeping, as it is your responsibility to track the billing of the health insurance provider.
You must attend one of the 135 occupational therapy schools accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education if you are to become an occupational therapist assistant. These programs usually take two years and provide gain associates degree. You must continue your education with sixteen weeks of fieldwork, supervised by a senior OT employee.
Most states require you receive a license, but their requirements vary greatly. Certification is also an option. It is not required to become a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) but it is strongly recommended
Becoming a registered occupational therapist
As a registered occupational therapist, you will be responsible for developing the program that helps your patients regain their ability to care for themselves. You help each person under your care live life to the fullest by freeing them from their dependence on others. You are responsible for identifying areas for improvement in the home, workplace, and in schools.
As a registered occupational therapist you may be responsible for helping a patient regain skills which they have lost due to an accident or degenerative cognitive condition. You may also be responsible for helping your patients slow the loss of skills caused by a disability. You will design the program and supervise an occupational therapist assistant who will provide most of the actual therapy.
Typically, you must obtain your master’s degree or higher in occupational therapy. You will also need to complete a program certified by ACOTE in order to take your exam for certification. There are currently 150 accredited master’s degree level programs and 4 doctoral degree programs.
Licensure is required in all states and you must complete an accredited program to take the national certification examination. Once you have completed the exam, you are officially be known as an “Occupational Therapist Registered” or OTR. There are different requirements for each state.
Certification is voluntary but strongly recommended. Continuing education is expected to stay active in the field or advance your career. Many OTR’s are responsible for roles as supervisors, which will require administrative or managerial skills, and additional courses which focus on these subjects may help.
What about the Occupational Therapist Aide?
The occupational therapist aide is a third option that is not currently as popular as the Occupational Therapist Assistant or the Occupation Therapist Registered. This field does not require education beyond high school and on the job training. You must contact local facilities to learn more about their requirements for this position, as it is not governed in the same way the OTA or OTR.
Find more information and specifics on requirements here: Educational Requirements for an Occupational Therapy Assistant.