The following are the most frequently asked questions about the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy (OT) focuses on the prevention of disabling conditions and rehabilitation of clients who have physical disabilities, mental illness, developmental delay, or problems resulting from aging. You might find OT personnel working with:

  • A child in the public school
  • A stroke patient in the hospital
  • A schizophrenic client at the veterans' hospital
  • An elderly resident in a nursing home
  • An injured seamstress trying to return to work
  • A mother with developmental disabilities
  • A homemaker with severe arthritis, requiring special equipment in her home

The role of an OT clinician is to help clients improve abilities to perform despite physical and mental impairments and activity restrictions. OT practitioners are trained to select specific activities and use them therapeutically to meet the goals of each individual. Treatment goals could include:

  • Cognitive retraining using a computer
  • Fabricating a splint for a repetitive work injury
  • Adapting a spoon for an individual with arthritis
  • Teaching someone how to dress themselves with the use of one hand
  • Adapting a switch so a child can operate a battery-operated toy
  • Teaching a leisure activity to a client with depression

Who practices Occupational Therapy? Should I be a COTA or an OTR?

There are two levels of Occupational Therapy practitioners: the Registered Occupational Therapist (OTR), and the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). An OTR will have six years of education and a master's degree. People who choose to be OTR's will work with patients but will also develop programs, make administrative decisions, and conduct research. A COTA will have a two-year degree and typically will work directly with patients under the supervision of an OTR.

How long is the program?

It takes two full years, including summer sessions to complete the program.

What is the employment outlook for an OTA?

Cabarrus College has an outstanding reputation in our region, and employment opportunities are excellent, especially for careers with the elderly. Beginning salaries range from $18,000 to $32,000 with yearly pay increases typically provided for good performance and additional experience. Our program includes training in interviewing, board certification preparation, and how to apply for your license and complete a job search.

How do I know if Occupational Therapy is the right field for me?

Visit the American Occupational Therapy Association to learn more. Also, you can observe COTA's and OTR's while they are on the job. Prior to being accepted in the OTA program you will have to complete 25 hours of observing a COTA or OTR while they are working. Completion of these observation hours will help you know if occupational therapy assistant is right for you.

Can I keep working while I am in the COTA program?

If you need to work, it is best if you do so with a flexible schedule on weekends or at night. It is not recommended that you work over 16 hours a week so that you have adequate time to study.

Are there weekend or evening classes?

The majority of the OTA classes are during the day. There may be classes that are scheduled for early evening hours and on Saturdays to meet the general educational requirements.