Torn between COTA and OTR

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OTgirl in Amarillo, Texas

29 months ago

I am 21 years old. I have my associates in Early Childhood-6th grade teaching. I love to be around children. I know that I want to work with kids as either a COTA or an OTR. But I might eventually want to do another area of the field the more I learn about it and get more experience and knowledge.

I am so torn because I am not sure which route to go. I have applied to the COTA program and I had orginally wanted to go for COTA and then do traveling COTA for awhile then go back for my masters. But the more I have looked into it I realized that going back for Masters I'd have to get my B.A. in health science if I went through the COTA-MOT route.

If I just go ahead for the masters program, I can choose between Child development, Family Studies, Health Studies, Psychology, and Kinesiology to get my B.A. in before going to the masters program. All of those B.A.'s have an emphasis on OT at the school I am wanting to go to. I know that the Masters program is very competitive but I will do all that I possibly can do get into it.

As of right now I am torn between doing the COTA program and the MOT program because I would love to say that I have a masters in OT, But I have heard that a lot of OTR aren't with the clients from day one until the end. I want to be involved with all my patients and watch them grow as the time passes. So I'm not sure if I should just do the COTA program because in the end its not about the money, its just about how happy I am at the job.

Thank you!

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OTgirl in Amarillo, Texas

29 months ago

I know there has been a lot of discussions on this topic but I would love some insight from OTR/COTAs on my particular situation. It would really mean a lot. I am just so torn between the two.

Thank you!

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a frustrated anon OT in Woodbridge, Virginia

29 months ago

so much will depend on your setting! Yes some settings OT's do more evals instead of active treating. But other settings OT's eval and treat. Though as an OT, since you would do evals, sometimes patients will go to the assistants as you will evaluate. Good luck on your decision! Honestly in my current work situation, both us OTs and COTAs/PTAs are unhappy with aspects of the job. We all care deeply about the patients but are unhappy with other aspects involving unreasonable productivity requirements,etc

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A New Yorker in Lexington, Kentucky

29 months ago

You are young, only 21 years old. i'd say go for OT. You will have a Master's degree and a better future over all. there is NOTHING about the COTA position that's more rewarding than an OT position. They are in fact pretty much the same in terms of personal satisfaction. They are both equally satisfying, but with OT you just guarantee yourself a better future financially. Although you say is not about the money, you are only 21 so right now an COTA salary may get you by but later on you will thank yourself for having done OT rather than COTA. don't limit yourself, as you are young and this is the time to focus on your education as life will only become more complex and you will have more responsibilities later on. I am an OT and i am very grateful that i put myself through OT school when i was around your age. It is totally worth every bit of the sacrifice, so do not get scared away by the years of schooling, not many people can say they have a Master's degree, but you will.

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OTgirl in Amarillo, Texas

29 months ago

To A New Yorker, thank you for the positive words! As an OT do you see most of your patients through out the time they are in occupational therapy?

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OT dude in Brooklyn, New York

29 months ago

Sweetheart, you are only 21, I would say definitely OT as many people have a hard time going back after finishing COTA. A masters degree in OT will make you much more independent and you can go anywhere and work on your own as well as negotiate a better salary. So do it while you still have the time and OTR in comparison to COTA will give you many many more options as compared to COTA in the long run and you will obviously make more money as well.

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OTBridge Student in Massachusetts, Massachusetts

27 months ago

Long answer. I hope this is useful:

I'm a COTA currently in the middle of a combined BS/MS COTA-OTR program. I work 32 hours a week and take about 9-12 credits at a time. It is HARD keeping a balance and I don't even have kids like many of my classmates. That said, I don't really regret doing it this way-

I chose to go to COTA school because starting OTR school from scratch was way too overwhelming. I wanted to work as a COTA first to see if I liked being in the field in the first place. There's nothing worse than spending all that time (and money, oh God, the money) getting a Masters in something only to find out you don't like it once you're in the real world.

As far as bang for your buck goes it's a really good associates degree to have. I remember putting my resume on Monster and hearing from recruiters within hours, and this was a month before I even graduated.

Being a COTA has its ups and downs. I have to disagree with A New Yorker. There are separate advantages and disadvantages to being a COTA and OTR. Talk to people. Do your homework, and see how it all stacks up with what matters to you. My two cents on the eternal COTA vs OTR debate:

COTA
Pros:
-Often not bogged down with student loans & can live comfortably if you work in the right setting.
-Can get a lot of leeway to be creative with treatments
-More time with patients
-Less responsibility/ stress. You can always consult with your OTR if you need to. At least that's how it should be.
-You can get a job where your employer will pay for some if not all of your OTR degree
-If you do go back you school, you bring years of practical experience to the table. I feel like I'm getting way more out of my education now than if I had done it all in one go.

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OTBridge Student in Massachusetts, Massachusetts

27 months ago

Cons:
-Arguably more physically draining than and OTR. It's a great job to have in your 20s but it's really easy to wreck your body if you do it for too long.
-You're often limited to working in a nursing home if you want to make good money
-I have coworkers that have decades of experience that sometimes feel frustrated not having the same decision making power as a new grad OTR.
-People may think you are just a less educated, unpolished version of an OTR. This is NOT true. It just means you don't do evals or discharges. Most people I have worked with have not treated me as if I had “limited myself” by becoming a COTA. I don't put up with people who do.
-Working and going to school at the same time leaves little energy for much else if you do decide to go back.

OTR
Pros
-Prestige/ decision making power.
-More money in general, but so much of what people make is really dependent on where they live and what their area of practice is. A traveling COTA in a nursing home can easily make money than an OTR working in inpatient mental health.
-More freedom & flexibility to work in many different areas of practice.

Cons:
-More stupid paperwork
-I have coworkers that are 90/100+ k in debt. When you subtract what they'll be paying in student loans every month from their salary, their net income may be LESS than a COTA's until everything's paid off
-More responsibility= more stress.

One can argue that you'll put yourself in a more stable position as a OTR but the truth is that nobody has any idea of what healthcare is going to look like in this country 10 years from now. There might be more of a demand for COTAs because they save on costs or they can start limiting COTAs on what they can get reimbursed for as compared with OTRs. Nobody knows. All the more reason to get involved with AOTA and advocate for the profession!

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OTBridge Student in Massachusetts, Massachusetts

27 months ago

And finally, I live within a reasonable driving distance of a good COTA- OTR bridge program, but there aren't a whole lot out there. Do some research on that as well and see if you can fit their class schedules in with your life if that is the route you think you want to go.

Done. Whew!

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Kimmy new OTR in Lakeville, Minnesota

26 months ago

I agree with the OT program, i was also planned to go to COTA from the start but being on a good track at a young age I was convinced to finish my bachelors and go for the masters since they were both 2 year programs and I would get a lot more from it. I have never regretted the decision. Being a COTA is just as rewarding no doubt, but don't think you lose out on that if you take the OT route. I loved it!

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Thats right in Saint Petersburg, Florida

26 months ago

I have a question...I'm trying to complete a career change and thinking about becoming a COTA-I do not want to be a nurse but I want to get into the healthcare field..do you see this becoming oversaturated?

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oceanwing in Wilmington, North Carolina

25 months ago

What kind of money can you expect to get once you become a cota? I have seen range from 13$ to 27$.

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Jim in Warren, Ohio

25 months ago

oceanwing in Wilmington, North Carolina said: What kind of money can you expect to get once you become a cota? I have seen range from 13$ to 27$.

I work in the Cleveland Ohio area and make $26 an hr straight out of school as a COTA. I just wonder if it would be worth it to pursue the masters in OTR.

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jharrin126 in Rhode Island

24 months ago

Hey all,
I am currently 22 years old and having a hard time deciding between COTA or OT. I am currently taking a Intro To Occupational Therapy at a comm. college. The instructor who is an OT, said people that have graduated from the OTA program have gotten jobs paying around 47,000 a year. That's with an associates degree. Not bad, right?.
But will having a OTA degree limit where I could work? Is completing a bachelors and a masters worth it? I have a brother drowning 122,000 in students loans. I do NOT want to be in that position..I don't know it scares me.

I was thinking maybe I could complete a bachelors in Healthcare Administration and then apply for OT school. If for some reason I didn't get accepted, atleast I'd still have a degree I could somewhat use?

Suggestions, anyone?

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dadlynn in Naples, Florida

19 months ago

Any COTA doing the track to OTR school right now. Is it worth it? Thank you

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COTA-mot in Houston, Texas

15 months ago

yes it's worth it, took three years out of my life but am graduating in December

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Azura Skye in Scottsville, Virginia

14 months ago

Jeez Louise where are you people going to school?? I'm always hearing people talk on these forums about being $100,000 in debt! I got a BS in Psych from a University in VA and I'm only $25,000 in debt. And the grad school I'm looking at for OT will only cost about $6000 a year. I can work with a $37,000 debt with the average OT salary in VA.

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OT123 in Los Angeles, California

14 months ago

Azura Skye in Scottsville, Virginia said: Jeez Louise where are you people going to school?? I'm always hearing people talk on these forums about being $100,000 in debt! I got a BS in Psych from a University in VA and I'm only $25,000 in debt. And the grad school I'm looking at for OT will only cost about $6000 a year. I can work with a $37,000 debt with the average OT salary in VA.

$25,000 for a bachelor's is still a good chunk of debt (but you've got to do what you've got to do, right?)

If you are admitted to a school that only costs about $6000 in tuition a year, then you are luckier than many. There are some private schools that charge 12,000 to 20,000 for EACH semester. Multiply that over a 2-3 year program. And then add living expenses and other fees for those two years. You can easily hit 100,000.

One of the schools in LA charges approx $3,500 each semester. If you don't have any savings and accept the max amount of federal loans each year (~27,000) to pay for school and living, you will graduate with over 60,000 in loans. (Program is a little over 2.5 years long.) So even with a school with relatively low tuition, you can accrue a lot.

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Dennie 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia

14 months ago

Azura Skye in Scottsville, Virginia said: Jeez Louise where are you people going to school?? I'm always hearing people talk on these forums about being $100,000 in debt! I got a BS in Psych from a University in VA and I'm only $25,000 in debt. And the grad school I'm looking at for OT will only cost about $6000 a year. I can work with a $37,000 debt with the average OT salary in VA.

Where the heck is this school?

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Anastasya in Washington, District of Columbia

10 months ago

For me, going to OT school was NOT a good decision. I'm not saying the same would be true for the original poster in this thread, just speaking from my own experience.

If I could do it all over again, I would be an assistant for sure. I hate that most of my day is spent doing tedious paperwork instead of treating, I hate having the responsibility and stress that comes with being a "supervisor"; it's so draining. And of course I have a massive student loan debt, which was a huge mistake.

In one of the SNFs where I work PRN, I found out the COTA I supervised only made $10 per hour less than me! I felt ridiculous. And when I calculated the net (take-home) pay after taxes, I felt even worse. As an OT with a higher salary, the amount of taxes they take out is way more than a COTA. So, more work, more stress, and more responsibility for not that much more $$$.

Also, i don't know what's going on in any other state or metro area, but where I am right now there are loads of jobs advertised for COTAs and very few for OTRs. I don't know if that's a reactionary cost-cutting thing that places are doing because they're afraid of what Obamacare might bring them, or what, but it's really frustrating!

I'm actually seriously considering asking the state board if it's legal for an OTR to work as a COTA. I'm willing to take a slight pay cut in return for more job opportunities and less stress.

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Anastasya in Washington, District of Columbia

10 months ago

Davey in Austin, Texas said: I wouldn't complain, at least as an OTR you can find work. As for COTA, there are way too many of us now, so jobs are impossible to find.

Maybe in your area this is true. Where I am, it's the opposite- loads of jobs for COTAs (probably due to companies trying to save $ because they're afraid that the ACA will cut into their profits). Hardly any jobs for OTR's here. Mostly just fake "job listings" from recruiters looking for leads for remote areas. So- in addition to loads of debt and loads of stress, add "hard to find work" to that list of why I regret becoming an OTR.

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Katie in Athens, Georgia

10 months ago

Hello,

I am currently a student at UGA and I'm going to graduate in MAY of this year with a degree in Psychology and a minor of Human Development and Family Sciences. Im very torn between doing OT or OTA. Please help!

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Katie in Athens, Georgia

10 months ago

I am aware of the differences of the two jobs, but ultimately I want to do whatever makes me the most happy and is the best financial decision. Im scared to do OT because of how competitive it is to get into OT school. I have a good GPA now and would still need to take about 5 perquisite courses for OT school. Do you think it is worth going in debt $90,000 to do OT? On the other hand OTA would only be able 20,000 grand with no living expenses. I also believe I would have little trouble getting into an OTA program if I took the appropriate classes. I also have concern with OT/OTA because I think I would be better personally working with the patients. I do not want to do a lot of paper work. I think my personality may be better suited for OTA but I hate the idea of not utilizing my Psychology degree and moving backwards. Thoughts?

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wrota in Boston, Massachusetts

10 months ago

I was working as a regional manager in a different industry. I was not very happy with my job as it was extremely demanding and the 80+ hours a week was not allowing me to live happily. I was laid off before having a heart attack, unlike the other unfortunate ones in the same job, and I sat down at a celebratory dinner with my wife to decide what to do next. After quite a bit of research into many different jobs, we decided that I should go to OTA school. I had not previously gone to college, so I had to start from the beginning. I spent two semesters doing pre-requisites. I am now enrolled in an OTA program and THRILLED!!! I felt that OT was the best fit for my personality, combining many different things I like to do. My plan is to finish my two year OTA program, work for a year or two and then continue on for my masters in OT. The reason I chose to do it this way is because we had to make many sacrifices, including selling our house, trading "Down" our cars, putting a halt to vacations, savings, dinners out, etc. I don't want to put my life on hold for 5 years. This way I can do it for two years, resume many things I was doing before, then finish school while working. If I was an 18 year old deciding to do this fresh out of high school, I would just jump in and do the 5 year masters program. Having said that, doing it this way, I will have less debt to repay, and it will take me about the same amount of time to complete.

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wrota in Boston, Massachusetts

10 months ago

Interesting fact...in the Boston area (not sure about other markets) COTAs make very close to what OTRs make. It depends on how much you negotiate and what environment you work in. I have some inside knowledge on some salaries locally. There are may COTAs making between $33 and $38 per hour, and OTRs making between $36 and $42 in the same building. Agency jobs are higher with COTAs up to $50 per hour (at two local agencies) and OTRs making up to $85 per hour. So unless you are doing agency, the pay is very close. Based on what I have seen in publications recently, the average annual salary for COTAs in Boston is $90,000 and OTRs are at $100,000 per year. Maybe other areas are different than that, but it's hard to justify the cost of a masters program with those numbers.

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undecided too in Oakland, California

10 months ago

I too am considering COTA programs now. I was accepted into a private school here in CA but being in my late 30's and a single mom of a school-aged child, I am concerned about the amount of debt that I will accrue coming out of school. I calculated that coming out of the grad program, I will have accrued about 110-120k in debt. The COTA school tuition I am considering is $2000 TOTAL and is mostly online, meeting for labs once or twice a week. With this, I would have the flexibility to be more available for my son and possibly have a part-time job to pay for living expenses, etc.

I am looking for advice from OTRs or COTAs out there. I am motivated and a go-getter, but I also want more life balance and a lower-stress job, be able to take vacations, and have some discretionary money after school.

thanks!

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Burnout in New York, New York

9 months ago

I'm 34 and work in digital advertising in NYC. I am miserable, burnt out, and the prospect of being a corporate cog doing such meaningless work for the rest of my life just sickens me.

I had mediocre undergrad grades and no science background so knowing that MOT programs are quite competitive, expensive, and a larger time investment (in addition to the prereqs I will need to take) -- I'm also considering starting with an OTA program so that I could get started as soon as possible. Then I hope to work towards an MOT while working as an OTA, even though I do realize that it's a longer investment in time and money in the long run.

For those in the NY/NJ area, would you care to share your experiences with any area schools for OTA or MOT?

For OTA, I'm looking at Touro, Mercy, LaGuardia CC. I'm also open to NJ, but having trouble finding any OTA programs there.

An OT friend did recommend that I go straight for the MOT, and look for MOT programs that will do conditional acceptance while you complete your prereqs, though I haven't really seen many schools that offer that.

Also, how is the job market for COTA vs OTR in the NY metro area? Any advice and guidance on your experiences in the NYC area would also be much appreciated!

Thank you!

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Burnout in New York, New York

9 months ago

I'd like to add that I currently make $100k, work long hours and sometimes on weekends. Everyone I work with is stressed, working long hours, sending emails at all hours of the day, night and weekends. Alert emails constantly pinging. Dozens of reports to sift through daily, angry clients to deal with. I had jaw pain from grinding my teeth in my sleep, had neck/back/shoulder pain from being hunched over my computer and in a tense state all day, gaining weight and getting high blood pressure from the stress. I never have time to see friends or family anymore. All for what, advertising dollars for corporations trying to sell more stuff? None of this is worth it!

While COTAs and possibly OTRs may get paid less, it seems that most work fixed hours and don't take work home with them. I expect to make significantly less, but hope to have a better quality of life and have time for raising a family. I realize that the OT profession has its own stresses, but those I've spoken to do find the work rewarding and worthwhile.

I'm also finding a wide range of salary data for this profession, but I'm wondering what the actual pay range is in the NYC metro area? What is the demand for COTAs vs OTRs in the area?

Thank you in advance!

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wrota in Boston, Massachusetts

9 months ago

I know exactly how you feel. I was in the same boat and am now finishing up my 1st semester of OTA school. I intend on continuing on to get my masters, but realized that I can do it in the same amount of time, but with a smaller investment, and get working in the field sooner. I had to make some major sacrifices to do this, including sell my house and rent one for a few years. My old job was killing me and I felt like my being dead from a heart attack at 45 was more of a sacrifice. To actually live long enough to see my children grow up is worth so much more! "I'm sorry, Honey, mommy will have to tuck you in again tonight. Daddy has to finish dealing with these demanding client emails." I NEVER want to utter those words again!
I know first-hand that most COTAs working in sub-acute rehab settings make around $33-38 per hour here and OTRs are around $42-46 per hour. I would think metro NYC would pay a little better than metro Boston. $70 or 80k for a 40 hour position, after only 2 years of school, doesn’t sound bad to me. Plus it doesn’t take much overtime to be at $100k. With the number of hours I had to work at my old job, I only averaged about $25 per hour because I was salary. If I put in the same amount of hours in as a COTA that I did as a regional manager, I would make between $145 & 165k. I have no intention of doing that, but it puts it into perspective.
Whatever you do, life is way too short to be miserable, and if you continue to keep an unhealthy career, life will be short. You are making the right decision to make a change! Good luck!

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Burnout in New York, New York

9 months ago

Thank you, wrota!! I'm glad to hear that you are now on a path to a more fulfilling career and time to spend with your family! It seems that most advise going straight for the MOT and I was starting to doubt the OTA option and if it was worthwhile. Really appreciate your insight, THANK YOU, and good luck to you as well!

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catslady2 in Allentown, Pennsylvania

8 months ago

Anastasya in Washington, District of Columbia said: For me, going to OT school was NOT a good decision. I'm not saying the same would be true for the original poster in this thread, just speaking from my own experience.

If I could do it all over again, I would be an assistant for sure. I hate that most of my day is spent doing tedious paperwork instead of treating, I hate having the responsibility and stress that comes with being a "supervisor"; it's so draining. And of course I have a massive student loan debt, which was a huge mistake.

In one of the SNFs where I work PRN, I found out the COTA I supervised only made $10 per hour less than me! I felt ridiculous. And when I calculated the net (take-home) pay after taxes, I felt even worse. As an OT with a higher salary, the amount of taxes they take out is way more than a COTA. So, more work, more stress, and more responsibility for not that much more $$$.

Also, i don't know what's going on in any other state or metro area, but where I am right now there are loads of jobs advertised for COTAs and very few for OTRs. I don't know if that's a reactionary cost-cutting thing that places are doing because they're afraid of what Obamacare might bring them, or what, but it's really frustrating!

I'm actually seriously considering asking the state board if it's legal for an OTR to work as a COTA. I'm willing to take a slight pay cut in return for more job opportunities and less stress.


I AGREE, I AM A OTR DOING ALOT OF EVAL , PROGRESS NOTES , AND RECERT, LESS JOBS MORE STRESS, LESS HRS, ITS SAD OTRS ARE BEING ABUSE COTAS ARE GETTING JUST A LITTLE LESS MONEY WITH MORE JOBS OUTLOOK, ITS CRAZY AND VERY SAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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bmeyers in Englewood, Colorado

7 months ago

brunout, i was literally in the SAME exact sitaution, been in sales for 10 plus years and just another number! Im currently a 3rd semesters student in the OTA prgraom in NJ at Eastwick and hopefully will get final accredidation this month! Rutgers fyi just got their program accredited. I would def reccomend Masters if possible. I havent gone that route mostly becuase my GPA is only 2.8 and i highly doubt ill get in anywhere for a masters program. Also al lthe NJ schools are DAY programs so that was a no go. Ny has some evening programs like mercy college but you have ot take like 9 specfic pre reqs and thats before you get in lol. Either way good luck to you. i figured id just share my experience so far.

and Wrota in Boston thanks for the salary info thats what i was hoping to hear. I would have no problem working some extra hours without all the paperwork and headaches!

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Burnout in New York, New York

7 months ago

Thanks bmeyers, and good luck to you!

I decided that I will not go into the OT field at this juncture in my life and am considering starting my own business instead.

Either way, good luck to everyone in their endeavors.

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snowboundbenny in Anchorage, Alaska

7 months ago

Burnout and bmeyers, I feel about the same. I'm not yet 30, but I am interested in a more satisfying, patient-centered job versus what I'm doing now. I want to return to NJ and was thinking exactly of trying out the field by becoming a COTA. It looks like Rutgers has the monopoly on OTA education in the state, however (and it's just so expensive for a state school). I'm wondering about the cost differential of Rutgers tuition vs. the lower community college rates in downstate New York. Thanks for your experiences!

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