Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

An Occupational Therapy Assistant, or Occupational Therapist Assistant, supports the Occupational Therapist in conducting therapy treatments to improve patients’ mobility and physical health. Their main duties include helping patients perform exercises or treatment plans, recording a patients’ health progress and collecting patients’ medical history or other personal information.


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Occupational Therapy Assistant duties and responsibilities

Occupational Therapy Assistants are responsible for treating patients with therapeutic and self-care activities. The job requires candidates to perform a variety of duties including the following:

  • Monitoring a patient’s progress to make sure that they’re successfully completing treatment
  • Encouraging the patient during their recovery process 
  • Helping patients to improve their quality of life by finding solutions to their problems
  • Helping injured employees improve their motor skills with the goal of re-entering the workforce
  • Teaching patients with disabilities to become more independent
  • Updating patient records for the Occupational Therapist 
  • Keeping the office, treatment room and equipment in good order 
  • Teaching patients, family members or other Caregivers skills and techniques to help with the patients’ treatment program


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What does an Occupational Therapy Assistant do?

Occupational Therapy Assistants are healthcare professionals who work directly under Occupational Therapists to help patients recover from injuries and enhance their physical health to effectively perform daily activities. When an Occupational Therapist diagnoses a patient and prescribes a treatment plan, the Occupational Therapy Assistant will work one-on-one with the patient to perform various therapeutic activities and exercises that improve their health. The Occupational Therapy Assistant will take note of the patient’s progress and will report it to the Occupational Therapist. 

Many Occupational Therapy Assistants also complete basic clerical duties like scheduling appointments, answering phone calls and emails, collecting patients’ medical history and ordering medical supplies.


Occupational Therapy Assistant skills and qualifications

A good Occupational Therapy Assistant will need certain skills and qualifications. Candidates often learn these skills through life experience or work experience. They include the following:

  • Compassion
  • Attention to detail
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Physical strength
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality  
  • Communication skills


Occupational Therapy Assistant salary expectations

The average salary for an Occupational Therapy Assistant is $29.09 per hour. This salary may vary based on geographic location, specific requirements of the role and the candidate’s education and experience level.


Occupational Therapy Assistant education and training requirements

Required education for an Occupational Therapy Assistant includes an Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) recognized associate degree. This degree usually takes about two years to complete, and the course combines classroom study with clinical fieldwork. Most states require an Occupational Therapy Assistant to have a license. Depending on the state the position is in, it is either called a license, registration, authorization or certification. But regardless of the title, an Occupational Therapy Assistant must be accredited by ACOTE and must have passed the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant exam. 


Occupational Therapy Assistant experience requirements

Job experience for this position may vary. It can include a certain number of years in the workforce working with a certain age group like children, young adults or older people. It could also include experience in administration, planning events and activities, designing programs or other similar experiences. The type or length of experience will vary depending on the independence level required of the Occupational Therapy Assistant. 


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Frequently asked questions about Occupational Therapy Assistants


Who does an Occupational Therapy Assistant report to?

Occupational Therapy Assistants typically report directly to Occupational Therapists and will assist them closely in diagnosing and treating patients. Occupational Therapists will usually assign treatment plans to patients and will instruct Occupational Therapy Assistants on how to perform these therapeutic exercises with patients. 

Occupational Therapy Assistants will regularly report to the Occupational Therapist regarding the patients’ progress. The Occupational Therapist will use these updates to adjust the program accordingly to ensure positive results for the patient. If Occupational Therapy Assistants have any complex or high-level questions about a patient or treatment plan, they’ll seek guidance and advice from the Occupational Therapist.


What settings do Occupational Therapy Assistants work in?

There are a wide variety of settings Occupational Therapy Assistants may work in. Most of them may operate in an Occupational Therapist’s office or a general health clinic, where they’ll assist one or more Occupational Therapists in helping regular patients perform routine therapeutic exercises. Others may work in a hospital, where they must help diagnose and treat more severe disabilities or injuries in a fast-paced environment. 

There are also some Occupational Therapy Assistants who serve in a nursing home, providing regular care and performing routine exercises to older patients. Some of them travel to patients’ homes to help them perform daily activities and tasks using therapeutic treatments. 


What's the difference between an Occupational Therapy Assistant and a Physical Therapy Assistant?

While they both share many similarities of assisting patients in physical health activities, there are some key differences between an Occupational Therapy Assistant and a Physical Therapy Assistant. Physical Therapy Assistants usually focus on helping patients recover from recent illnesses or injuries and return to their original health status or to a functioning health status. 

Occupational Therapy Assistants’ goals are usually to help patients improve their mobility and physical functions to perform daily living and working tasks. 


What makes a good Occupational Therapy Assistant?

A great Occupational Therapy Assistant should be detail-oriented to properly follow the Occupational Therapists treatment plan and to notice when a patient needs additional medical help. They must also have impressive physical stamina and strength to lift and move patients when needed. Strong communication and listening abilities are also preferred in the ideal candidate in order to understand the problems patients are undergoing and to clearly explain treatment plans and exercises to patients.

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