If you enjoy helping others set and reach their goals, earning an associate degree in occupational therapy could allow you to do that every day. Occupational therapy assistants work with those who have mental, physical or other disabilities to develop their full potential. Whether you are helping someone learn to walk again after a stroke or teaching a car accident victim how to compensate for lost motor skills, the work of an occupational therapy assistant means helping others learn to live more independently.
Associate degrees in occupational therapy
Programs in occupational therapy give you the knowledge and skills to help others perform everyday tasks. Courses in health care, medical terminology, physiology and anatomy are common in the first year of the associate degree program. The second year offers more in-depth courses, such as mental health, gerontology, pediatrics and adult physical disabilities. At least 16 weeks of supervised field work is required before the associate degree can be earned, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Career options, outlook and salary
Associate degrees in occupational therapy can lead to work as an occupational therapy assistant; this is a more responsible position than the role of occupational therapy aide, which typically requires only a high school diploma. Most states regulate the field with licensing, registration or certification requirements. Those who choose to work in schools or early intervention programs might need further qualifications. After gaining experience, occupational therapy assistants can move into administrative duties, teaching or supervisory positions.
The median annual wage for occupational therapist assistants was $51,010 in 2010, and the BLS predicts expanding demand in this field from 2010 to 2020. Projected job growth of 43 percent for occupational therapy assistants is even higher than the 33 percent rate expected for occupational therapists and occupational therapy aides. An aging population and advances in medical technology are a few of the factors fueling growth.
Going beyond the associate degree
Earning a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy can open the door to related careers in physical therapy, recreational therapy, medical and public health, social work, and more. A master's degree is usually required to become an occupational therapist. Pursuing education online allows you to gain valuable work experience as an occupational therapy assistant while taking courses that lead to a higher degree.