Although some occupational therapy aides earn certification through various programs available across the country, most have just a high school diploma or equivalent. For example, Alvin Community College in Alvin, TX offers prospective OT aides a twelve-week program to prepare for employment in the occupational therapy field. OT aides can also shadow occupational therapists (OT) or occupational therapist assistants (OTA), accumulating volunteer and/or observation hours.
Most schools offering accredited degrees in occupational therapy require a specific number of these hours in order to get into the program. The number can vary widely, so it’s important that prospective students find out how many volunteer hours are required at the school they intend to apply to. For example, California State University at Dominguez Hills requires eighty hours to get into their master’s degree program, while Chatham University in Pennsylvania only requires ten volunteer hours. In some cases, the school does not specify how many hours are needed.
Occupational therapy aides may work full-time or part-time under the direct supervision of an occupational therapist or occupational therapy assistant. Common settings in which OT aides work include hospitals and physician offices, while some occupational therapist aides accompany OTs and OTAs to clients’ homes. Typically their job duties include:
- Helping clients fill out paperwork, billing, and insurance forms
- Setting up and putting away therapy equipment for clients and supervisors
- Cleaning equipment before and after treatment sessions
- Clerical work, including answering phones and scheduling appointments
- Explaining terminology to patients
In some cases an occupational therapy aide may be asked to assist an OT or OTA with a client’s treatment. For example, an aide may be asked to help move a patient from one area to another, or to hold a leg down while the patient is learning a new exercise.
Occupational Therapy Aide Career Options
Prospective occupational therapy aides should be aware that no program is accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association, and students who attend these programs will not necessarily be eligible to become licensed. To do the job, however, one only needs a high school diploma or GED equivalent. OT aides do not require any special training other than what they learn on the job. If a management position opens up, an OT aide may be able to fill it. However, most OT aides use their training and experience as a springboard to further their educations and eventually become occupational therapy assistants or occupational therapists.
Occupational Therapy Aide Salary
Salaries for occupational therapy aides vary according to location, employer, and hours worked per week. The cost of living varies from one geographical location to another, and that also tends to affect salaries. The most recent studies conducted by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) show that in May 2014 occupational therapist aides averaged $26,550 annually.