One of the hardest things to do is search for a lucrative profession that appeals to you. But let’s say, after doing your research, you decide on settling for occupational therapy as your prospective career. After all, you have seen what the course offers and how much you can accomplish through your career.
So before you decide to settle in doing the course fully, you should decide whether you want to be an occupational therapist or work as a certified occupational therapy assistant. These two careers have some basic differences. Here, we discuss the pros and cons of working as an occupational therapy assistant. Let’s get started.
Pros of an occupational therapy assistant
1. Career advancement perspective. As a practicing COTA, you have the opportunity to advance on your work. You can advance your studies and become a registered occupational therapist. You also have the option of advancing in the field and earning your OTR.
2. You get to make a difference in people’s lives. Working as a COTA allows you to change lives every single day. You get to help your clients regain or maintain independence, live better lives, improve mobility and even overcome disabilities. The list is endless.
3. Fewer education requirements. To become an assistant, occupational therapist, you need to have an associate’s degree. Additionally, you may need to dedicate two years of your life to an accredited OT assistant school.
4. You can work in a variety of settings with clients of all ages. As an OTA, you will get to love the diversity of opportunities that come with the job. The profession offers six practice areas that encompass the full human life. It means you will get to find work in a variety of settings. You can work with children, teenagers or the elderly.
5. More interaction with patients. As a practicing COTA, you will get to work with a lot of patients. You will know in-depth information better that concern your patient as you may be attending to them regularly.
Possibility of having a flexible work schedule. A job as an OTA has a lot of options when it comes to working schedules. You get to choose to work as a full-time or part-time worker. The jobs are also not confined to weekdays as you may work on weekends alone. Apart from this, you may get a fixed schedule if you choose the school or nursing home settings.
Employment growth. The OT field is growing quicker as compared to other professions. Working as a COTA, you get the chance of advancement and career growth in your field.
8. Good salary. Different factors determine how much you get to earn as a COTA. These include the state you live in, where you work, and who you work for. Most OTAs have a good annual salary. According to BLS – Bureau of Labor & Statistics, COTAs earn an average of $53,250 and above annually.
9. Volunteer opportunities. As a practicing COTA, you will engage in volunteer works at the local, national and international levels. You will find a lot of opportunities even when you are still schooling to earn a degree.
Cons of occupational therapy assistant
1. Licensing. As an OTA, being certified increases your chances of employment. Even after graduation from an ACOTE accredited program, you will still need to sit for your NBCOT exams to be hired for a job. Remember, all states are different, and you may want to check your residence area licensing requirements.
2. Certification. We mostly say someone is an occupational therapist assistant. While this is a common term, you must be certified in all states to work as a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant.
3. You may need to travel for work. As an OTA, during hands-on learning and training, you may need to travel for work. If there are no fieldwork opportunities where you live, you may be required to commute or even relocate to an area to complete your required hours of supervised practice.
4. You will not be your boss. As an OTA, you will not be the boss. You will have to answer your Occupational therapist and follow all the rules they set. You will also face limitations on your job as you will need the approval and signature of the OT on certain issues. In short, the title assistant is often limiting.
5. studying as an OTA could take you longer than 24months. Despite OTA study requirements being open to students of all educational backgrounds, you will still need to meet the GPA requirements. At times it may take you longer to finish your degree than the stipulated time.
6. Fewer job options. While a career as a COTA is rewarding, there have been recorded statistics that show an increase in difficulty for most of them to find jobs in cities immediately after school. You may face such a limitation when you stay in an area with too many OTs and COTAs.
7. The work can be challenging physically and emotionally. Though you get the satisfaction of interacting and helping people regularly, the job can be demanding physically and emotionally. The career drain is a common feature in most healthcare settings. You may get to interact with clients who are unappreciative or difficult. At times, it may be difficult to see people in their vulnerable states.
8. It is not a well-known career. OT is not a known career as most people have never heard of it. You may have to explain what you constantly do.
9. Scheduling. Working as an occupational therapist assistant can be challenging for people who cannot work an informal schedule. Most jobs rely on the client and when they find it convenient to need your services. You may find your work schedule involves early mornings, evenings, and weekends. Keep in mind that this will depend on where and whom you work for. For example, an OTA working in a nursing home or a hospital may have a formal and consistent schedule.
10. Limited career advancement. An occupational therapist assistant has a lot of room for advancement in the career. Despite the career mobility, there are limited opportunities for any upward advancement to management positions.