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What is the difference between an occupational therapist assistant and an occupational therapist?

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Hannah’s Answer

The biggest difference, based on descriptions provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is one of education. An occupational therapist typically requires a masters degree and a license and they work to "treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities." Occupational therapists consider the needs of their patient and design a treatment to follow. The higher level of education and training required for this profession typically comes with a higher salary than that of an occupational therapy assistant.

Occupational therapy assistants usually require an associates degree or higher, or completion of a certified program. Assistants then carry out the treatment a therapist has developed and help with clerical tasks as needed, including preparing therapy equipment and taking patients through routines.

Both positions work together frequently and an occupational therapist depends on an assistant to ensure that patients are completing their treatment safely and effectively. It is definitely possible for an individual to begin in the field as an assistant and become a licensed occupational therapist with further education and training.


Hannah recommends the following next steps:

For more information on Occupational Therapists, see https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm#tab-1
For more information on Occupational Therapy Assistants (and Aides), see https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm#tab-1
Contact Occupational Therapists or Assistants in your area to set up informational interviews via email or phone and learn more about their career paths!
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Danielle’s Answer

The biggest difference in practicing occupational therapists (OTs) and occupational therapy assistants (OTAs) is that OTs are able to evaluate and create a plan of care for clients. OTAs are able to treat and implement therapeutic sessions in alignment to the goals set by the OT. Some differences in the OTAs ability to complete progress notes and discharges will vary by state and facility. Overall, OTs and OTAs collaborate to make sure goals are appropriate and that client's are maximizing occupational performance.

As far as schooling, OTs attain a master's degree while OTAs typically attain an associate degree. Some schools have the option for a bridge program to OT from OTA. There is also an option for a doctorate in OT. Practicing doctorate's of occupational therapy (OTDs) do not typically receive higher pay but they are able to teach in academic settings.
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Rodolfo’s Answer

OT has more education so more pay.
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