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Occupational Therapy
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Frequently Asked Questions 

What exactly is an Occupational Therapy Assistant? What is the main emphasis of occupational therapy curricula?

Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTA) are responsible for the continuation of care for patients who have been evaluated by an occupational therapist. OTA use everyday activities (called occupations) in the areas of self-care, work and productive activities, play, leisure, education, and social participation, as the means of helping people of all ages prevent, lessen or overcome physical and mental disabilities. Occupational therapy is a vital link to helping people live as independently as possible and to participate in life occupations. Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants (COTA’s) are supervised by a licensed occupational therapist in many different settings.

Programs are designed to conform to a series of guidelines called standards. The course of study features general theory, skills training, and the foundation for clinical reasoning. The curricula have a strong science base and include a focus on human development across the lifespan. Curricula promote professionalism and engagement in occupation through a holistic approach to practice. (Husey, Sabonis-Chaffee & Obrien, 2007, p.8)

What is the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy?

Physical therapy deals specifically with physical disorders of the body and is aimed at restoring the use of weakened muscles, restoring normal movement, and decreasing pain. Occupational therapy focus on daily life activities and interventions that promote engagement in occupations to support participation in context (environment).

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Are you required to be licensed or certified?

Upon completion of this program, graduates are eligible to sit for a national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc. (NBCOT). Completion of this exam is required to apply for licensure which is granted by the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board.

What type of salary can a COTA expect to receive?

Median annual salary of occupational therapist assistants were $38,430 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $31,970 and $44,390. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,880 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $52,700 (US Bureau of Employment).

How is the job market outlook in occupational therapy? Where does COTA find employment?

Great! The need for occupational therapy services continues to increase and offers excellent employment opportunities. According to the US Bureau of Employment, occupational therapy is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. The Bureau also predicts that by the year 2010, there will be a 36% increase in the number of occupational therapist assistant positions nationwide. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services employment of occupational therapy assistants in the state is expected to grow 25 percent from 2006 to 2016, much faster than the average for all occupations. The growth rate for occupational therapy assistants in the state of Ohio is of 34.6 percent.

Among COTA’s, 26% in skilled nursing homes and intermediate care, 20% work in hospitals, and 17% in public and private schools. Others work in community mental health centers, rehabilitation hospitals, residential care facilities, day care program, community agencies, colleges and universities.

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How long does the program take?

Coursework includes a combination of general education courses, occupational therapy theory and skill building courses, and on-the-job experiences at various fieldwork sites. The OTAT program is based at the Metropolitan Campus in downtown Cleveland. A two year full-time commitment is necessary for completion of the program. No evening or weekend program is available. All OTAT courses must be taken at the Metropolitan Campus, but general education courses may be taken at the Campus of your choice (Metro, East or West Campus).

Students are required to complete a series of clinical experiences (referred to as fieldwork) with a wide range of client ages and a variety of physical and mental health conditions. Practicum (once a week clinical experience for 105hours/semester) offers students practical experiences that are integrated throughout the academic program. Level II Fieldwork is designed to provide in-depth clinical experiences in delivery occupational therapy services. Students are assigned to two consecutive eight week full-time field placements under the supervision of licensed occupational therapy practitioners. All fieldwork must be completed within 18 months following completion of academic preparation.

Can I transfer credits from another college or university? 

Generally yes. Students are encouraged to see a CCC academic counselor after their transcripts have been forwarded to CCC. All CCC academic counselors can give you specific information about course substitution, course transfers, etc.

Can I work while attending the program?

Most students find part-time work manageable; however, the program is very intense and requires numerous outside assignments. We encourage students to complete as many of the general education courses before starting the program if possible. These are any courses that do not have the “OTAT” prefix? The final semester of the program requires a full-time (40 hours a week) off-campus commitment.

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Is financial aid available?

Financial assistance is available through the College in the form of scholarships, grants or loans. The College suggests that all form for financial aid application is submitted at least six weeks prior to registration. Application forms are available in the Financial Aid Office at each campus. Questions regarding financial aid should be directed to the financial aid office at Eastern campus 216-987-2211, Metro campus 216-987-4247 or Western campus 216-987-5100.

What kinds of activities are used by the occupational therapy (OT) practitioners during intervention?

Occupational therapy practitioners use meaningful tasks or occupations to promote and restore function, health and wellness to people who have experienced a decreased ability to participate in meaningful daily life activities because of developmental delays, physical illness or injury, mental health conditions or just the process of aging.

Occupation is everything people do to occupy themselves, including looking after themselves…enjoying life…and contributing to the social and economic fabric of their communities (Law, Polatajko, Baptiste, & Townsend, 1997, p. 32). Getting dressed, dialing a phone, bowling, farming, shopping, watching a movie or dancing are all examples of activities of daily living, also called occupations.

Can an occupational therapy assistant become an occupational therapist?

Yes: there are two ways that his can be accomplished. First, the individual can build upon her/his associate‘s degree by taking additional courses, including any pre-requisites a school may require. The second way is by attending a weekend program. These programs involve attending intensive weekend classes held approximately every few weeks. For many students, in addition to requiring a great deal of self-discipline, these programs also require a great deal of travel and lodging expenses.

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The CCC Program

The Occupational Therapy Assistant Technology Program (OTAT) at CCC leads to an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Therapy Assisting. The OTAT Program is accredited by The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education of the American Occupational Therapy Association, located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, PO Box 31220, Bethesda, Maryland, 20824-1220. Phone: 301-652-2682

Where can I obtain additional information regarding the profession?

You may obtain additional information from the Health Career Enrollment Center (HCEC) at 216-987-4247. You may also check The American Occupational Therapy Association website (Student tab) for further information. The website is They will be glad to send you an OTAT program packet. There is also information about the program in the College Catalog .

What qualities or personal traits are useful in practicing occupational therapy?

Occupational therapy practitioners need patience, understanding and compassion when dealing with clients facing health problems. Patience is important because many clients may not show rapid progress and practitioners must be prepared for that challenge. Being understanding and having compassion are also vital when working with clients who have disabilities that require them to undergo extensive and sometimes painful treatment in order to improve their function. And finally, occupational therapy is a profession that calls for a certain amount of passion for the beneficial and life-changing work that therapists perform.


Revised 2009

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