How to Become an Occupational Therapy Assistant: Career Advice & Information

Overview & Salaries


Occupational therapy is focused on helping patients who struggle to perform day-to-day tasks because of mental or physical disabilities. Occupational therapists help patients by making tasks easier, or by teaching them to perform tasks through exercises or techniques. The approaches used depend on the patient—some may need door handles that are easier to grasp, while others may need physical or mental exercises.

Occupational therapy assistants are deeply involved in occupational therapy: they work with patients, instruct patients on how to use equipment, and track patients’ progress.


Annual salaries for occupational therapy assistants will vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2013, the average annual salary for occupational therapy assistants working in the U.S. was $55,250 per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for occupational therapy assistants, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and the average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work as an Occupational Therapy Assistant

Texas leads the nation in employment of occupational therapy assistants, where 2,770 currently work statewide, and earn an average annual salary of $68,340. Pennsylvania is second in employment, with 2,470 occupational therapy assistants earning an average salary of $47,280.

The metro areas employing the most occupational therapy assistants are:

  • Dallas (1,130)
  • New York-White Plains (840)
  • Pittsburgh (770)

The metro areas employing the highest concentration of occupational therapy assistants are:

  • Gadsden, AL (2.6 per thousand jobs)
  • Cumberland, MD-WV (1.88 per thousand jobs)

The metro areas employing the best-paid occupational therapy assistants are:

  • El Paso, TX (average annual salary $83,090)
  • Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (average annual salary $79,230)

Employment and Salary Information for Occupational Therapy Assistants

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career as an occupational therapy assistant. The associated information has been gathered from Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Occupational Therapy Assistant

Why Become An Occupational Therapy Assistant?

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a faster-growing field. Or one where the work is more meaningful and rewarding. Take a look at some of the reasons to become an occupational therapy assistant:

  • The field is growing incredibly fast. The number of occupational therapy assistant jobs is projected to increase by an astonishing 41% between 2012 and 2022—that’s much, much faster than the average for all U.S. jobs.
  • Decent pay. The average salary was $55,250 per year in 2013.
  • Accessible way to enter the healthcare profession. Occupational therapy assistants need as associate’s degree (see the Degree Options page) but not as much training as many other healthcare professionals. So it’s a good job if you want to start making a difference quickly.
  • Use real skills. The job title may say ‘assistant,’ but to your patients you’ll be much more than that. You’ll help them through treatments and exercises, care for them, and listen to them.
  • Help people. Your job will be to help people look after themselves live dignified, independent lives.

Occupational Therapy Assisting: What You Need To Know

An occupational therapy assistant needs a strong working knowledge of the practice of occupational therapy, particularly treatments, equipment, and exercises. As they help patients with activities and exercises, they need excellent people skills. And they need to be organized. A working knowledge of these skill sets will help to set you apart from other candidates.

  • Knowledge of Therapeutic Exercises
  • Use of Equipment
  • Ability to Carry out Treatment Plans
  • Patient Communication
  • Administrative Skill

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about occupational therapy assistant careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Occupational Therapy Assistant Careers

Associate’s degree

Usually, you need an associate’s degree in the field. Many occupational therapy assistant candidates also do volunteer work in health to make themselves more employable. Nursing facilities, occupational therapists’ offices, and physical therapists’ offices may all offer volunteering opportunities.

Today, there are about 160 accredited occupational therapy assistant programs. These programs can take anywhere from one to two years of full-time study to complete, and usually feature coursework on topics such as psychology, physiology and anatomy, biology, and pediatric health. Occupational therapy assistant programs also consist of 16 weeks of fieldwork, providing hands-on experience.