Pediatric Occupational Therapy Assistant: Job Description and Requirements
A pediatric occupational therapy assistant works closely with certified occupational therapists to help children improve their ability to complete day-to-day tasks. Prospective therapists must earn an associate's degree and most states require that occupational therapists be licensed prior to working with patients.
In general, children who receive occupational therapy are born with physical or mental impairments or were injured and need rehabilitative therapy to return to their normal level of daily function. Through monitored exercises and treatment plans, pediatric occupational therapy assistants work to help children improve in a variety of cognitive and physical areas.
Therapy assistants generally work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and occasionally in patients' homes. Working closely with certified pediatric occupational therapists, assistants teach children the correct way to perform movements, stretches or developmental exercises. Assistants also help manage patient records and insurance claims as well as develop therapy plans and goals for individual patients.
The minimum education requirement to become a pediatric occupational therapy assistant is an associate's degree. Prospective therapists should earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Therapy or a related field.
Most pediatric occupational therapy assistant programs will require students to complete approximately two years of classes and many programs also require students to complete an internship. Core classes include:
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Introduction to occupational therapy
- Dynamics of human motion
- Pediatric principles and techniques
- Medical terminology
After earning an associate's degree, pediatric occupational therapy assistants will need to get licensed before entering the workforce. Most states require that therapists be licensed, which can be achieved by passing a licensing exam. Some states require therapists to complete continuing education courses to maintain their to practice as an occupational therapy assistant.
In general, certification requirements vary by state. Although it is not required to get certified, taking the national board exam is strongly encouraged and a passing score on the national certification exam satisfies the licensing requirements of some states.
Salary and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect information on pediatric occupational therapy assistants specifically. However, its projection for the occupational therapy assistant profession overall is that employment will increase by 43% between 2010 and 2020, a far higher rate than the average for all professions. In 2012, the BLS listed an average annual salary of $53,090 for occupational therapy assistants in general.
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