Associates Degree Programs in Occupational Therapy
Learn about associate's degree programs in occupational therapy. See educational prerequisites and the typical curriculum, along with employment prospects and continuing education options after graduation.
The occupational therapy field involves helping patients improve their lives as they deal with chronic illnesses, injuries, mental impairment or genetic disorders. Associate's degree programs in occupational therapy qualify graduates for work as occupational therapy assistants. These professionals work with supervising occupational therapists.
Along with general education courses, students take core courses in occupational therapy, such as physical rehabilitation techniques and patient assessment. Students learn how to employ various types of equipment and tools in the treatment of patients. Such programs also include internships which allow students to gain practical experience in clinics, hospitals or community-based centers. Earning an accredited associate's degree in this field can prepare students for state licensure as occupational therapy assistants.
A high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission to the associate's program. Students are expected to be competent in English, reading and math, and admission exams in these subjects may be required. In addition, high school biology is highly recommended.
Curricula are designed to prepare students to work one-on-one with individuals in a variety of settings. Students learn how to recognize a patient's needs, how to do a patient assessments and how to setup a plan, with goals, for treatment. A program's curriculum may include the following courses:
- Human occupations
- Physical rehabilitation theory
- Theory of developmental rehabilitation
- Speech fundamentals
- Clinical or internship
Popular Career Options
Most jobs within this field involve assisting occupational therapists with a range of rehabilitation activities. These include properly moving a patient from a bed to a wheelchair, monitoring a patient's' activities and recording a client's progress. Assistants may also perform clerical tasks, including paperwork, answering phones and scheduling appointments. Occupational therapy assistants may pursue positions in:
- Nursing homes
- Acute care
- Ergonomics consulting
- Services for individuals with low vision
- Development of assistive devices
- Consulting in wellness and health
Continuing Education and Certification
Students can move onto bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy after completing the associate's degree program. Completion of these programs may allow graduates to work as occupational therapists and in supervisory positions. The doctoral degree programs are intended for individuals who want to teach at the university level or conduct research.
Associate's degree graduates may sit for the National Certification Exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Most states require completion and passing of this exam in order to practice as an occupational therapy assistant.
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