Occupational Therapy Assistant and Aide Salary

Occupational therapy assistants and aides work with an occupational therapist to carry out therapy plans for patients. These therapy assistants help patients regain or develop the use of their coordination, thought and motor skills relating to work and daily life. Patients are usually those who have had a severe accident, stroke or other sudden condition which has impaired one or more of their occupational abilities. By persistently carrying out a therapy care plan, aides and assistants are able to help patients regain optimal use of the impaired skills.

Salary Overview

There is a great deal of difference in the salaries of occupational therapy aides, in comparison with assistants. Occupational therapy assistants have more training and thus earn higher salaries. According to reports from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median 50% of these professionals earned $48,230 in 2008. Of this percentage block, the lowest wage was $39,240 and the highest was $57,810. The lowest 10th percentile of occupational therapy assistants earned less than $31,150, while the 90th percentile earned more than $65,160. Those who were employed in home health services earned the highest wages, followed by practitioner offices, nursing facilities, general hospitals and schools.*

Occupational therapy aides earned an average yearly salary of $26,960 in 2008, according to reports from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Of this group, the 90th percentile earned more than $46,910 and the 10th percentile earned less than $17,850. The middle 50% earned between $21,930 and $33,340. Aides who were employed by specialty hospitals earned the most, followed by general hospitals, practitioner offices, schools and nursing facilities.*

*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/

Job Description and Outlook

The patients that occupational therapy aides and assistants work with are either born with their impairments or have acquired them from trauma, accidents or severe health problems. Impairments that these therapy aides and assistants help with include impairments of hands, feet, arms, legs, thoughts, reasoning and speaking. While the occupational therapy assistant does not replace a speech therapist, words or phrases relating to work or survival may be taught. The occupational therapy assistant will have a more hands-on job than aides. Assistants must help carry out treatment exercises ordered by the occupational therapist. The therapist will design special utensils or learning programs, which the assistant will help the patient use. Working with patients who have suffered an impairment is often difficult; patients become frustrated and may lash out at assistants and therapists. Having patience, good communication skills and a positive attitude are important skills an occupational therapy assistant must have.

Occupational therapy aides are responsible for some patient care, often under the supervision of the therapist or an assistant. Aides usually keep the office in order, set up treatment rooms with the proper equipment and accessories and may be responsible for doing office work and answering phones. Occupational therapy aides may also learn to do medical billing, being responsible for tracking and sending bills to patients and insurance companies.

Training and Education Requirements

There are no universal regulations that make requirements for occupational therapy aides. The best way to find a job in the field is to conduct self-study on the subject of occupational therapy. Earning an Certified Nursing Assistant certificate is helpful also. Taking medical billing or coding classes is also helpful, but not necessary. After gaining knowledge of the practice, a resume should be created and submitted to occupational therapy clinics, hospitals and facilities.

Occupational therapy assistants must complete a 2-year program that is accredited by the ACOTE, or Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, to qualify for taking the national certification exam. Classes include the subject matter of disease, illness, geriatrics, pediatrics, anatomy, physiology, disabilities and mental health. Hands-on practice in clinical rotations is also required in classes, as well as animal specimen dissections in anatomy and physiology classes.

Certifications

As mentioned, there is no certificate for an occupational therapy aide. Occupational therapy assistants must take and pass the national certifying exam after completing an approved 2-year program. Some states have licensing requirements specific only to that state also. Certification for occupational therapy assistants by the national Accreditation Council is voluntary. In order to maintain certification, assistants are required to complete continuing education classes. States that issue their own licenses also require continuing education. The hour requirements are usually not very high, but include attendance at approved seminars or inservice meetings held at employment facilities.

Professional Associations

The American Occupational Therapy Association was originally founded in 1999, offering membership to those who work in the field. This association is an excellent place for therapists, assistants and aides to receive and share valuable information related to their field. Membership is attained by completing and submitting an application and appropriate fee. States also have their own professional associations for employees of the occupational therapy field. These associations are open to therapists, their assistants and aides. While the information provided by the national association is valuable, the information offered by states are related to issues in that specific state. Keeping a membership in both types of associations will provide an occupational therapy aide or assistant the necessary national and state-related updates and news.

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