Are you an Occupational Therapy Assistant considering the next step of becoming an Occupational Therapist? The investment in your personal and professional future can be accomplished by pursuing the right OTA to OT bridge programs.
The major differences between the two professions are:
- required level of schooling
- amount of patient involvement
- fieldwork experience
- median salary
An OTA requires a two-year associate’s degree while an OT requires a four-year masters degree. You can find OTA to OT schools with programs that work for your current schooling.
OTs are responsible for developing a therapeutic care plan based on patient needs while OTAs serve a supporting role in these plans.
An OTA is only able to observe an OTs fieldwork and learn under supervision. An OT is responsible for creating and executing therapy plans. OTAs in a program seeking their OT license are required to complete fieldwork.
An OTA earns a median salary of approximately $57,870, while an OT earns a median salary of approximately $80,150.
Becoming an Occupational Therapist
This informational article from OTCareerPath.com outlines the major steps a student takes on their educational path to becoming an Occupational Therapist. Occupational therapist assistant to occupational therapist programs requires ample time in the field. Many OTs begin as OTAs and work their way up.
Anyone seeking a job in the OT field must pass the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy exam after they have completed their formal education and fieldwork.
Finding the Right Occupational Therapy Bridge Programs
OTA to OT programs were created for working adults who cannot afford to return to school full time. These programs offer a way for working OTAs to obtain an OT degree through:
- distance learning,
- on-site classes,
- and weekend classes.
Aspects of OTA to OT bridge programs differ, so it is important to review what each program includes, and how your prior experience fits into any given program.
Most OTA to OT bridge programs can be completed in two to three years and are a blend of in-classroom, online and fieldwork learning. We recommend reaching out to each of the OT bridge programs that intrigue you and speaking with an advisor who can expertly determine how much of your past education and professional experience can count towards your new goal.
Tips for Success with OTA to OT Bridge Programs
Going back to school while in the midst of your career is a commitment that takes determination and self-motivation. We gathered a series of tips to help you achieve your goals while maintaining a healthy life balance.
1. Set Realistic Goals
OTA to OT Bridge Programs is designed to take up to three years because candidates are working full time. Go into the process knowing that the length of time may seem long, but rushing it will only create stress.
If you know that certain times of the year are busier for you professionally or personally, consider lightening your course load during this time. You may also consider taking half or full days off from your job when your syllabus shows an exam coming up.
2. Enlist Family, Friends and Outside Help for Support
Leaning on your support system is a great way to balance work and school. Your spouse or partner, parents, friends and neighbors are all people to turn to when the need arises.
Your support system will provide you time to focus solely on one thing vs. having to juggle everything at once. This will help you learn faster and leave you with more time for home and work.
3. Keep Your Manager Up To Date
Because OTA to OT Bridge Programs serves to further your skill set and make you more effective at your current job, it only makes sense to make your manager aware of your intention to return to school.
Once enrolled, keep your manager in the loop regarding things like upcoming exams, fieldwork requirements and other responsibilities that will take time to complete. A supportive manager will likely accommodate you by allowing some flexibility.
4. Make Time To Recharge
With time being your most valuable resource during an OTA to OT program, slowing down for 15 or 20 minutes might seem nearly impossible. Before getting too deep into your new routine, sit down and create a “recharge schedule” that includes at least one 15-20 minute break every day.
5. Find Your Sweet Spot
With school comes studying, and the amount of time you will spend learning about new topics means you will want to find a comfortable and quiet place to read.
If a steady routine is more comfortable for you, but you still need to get out every so often, consider studying in libraries or local community centers.
If the outdoors helps you comprehend new topics but you need silence, consider studying with noise canceling headphones.
Finally, you may find that studying with a group is the easiest way for you to learn.
Practice Makes Perfect
Focusing on and executing strategies for success will help you enjoy the journey. Stick to it and you’ll love the transition you make from being an OTA to being an OT!
Have any specific questions about these programs? Contact us and we’d be happy to answer them for you.