Occupational therapy is probably one of the least known of the assistive therapies that exist to assist people in their day-to-day life. It is a restorative therapy that is used for babies through seniors to help them gain independence.
It may be for a toddler to increase their social skills and sensory integration; for someone disabled, it may help them learn how to feed themselves.
OT features an individualized treatment plan for each patient, and the occupational therapist (OT) and certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) work together to help patients reach their goals.
COTAs typically work in private practices, hospitals, and nursing home facilities. According to HealthCareers.org, COTAs are in the midst of a projected job growth of 41% from 2012-2022.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics currently has job growth at 32% for the next decade, which remains much faster than most job sectors in the U.S.
If you are looking for work in the medical field or for a switch within the medical world, becoming a COTA is an excellent option. Substantial job growth, a salary above the median amount for the U.S., is only a two-year degree.
Resume objective for occupational therapy assistant
Because an occupational therapy assistant spends much of their time working directly with patients, someone who can build solid and trusting relationships with people will likely stand out.
You can highlight this in your objective by mentioning your work with patients and patient feedback you have received.
COTAs also need to take direction; in most states, they cannot begin work unless an OT is present. They need to follow the OT’s explicit directions and cannot make any finalized decisions about a patient’s treatment.
In this position, you will also be responsible for cleaning equipment and maintaining a safe work environment. You will likely be tasked with keeping detail-oriented records and files on each patient.
In your objective, your goal is to provide specific examples of achievements with patients and your dedication to the field and desire to learn more.
COTAs are required to engage in continuing education, so a passion for learning will assist you in this career.
Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with 6 years of experience in a pediatric private practice looking to expand my skill set and patient base. Received a 4.6 out of 5-star rating from patients’ parents through practice’s rating system. Skilfully executed exercises and activities for children ages two through seven and built strong bonds with patients and families by getting to know them and remembering children’s favorite toys and activities.
Resume skills for an occupational therapy assistant
The soft-skills required by an occupational therapy assistant are similar to those across the medical field: patience, empathy, problem-solving, communication, team-work, following directions, and detailed oriented.
The knowledge of your hard skills concerning therapy types, knowledge of learning strategies, medical and therapeutic background, and biology will come from your education and hands-on training.
St. Catherine University outlines what a typical program looks like. It includes courses in psychology, rehabilitation practice, pediatric practice, and fieldwork.
After scouring dozens of resumes, additional skills to mention may include insurance and billing experience, physical strength (usually able to lift between 35lbs and 50lbs), and size of the caseload you have or are currently managing.
Training Family & Caregivers | Coordination of sessions | Alzheimer’s, PSP, Autism, Parkinson’s, Developmental Delays | Patient Assessments | Ability to lift 50lbs. | Insurance claims & billing
Occupational therapy assistant work experience
Occupational therapy assistants typically work in private therapy practices, hospitals, and nursing home facilities. They can also be found working in schools, patients’ homes, business offices, and rehabilitation offices.
Just as the place COTAs work varies, so do the patients you may be working with. Many children participate in OT, particularly those with developmental delays or sensory integration concerns.
Adults who have been in an accident or experienced an injury, adults with degenerate disorders, or those who have developmental delays may also be in your care.
When listing your work experience, OT Potential suggests using strong phrasing when listing your accomplishments to make your resume stand. Meaning, list detailed examples of what you did, and avoid generalities.
For example, instead of “maintained detailed records,” something along the lines of “Created and introduced a new filing system to maintain the organization of the office’s client base.”
It is understood that not everyone will have innovative accomplishments to list, but more detailed and personalized work experience may help you stand out.
Sample Work Experience
Sheppard Pratt Health Services
Occupational Therapy Assistant, 2011-current
Record patient treatment and progress as part of a multidisciplinary team. Administer tests and evaluations with patients. Successfully motivate patients to try new exercises and therapies. Follow current CDC regulations pertaining to cleaning and disinfecting materials and shared areas.
- Code and submit patient claims correctly
- Instruct family and caregivers in techniques for use at home
- Introduced a new checklist to help streamline goals
- Received frequent positive feedback from management
Little Hands Therapy
Occupational Therapy Assistant, 2005-2011
Worked alongside a team of COTAs and OTs to deliver high-quality occupational therapy to children ages 1-16 years of age. Focused on floor therapy techniques and applied the latest therapy techniques. Participated in three national OT conferences and presented new concepts during staff meetings.
- Developed children’s social skills, concentration and hand strength
- 92% of patients met goals on schedule
- Suggested tips to families on adaptive items and techniques
- Extensive knowledge in play therapy
Johnson Family Therapy
Occupational Therapy Assistant, 2000 – 2005
Worked as part of a multidisciplinary team providing individuals of all age ranges with OT for a wide range of diagnoses. Assisted in managing an 85-patient caseload and introduced three pediatric therapy tools to office members that were new to the practice.
- Utilized written skills to leave detailed records for OTs and other therapists
- Instructed family and parents on at-home exercises
- Used checklists to assist in the analysis of patient process
- Knowledge of multiple learner types: kinesthetic, audio, verbal, musical
Occupational therapy assistant education
To become an occupational therapy assistant a two year degree in the field specifically is needed. Many community and four year institutions offer an associate degree.
As you look at schools pay attention to how many years the degree is. Some may be two, two and a half or even three.
When searching for a school the American Occupation Therapy Association emphasizes the importance of selecting a school that is certified by their organization.
On their site, they offer a PDF version of all accepted programs in the United States, including all current distance education programs.
Albany State University
Associate of Science Occupational Therapy, 2005-2008
After extensively looking through COTA programs across the united states, it appears that the majority of the programs contain the similar or same courses. Therefore there is probably no reason to list them on your resume.
Something you may wish to take into consideration however, is that some programs have prerequisites that need to be taken prior to official admittance to the program.
Some examples we saw were communications, algebra, healthcare terminology, psychology, general anatomy, biology and courses in the humanities.
Becoming an occupational therapy assistant requires becoming certified or licensed. Each state has their own criteria and licensure criteria. A great place to check your state’s information is at the OTA Guide.
Once you have obtained your certification as a certified occupational therapist there are specialty certifications you can achieve.
Some of these certifications require you to have a certain amount of hours experience working in the field, while others you can obtain once you pass the exam.
Examples of these specializations include, Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS), Seating & Mobility Specialist (ATP/SMS) and Certified Health Coach (CHC)
Having a CPR certification is always useful in any health related career.
- Feeding, Eating & Swallowing (SCFES-A)
- CPR/FIrst Aid
Complete occupational therapy assistant resume sample
Now that we have gone over the features and information that should be a part of your COTA resume, we are going to look at an actual job posting followed by a complete sample resume.
This position is in an orthopedic office so they are specifically looking for an COTA that has orthopedic experience, but given that it is only asking for one year of such experience, it may not be a deal breaker.
It mentions a few types of specific therapies that are utilized at the office so if you have knowledge or experience with those it is always worth mentioning.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
Licensed Occupational Therapy Assistant with 8 years experience seeking a position to share the knowledge gained and to continue to gain experience in orthopedics. Knowledge of hand therapy and have experience working with a diverse patient base.
Billing & Coding | Assessment checklists | Scheduling & coordination appointments | Instructing Family & Caregivers | Mentoring new staff
Occupational Therapy Assistant, 2016-2020
Worked directly with an OT to delivery quality therapy to patients with debilitating conditions to help them improve their skills in relation to everyday functions. Instructed family members and caregivers on techniques.
- 94% of patients met goals on time
- Suggested new therapy techniques to team based on research
- Sanitized equipment and maintained a clean and safe work area
- Used assessments to help plan individualized treatment plans
Occupational Therapy Assistant, 2010-2016
Actively participated in team meetings to ensure continuity of care. Mentored new staff members and instructed and motivated patients to engage in new therapies and to practice at home. Received positive reviews from patients and family members related to my professionalism, friendliness, knowledge and help.
- Administered assessments at various stages of therapy
- Worked with children and adults with various diagnosis
- Coding and submitting claims to insurance
- Knowledge of a wide variety of therapy techniques
Genesis Rehabilitation Services
Occupational Therapy Assistant, 2008 – 2010
Implemented individualized treatment plans and worked with other members of the therapy team to develop consistent plans. Instructed family members with the skills and techniques needed for practice at home.
- Observed and recorded patient responses to therapy
- Recommended exercises to OT based on observations
- Worked as part of a multi-disciplinary team
- 89% of patients met goals on time
- Maryland Certified OTA
- CPR/FIrst Aid
- Environmental Modification (SCEM-A)
Allegany College of Maryland
Associate of Science Occupational Therapy Assistant 2006-2008
Certified occupational therapy assistants are facing a growing field with more and more job opportunities. No matter what source you look to, there is going to continue to be significant growth in this sector.
While it requires only a two year degree, there are plenty of options for advancement as you gain experience, certifications, and knowledge.
- A degree and license is required
- Patient satisfaction and connection are important
- Your work has the chance you make a huge impact on people’s lives
Tips from Experts
“Man, through the use of his hands, as they are energized by mind and will, can influence the state of his own health.” –Mary Reilly, EdD, OT
“Occupational therapy practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” not, “What’s the matter with you?” –Virginia “Ginny” Stoffel, Ph.D., OT, BCMH, FAOTA
“Occupational therapy. Arguably the most empowering, creative, holistic, and meaning-enhancing healthcare profession. We are proud to put on that uniform, follow models of practice, client-centered outcome measures, and prioritize active engagement in self-care, productivity, and leisure. We are occupational therapists. Adding life to days.” –Jamie Grant, OT
When you are ready to take the next step in your COTA career you are now armed with tips and examples from experts on how to best prepare your resume.
Occupational therapy assistants have the potential for a life-long productive and meaningful career. If you love working with and helping people, science and medicine and have a passion for learning then this career might be just right for you.