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Occupational Therapy Assistant

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an Occupational Therapy Assistant do?
The certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) may assist in evaluation, program development and implementation of occupational therapy services.
Where does a COTA work?
Occupational therapy assistants may work in hospitals, rehabilitation or mental health programs, schools, nursing care facilities, community settings, private clinics, and physician's offices, or even in industry preventing work related dysfunctions.
What personal skills will be necessary?
Personal Skills necessary for success as an occupational therapist include:
  • a strong commitment to serve people,
  • interest and understanding of the social and biological sciences, and
  • skill in sensitive and effective communication.
Who should study OT?
If you enjoy meeting challenges and solving problems, as well as being creative, you'll find outstanding career opportunities in the growing field of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy is a health care profession based on the belief that occupation through work, leisure, and self care activities can be used to prevent both physical and psychosocial dysfunction and to enhance function and health.
How do I go about getting the required observational hours?
All applicants must complete a minimum of 40 hours of clinical observation by JUNE 1st in any type of occupational therapy setting such as a hospital, skilled nursing facility, out-patient facility, etc. This requirement is designed to give the applicant a better understanding of the role of the occupational therapy assistant. Applicants who currently work in an occupational therapy setting may complete all hours at that facility, however, they must be directly under the OT or OTA observing patient care and not part of the secretarial staff.

This is not a service performed by the college; the applicant must independently seek out a occupational therapy setting and speak with the appropriate staff/personnel regarding observational hours. There are many occupational therapy providers to choose from, check out your local yellow pages. Call clinical sites in your area; explain that you are applying to a OTA Program and that you would like to observe either an OT or an OTA at their facility.
Can I work and still go thru the program?
It is possible for a student to work part-time while in the program, however it is not advised due to the intense nature of the program. Each semester, the student will carry a full load and a grade of 75 or higher must be achieved in order to pass each class. This along with the clinical work that is off-campus (possibly out of town) will not be changed to accommodate a work schedule. Depending on the instructor you may have to meet in the evenings rather than earlier in the day.
What are the typical hours while in the program?
The OTA program classes are full-time and vary on days and times each semester. During the first 3 semesters of the technical program, expect to be in class Monday thru Thursday (some Fridays) 8+ hours per day. Typical hours during the first 3 semesters vary and may start as early as 9:00am and end as early as 5:00pm or as late as 9:00pm. Times vary per semester, however the last semester the student must attend off-campus clinical rotations that require Monday thru Friday, 40 hours per week for 16 weeks.
Can I be guaranteed that all of my clinical rotation sites will be in my hometown?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. Each student will have 2 clinical rotations. The clinical rotations are two 8-week clinical rotations completed in the Fall Semester prior to graduation. Because of the limited availability of sites that are in town, we cannot guarantee one student over another that you will not have to travel to complete the clinical rotations.
Are the costs incurred during clinical rotations covered in our tuition?
Again, the answer is no. Each student is obligated to cover the expenses out of pocket. However, the clinical coordinator will work with each student on an individual basis to try to place the student in an area that will require the least expense. (i.e. This may be in a town where the individual has relatives or friends and the cost would be minimal to the student)
How long is the program?
The degree is designed to be completed in 2 years. If the student has already completed the pre-requisite coursework while at Darton or another institution, the professional phase of the OTA coursework can be completed in 16 months; however, this varies based on the individual student due to the length of time to complete all necessary coursework prior to applying. Once accepted into the OTA program, 4 semesters (16 months) of the professional phase beginning Fall of every year and ending the following Fall Semester for graduation in December must be taken in sequence.
I already have a degree; do I have to complete all of the prerequisites?
Yes, all of the prerequisites must be completed. Chances are, you have already completed most of the prerequisites, and those classes may be transferred into Darton State College to count toward the degree. You may transfer credits from other institutions, but suitability for transfer will only be decided by the Registrar of Darton State College. In order to determine if your previous college coursework is eligible for transfer, you must complete an application to become a student at Darton State College (http://www.darton.edu/admissions/) and have all of your previous coursework in the form of a transcript sent from the other institution to the Darton State College Registrar. She will evaluate your transcripts and send you a letter indicating what is eligible and what is not.
Do I have to take Anatomy & Physiology I & II or may I substitute those 2 courses with the one course offered from Darton State College (Anatomy & Physiology for the Healthcare Professional)?
Darton State College does offer an acceptable substitution for the anatomy series, however, please note that we recommend the series over the one course. If you ever plan to continue your education after Darton State College, the 2 course series is a must. The course is acceptable for the OTA Program, but it will not transfer out of Darton State College to count toward any future degree at another institution.
“I want to eventually become an OT, but am I right in using the OTA program as a stepping-stone to achieving this goal.”
No, the OTA program is NOT a stepping-stone to OT school and seats in the Darton State College OTA program are not used as such. Students wishing to become an Occupational Therapist must first complete 3-yr. of core curriculum classes then apply for admission to a Masters-level Occupational Therapy Program. Obtaining an Associate Degree in OTA first is neither necessary nor common.

In order to become a Occupational Therapist, a student must complete a graduate level program in Occupational Therapy. In Georgia, there are two institutions that offer a graduate degree in physical therapy: Georgia Regents University (Augusta) and Brenau University (Gainesville).

For a more complete description of the pre-requisite requirements and application/selection process utilized by those programs, we encourage you to review the website of each OT Program in Georgia and contact those faculty advisors/instructors with questions.

Please be aware that the OTA Program at Darton State College and the OT Programs in Georgia are in no way linked or affiliated. There is no “shortcut” toward achieving a degree in Occupational Therapy. Additionally, please be aware that graduates of the Darton OTA Program are not given preference in the selection process for any OT Program and the journey to becoming an OT would be much longer.
I have observed under a Special Education teacher or other health professional. Can I include these hours and have them count toward the OTA observational hours?
No, these hours are specifically designed to give the applicant a better understanding of the role of OTs and OTAs in patient care. Although the hours may assist the student in discerning between the path of occupational therapy vs. other health care fields, no hours outside of occupational therapy will count.
Where can I learn more about occupational therapy?
The American Occupational Therapy Association (www.aota.org)
Responsible Department: Health Sciences - Occupational Therapy Assistant
Program Contact: Jeff S. Etheridge
Content Contact: Anthony Williams (web representative)
The Darton State College web site is maintained by the Technology Services Division.