Coursework & Fieldwork Degree in another field...how to become OT or OTA

Aug 21, 2016
3
0
Status
Other Health Professions Student
Hi there,

I am currently in my third year of college, majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology. I am so far into both of these fields, that I'm afraid to completely switch degrees just for an interest (even though it's an extreme interest) in OT or OTA. So, my main question is, how to become either of those after I obtain my degree in a different field (assuming that is still what I would like to do in a year and a half).

-What are the different routes I could take to become an OT or OTA with another bachelor's degree?

-Also, which would you recommend....OT or OTA? I do like the idea of working more "hands on" with patients, as it seems that OTA's do more of that. However, I am intrigued by the higher pay of the OT's. So, this leads me to my next question.

-What are the positives/negatives associated with each? If you are currently an OT, do you wish you had chosen to be an OTA instead, and vise versa?

-My interest in this field has come from a passion to work with military vets. Currently looking at jobs through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)....anyone have with them?

Thanks, and I'm sorry about all of the questions. I would appreciate any feedback.

Megan
 

am.otstudent

2+ Year Member
Jun 29, 2016
28
22
Status
Pre-Occupational Therapy
Hi there,

I am currently in my third year of college, majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology. I am so far into both of these fields, that I'm afraid to completely switch degrees just for an interest (even though it's an extreme interest) in OT or OTA. So, my main question is, how to become either of those after I obtain my degree in a different field (assuming that is still what I would like to do in a year and a half).

-What are the different routes I could take to become an OT or OTA with another bachelor's degree?

-Also, which would you recommend....OT or OTA? I do like the idea of working more "hands on" with patients, as it seems that OTA's do more of that. However, I am intrigued by the higher pay of the OT's. So, this leads me to my next question.

-What are the positives/negatives associated with each? If you are currently an OT, do you wish you had chosen to be an OTA instead, and vise versa?

-My interest in this field has come from a passion to work with military vets. Currently looking at jobs through the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)....anyone have with them?

Thanks, and I'm sorry about all of the questions. I would appreciate any feedback.

Megan

I am not an OT, but am applying to MSOT and OTD programs this cycle and have done a fair amount of shadowing. I graduated college in 2014 with a Bachelor's in American Culture Studies and Women/Gender/Sexuality Studies (so, functionally, a sociology degree) from Wash U, and only learned about the field my senior year, so I took about 90% of my prerequisites after graduating undergrad. From my understanding, this is common - my community college (which is medicine-focused) has a TON of people who are post-bacc and applying to MSOT programs. I don't think it is necessary to have majored in something directly related to the field in undergrad, and I'm not sure your major is as far removed as you think - you probably have some Biology credits and maybe even your Stats requirement done! Plus, if you have any time left this last year, you could work some of your remaining prereqs in and have less to take than I did when I graduated.

As far as OTA vs OT, I have only encountered OTAs in one of the settings I observed (inpatient SNF) - none worked at my volunteer settings of two outpatient peds clinics or any of the hand therapy clinics I saw. I don't see a ton of OTA positions posted in Chicago vs. OT. Their scope of practice seems extremely similar in the SNF I saw, except they maybe don't do evals, set treatment goals, or as much in the way of documentation generally? Treatment looked exactly the same - definitely would not say OTs are less "hands on" than OTAs. Pay is less, but it costs a lot less to go to a public OTA program than an MSOT - I have also heard countless OTs say "don't worry about the loans getting your MSOT - it pays well enough that it's not hard to pay them off." Personally, since the postgrad time commitment is the same and the lifetime payout is much greater, I would do a master's program over an OTA, considering you're already putting in the time for your Bachelor's. But again, this is only based on observation!
 

HawkeyeOT

2+ Year Member
Jul 12, 2015
31
24
New York
Status
Occupational Therapy Student
I have a bachelor's in music performance and am in my second year of my MSOT. Look at the grad programs u are interested and just take those prerequisites. Many people in MSOT programs are people who have worked in a variety of fields and are coming back to school to be an OT.

Definitely go for OT over OTA. As an OT you are very hands on and can do all of the extras and be promoted. As an OTA you can't do evals or treatment planning. And you have to have a supervisor. You'll be getting your masters over an associates and the OTA is looking to move toward a bachelor's degree. You'll be much better educated in a masters program and be better able to serve your clients. The pay is much better and has more opportunities for growth. Yes it is more money, but it is a better investment long term. I know a few OTAs who end up going back to school to be promoted and have more control over their future. There are plenty of jobs for OTs.
 

beestrng

7+ Year Member
Dec 10, 2010
662
162
I have a bachelor's in music performance and am in my second year of my MSOT. Look at the grad programs u are interested and just take those prerequisites. Many people in MSOT programs are people who have worked in a variety of fields and are coming back to school to be an OT.

Definitely go for OT over OTA. As an OT you are very hands on and can do all of the extras and be promoted. As an OTA you can't do evals or treatment planning. And you have to have a supervisor. You'll be getting your masters over an associates and the OTA is looking to move toward a bachelor's degree. You'll be much better educated in a masters program and be better able to serve your clients. The pay is much better and has more opportunities for growth. Yes it is more money, but it is a better investment long term. I know a few OTAs who end up going back to school to be promoted and have more control over their future. There are plenty of jobs for OTs.
OTA is cheaper and some cases way cheaper. Prolly best financially speaking.
 

MusicalOT14

2+ Year Member
Mar 26, 2016
47
17
Status
Occupational Therapy Student
I would say finish out your degree and go for your masters in OT as you can apply to OT school with a bachelors in any subject. If it is possible I would suggest looking into the OT schools and working some prereqs into your coursework as an undergrad. An OTA degree will be less expensive than an OT degree but is also a possibility if you are looking for the more financially feasible option . I would not say that OTs have less hands time with the patients. Honestly in most of the settings I have shadowed and worked in the OTs do most if not all of the treatment, but that may be different in other areas.
I would do lots of shadow time with OTs . You will need it to apply to schools and it will help you to decide if this is the right career for you. If you have an interest in working with Veterans then see if you could possibly get some shadow / volunteer time at the VA which could help lead to a potential job down the road. Any other questions don't hesitate to ask! :)
 
OP
M
Aug 21, 2016
3
0
Status
Other Health Professions Student
Thank you all so much for your feedback. You definitely have me leaning towards OT. I have taken biology and stats classes, as well as one sociology class. Any other major prereqs cross your mind? I can research more into that, as well.

Thank you again! I really appreciate it.
 

c2902

5+ Year Member
Mar 20, 2013
228
121
Status
Occupational Therapist
OTA is cheaper and some cases way cheaper. Prolly best financially speaking.
I'd disagree with this, except in the instance that the OP was officially ruling out a Masters for financial constraints. The OP is young, and going backward to an Associate's degree where s/he will be lucky to make 50K a year, after completing a Bachelor's degree is silly. To the OP, get your Masters; OTs are definitely hands-on, the market for COTAs in some areas and in some settings is not very good, and even though there are people here on other threads complaining about how OTs don't make enough money, you will make a comfortable income - and honestly, if you want to make the really big bucks, then don't go into OT. You can absolutely get into OT school with a degree in another field if your overall application is competitive enough. I have two arts degrees, and I'm an OTR/L now, so it's possible :).
 

c2902

5+ Year Member
Mar 20, 2013
228
121
Status
Occupational Therapist
Thank you all so much for your feedback. You definitely have me leaning towards OT. I have taken biology and stats classes, as well as one sociology class. Any other major prereqs cross your mind? I can research more into that, as well.

Thank you again! I really appreciate it.
Anatomy and Physiology I and II, Abnormal Psychology and most likely some kind of Lifespan Development course will be the common ones. Biology might be required by some schools, but it wasn't all that common when I applied (a few years ago, now).
 

beestrng

7+ Year Member
Dec 10, 2010
662
162
I'd disagree with this, except in the instance that the OP was officially ruling out a Masters for financial constraints. The OP is young, and going backward to an Associate's degree where s/he will be lucky to make 50K a year, after completing a Bachelor's degree is silly. To the OP, get your Masters; OTs are definitely hands-on, the market for COTAs in some areas and in some settings is not very good, and even though there are people here on other threads complaining about how OTs don't make enough money, you will make a comfortable income - and honestly, if you want to make the really big bucks, then don't go into OT. You can absolutely get into OT school with a degree in another field if your overall application is competitive enough. I have two arts degrees, and I'm an OTR/L now, so it's possible :).
You can also look at it going forward. Do OTA then if you like the profession become OTR.

I should have done it.

It is possible that you will dislike the profession.
 

spiralgalaxy

7+ Year Member
Nov 18, 2010
21
2
Status
Occupational Therapist
Thank you all so much for your feedback. You definitely have me leaning towards OT. I have taken biology and stats classes, as well as one sociology class. Any other major prereqs cross your mind? I can research more into that, as well.

Thank you again! I really appreciate it.
Aside from the classes someone listed above (all very good-- had to take all of those minus Biology for CSUDH), some programs require medical terminology as a prerequisite (and if not before the program, you may take it during the program).