OT vs OTA – Similarities and Differences

OT and OTA, both sound quite similar and their duties and responsibilities match up to a great extent, but are they same? And if they are distinct, what are the things that make both the job titles different from each other? All these questions would have definitely entered your mind if you are planning to be a part of this profession. We have accumulated both their similarities and differences together in this article, so that you can understand both the terms individually, and can decide which job is more suitable for you-


OT stands for Occupational Therapist whereas OTA stands for Occupational Therapy Assistant, but they seem alike because both the professionals use occupational therapy treatment to treat their patients. They serve physically, emotionally, and mentally disabled people. Besides this, they also assist children with developmental issues.

Both OT and OTA guide their clients to overcome and enhance their abilities to recover their injuries or illness. In order to achieve their goals, not only occupational therapy assistant but occupational therapist also works for long hours and even on the weekends.


Besides names, there are certainly other things that make both OT and OTA distinctive. They are as follows-

1. Definition

OT– An occupational therapist is a skilled professional who can efficiently use all the elements of occupational therapy such as making treatment plans, executing treatment techniques on clients, analyzing patient’s progress, and discharging them. Besides all this, therapists also guide occupational therapy assistants and the students who are pursuing to be OTAs.

OTA– Occupational therapy assistants are the professionals directly involved in providing occupational therapy to the patients. An occupational therapy assistant practices under the supervision of an occupational therapist and works as they are directed by an OT. They are also experts in using occupational therapy treatment methodologies on the clients and supervise the aspirants of OTA.

2. Education Requirements

OT- Since occupational therapists are the main players while practicing occupational therapy, they are needed to be highly educated in the field. To become an occupational therapist, students are required to own at least a master’s degree or an entry-level doctorate’s from an accredited school program. In addition to this, they are also required to have long experience in the field. It takes a longer time to become an OT than OTA. A master’s program will take 2 or more years to complete depending on the stream of graduate degree owned by candidates. These days, students are getting attracted to dual degree programs that offer to gain both bachelor’s and master’s degree in lesser time.

OTA– You can practice as an occupational therapy assistant just by gaining a 2-year associate’s degree in occupational therapy from an approved school, college, or university. With a degree, they are just required to have some experience of working in a clinical setting.

3. Skills and Qualities

OT–Skills and qualities that an occupational therapist must have are as follows:

  • Extraordinary Leadership Qualities
  • Good Writing Skills
  • Excellent Communication Skills
  • Compassion and Interpersonal Skills
  • Operation Analyzing Abilities
  • Capability to Identify Indicators of System Performance
  • Should be a Good Instructor
  • Complex Problem-Solving Abilities
  • Time Management Skills
  • Good Natured and Cooperative Attitude
  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Persistent and Innovative
  • Highly Responsible and Autonomous

OTA– A good occupational therapy assistant must possess these traits and abilities:

  • Good Communication Skills
  • Good Physical Strength
  • Digital Skills to Operate Equipment and Devices
  • Great Team Working Skills to Work With the Team Members and Other Professionals
  • Excellent Writing Skills to Keep Records of the Clients
  • Social Perceptiveness
  • Time Managing Skills
  • Should be an Active Listener
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Compassion and Interpersonal Skills
  • Information Gathering Abilities
  • Critical Thinking Skills
  • Interested in Promoting Health and Well-Being

4. Responsibilities

OT– Being an Occupational Therapist, individuals have to undertake the following responsibilities and duties:

  • Teach Anxiety Management Tricks and Techniques
  • Guide People to Return To Workplace
  • Teach People to Control Their Behavior
  • Provide Program to the Students
  • Supervise Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides
  • Organize Rehabilitation and Support Groups for Patients and Careers
  • Set Up a Rehabilitation Program to Rebuild Lost Skills and Regain Confidence
  • Instruct On Home and Office Environmental Adjustments; For Instance, Alterations in the Use of Wheelchair
  • Coach to Use Specialist Equipment to Assist People Suffering Problems in Day to Day Activities
  • Guide People Who Face Problems in Learning or the Ones Who Have Poor Social Skills
  • Communicate with Other Team Members and Professionals Like Doctors, Occupational Therapists, Architects, Equipment Dealers, Suppliers, Patient’s Family Members, Guardians, and Employers.
  • Prepare a Caseload, Analyze Patient’s Priorities, Requirements, and Needs
  • Do Administrative Tasks Like Budgetary Records
  • Evaluate and Analyze The Evaluation Data Such as Interpretation of Records Contributed to Being an OTA.
  • Write and Sign Assessment Report for the ETR
  • Develop and Modify the Plan of Care in Collaboration with the Occupational Therapy Assistant And Decides Which Part of The Plan Will Be Implemented by OTA
  • Direct Occupational Therapy Assistants and Aides, Take Their Periodic Inspection, Collaborate with Them and Provide In-Service Program to Them
  • Review, Revise, and Co-Sign the OTAs Daily Notes and Treatment
  • Do Proper Analysis for Periodic Revision and Collaborate with IEP Team and OTA to Determine New Aims and Objectives and Decide if Therapies Should Be Continued or Not.
  • Write Discharge Summary and Plan When Services are Terminated

OTA– Responsibilities of an occupational therapy assistant are as follows:

  • Assist Patients with Poor Social Skills and Learning Disabilities
  • Help the Patients to Carry Out Their Routine Activities and Tasks
  • Analyze Patients’ Activities to Know Whether They Are Dome Properly or Not
  • Handle Administrative as Well as Clerical Tasks
  • Teach Patients the Correct Way to Use Special Devices and Equipment That are Essential for Their Daily Activities
  • Give Regular Reports about Patient to Occupational Therapists
  • Work to Help Disabled Children and Aid Them in Playing Activities And Games that Can Augment Their Skill and Abilities
  • Work Under Occupational Therapists and Plan Rehabilitation Programs
  • Refer Requests for All the Services of Occupational Therapy to Occupational Therapists
  • Participate In The Evaluation Process by Accumulating Data, Managing Standardized Tests or Objective Measurement and Reporting Observations.
  • Assist Occupational Therapist and IEP to Achieve the Goals and Targets of IEP.
  • Participate and Collaborate in the Preparation, Implementation, and Documentation of the OT Intervention Plan. They are Independent to Choose Treatment Activities and Tasks as Per the Occupational Therapy Intervention Plan.
  • Document Intervention or Therapy Sessions and Outcomes and Discuss with an Occupational Therapist Regarding Students’ Need, Progress and Intervention Plan.
  • Prepare Periodic Progress Reports Properly that is to be reviewed and Co-Signed by an Occupational Therapist.
  • Keep an Eye on Whether Occupational Therapist Co-Signs and Reviews Daily Reports about the Patient or Not.
  • Give Data for Assessment to OT and IEP and Participate With Them for Periodic Review of All the Reports.
  • Give All the Necessary Details and Information to an Occupational Therapist and Assist in Forming a Discharge Plan at the Time of Termination of Occupational Therapy Services.

5. Salary

OT– Occupational therapists earn more than occupational therapy assistants. As per indeed.com, salary of an occupational therapist in the United States was $86,000 as of Jun 28, 2016 (1). Payment of OTs may differ with the place and region where they work.

OTA– In almost all the cases, occupational therapy assistants are paid quite less than occupational therapists. As per indeed.com, salary of an occupational therapy assistant in the United States was $59,000 as of Jun 28, 2016 (2). Income of OTAs may vary up to a wide range depending on various aspects such as location, practice area, and job title.

6. Cost of Education

Occupational therapy assistants require an associate’s degree to practice which costs quite less than bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate’s, and dual degrees that are necessary to become an occupational therapist.

7. Jobs

Since duties and responsibilities of an OT and an OTA are somewhat different from each other, demands and employers of both the professionals may also be distinct. For instance, OTAs are not much into paperwork thus, occupational therapists are hired for such works. In places where physical strength is required, occupational therapy assistants are employed.

8. Growth Opportunities and Future Scopes

OT- Occupational therapists can advance their careers by undertaking administrative duties and responsibilities and supervising occupational therapy assistants and aides. They can also specialize in a clinical setting and gain experience in treating a particular kind of issue, patient, or ailment. They have the choice to gain expertise in many fields such as gerontology, pediatrics, mental health, and physical rehabilitation. Along with this, candidates may also opt for teaching students in accredited school, university, or college degree programs.

OTA– The first and foremost future scope for occupational therapy assistants is to advance their career by gaining higher degrees in occupational therapy to become a licensed occupational therapist. After becoming an OT, they can specialize in a specific field for more advancement of career.

9. License

OT– It is a must for any individual to gain the license in order to practice as an occupational therapist. Candidates need to pass an exam named as Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) conducted by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) (3).

OTA– Occupational therapy assistants are required to gain licensure by passing the Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) Exam. It is also conducted by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).