Difference Between Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physical Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy assistant and physical therapy assistant are thought to be the same and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. It is true that both of them are somewhat similar, and there is an overlap of the roles and responsibilities, but there are several differences that make them completely different. Even if you know that these are different occupations and are planning to move into a medical profession, you may be confused with which field to choose among these two.

So, to resolve all the doubts and help you choose the right field, we have summarized the differences below.


First of all, let us talk about the similarities that these professions have.

1. Work Environment

The working environment or the healthcare settings of both the professionals are same. Both of them work in home healthcare facilities, hospitals, physicians office, nursing care facilities, offices of the speech therapist, audiologist, etc. Both of them work in the team having doctors, nurses, and other similar medical professionals.

2. Skills and Qualities

There is no such major difference in the skills and traits required for physical and occupational therapy, and some of them are general and common, like they must be patient, determined, must possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, documentation skills, etc. The person providing these therapies must have organizational and problem-solving skills.

In addition to all the skills, the person providing physical therapy must have excellent physical stamina because they spend most of their time standing and teaching physical exercises to the patients.

Differences Between Occupational Therapy Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant

1. Basic Difference

  • Occupational Therapy Assistant Occupational therapy is a holistic approach that promotes health and helps people perform basic activities throughout the lifespan. It is more focused on making people as independent as possible. The therapy is basically required by people who are physically or mentally impaired, suffering from work-related injury, have developmental disabilities, or after an attack, etc. So, the occupational therapy assistants work on all the aspects, be it physical, mental, or cognitive.
  • Physical Therapy Assistant Physical therapy or physiotherapy, on the other hand, focuses on improving mobility and functioning, eliminating disabilities and impairments, and eventually, ameliorate the quality of life. The therapy generally teaches the patients to get in and out of the bed, stand up, walk, move, etc. This therapy is generally administered to the patients with back pain, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, osteoarthritis, slip disc, etc. So, the students engaged in this profession basically work on improving the physical state of a person.

2. Roles and Responsibilities

Duties of an OTA

  • Help disabled children achieve hand-eye coordination, developing their motor skills, and educating their parents to facilitate the normal development of the child.
  • Provide assistance in day-to-day activities like dressing, eating, bathing, etc.
  • Help the patients return to a normal life after an injury or treatment and surgeries like hip replacement surgery.
  • Modify the home and environment of the patient to enhance safety and improve their level of independence.
  • Monitor the condition and progress of the person undergoing therapy and treatment.
  • Developing strategies and plans to help people overcome health-related mental issues.

Duties of a PTA

  • To prevent the progression of disabilities and impairments that may be caused due to diseases, injuries, disorders, etc.
  • Improve the functional and physical abilities and manage movement dysfunction.
  • Perform tests to identify the problem or to diagnose the disease the person is suffering from.
  • Develop and organize discharge plans.
  • Promote fitness, wellness, and maintain the physical functioning of the body and its parts.

3. Education

  • Occupational Therapy AssistantFor becoming an OTA, the person must complete an associate degree program of 2 years from an accredited school or college. The aspirants must also complete 16 weeks of fieldwork to gain practical experience. In order to be eligible to pursue the course, the students have to study biology and health education in high school.The course comprises of gerontology, intervention techniques, pediatrics, etc.
  • Physical Therapy AssistantFor becoming a PTA, the students must successfully complete an associate degree program (including practical program ) from an accredited institute or school. The course is typically of 2 years (5 semesters), and it comprises of algebra, physiology, English, anatomy, exercise physiology, biomechanics, psychology, etc.The program lasts from a few weeks to several months.

4. License

  • Occupational Therapy AssistantThe program of OTA is licensed by Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, which is a part of American Occupational Therapy Association.Whereas, the examination for the same is conducted and administered by National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

5. Job Outlook

  • Occupational Therapy Assistant The employment opportunities for an OTA is expected to grow by 43 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is greater than the average for all occupations, as bls.com states.
  • Physical Therapy Assistant The job opportunities for physical therapy assistant, according to bls.com, is predicted to grow 41 percent during 2014 to 2024. It is much larger than all the other occupations.

6. Salary

  • Occupational Therapy Assistant The mean annual wage of an occupational therapy assistant, as given by bls.com, is $57,870 (as of May 2015). Whereas, the salary according to payscale.com is between $37,950- $70,800.
  • Physical Therapy Assistant The wages of a PTA are almost similar to that of an OTA, and the mean annual salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $55,170 (May 2015). While, the range of the salary given by payscale is $37,780- $69,278.

7. Advancement

The occupational therapy assistant can further become occupational therapist by obtaining a master’s degree. For this, a few bridge programs are also available, throughout the country.

The physical therapy assistant can advance their career by gaining additional education for a physical therapist.