Occupational Therapy Assistant vs. Physical Therapist Assistant | Brookline College (2023)

Learn the similarities and differences between an Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) and a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA)

Occupational Therapy Assistant vs. Physical Therapist Assistant | Brookline College (1)

OTA versus PTA are both three-letter abbreviations, and only the first letter is different. It’s no wonder these two jobs are often confused with one another. We’ll set you straight on the differences between OTA and PTA careers.

For starters, OTA stands for Occupational Therapy Assistant, while PTA is short for Physical Therapist Assistant. Both are quickly growing medical careers helping patients recover from illness or injury. And both appear on our list ofthe Best Entry-Level Medical Jobs. Not surprisingly, there are many similarities between these two jobs. That’s just one more reason why they are often confused.

This career guide will explain the details of both therapy careers, how they are similar, and how they are unique. After reading, you’ll have a good understanding to tell these jobs apart—and you may even be interested in exploring a career in one of these in-demand fields.

Be sure to read the guides onhow to become an OTAandhow to become a PTAif you want to pursue a career in a rewarding and in-demand field.

(Video) How does an Occupational Therapy Assistant differ from Physical Therapist Assistant

OTA vs. PTA: Definition

What is an OTA?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Therapy Assistants help patients develop, recover, improve, and maintain the skills they need for daily living and working. Your patients might include those with birth defects, autism, spina bifida, or those who have suffered a stroke. This type of therapy is focused on helping patients to remain independent and be able to perform the activities required by their occupation. OTAs work under the direction of Occupational Therapists.

What is a PTA?

The BLS has a similar definition for PTAs, yet the primary focus is different. Physical Therapist Assistants help patients who are recovering from injuries or illnesses in order to regain movement and manage pain. This type of therapy also has the goal of getting patients back to performing full activities, though the type of patient issues may differ. Your patients may be healing from a knee injury, managing back pain, or preparing to return to sports participation. PTAs work under the direction of Physical Therapists.

OTA vs. PTA: Duties & Responsibilities

OTA Responsibilities

What does an OTA do? They work directly with Occupational Therapists to develop and carry out treatment plans for each patient. This plan might include educating, stretching, and teaching patients how to be more independent.

The BLS reports that typical daily OTAs duties include:

  • Helping patients do therapeutic activities, such as stretches and other exercises
  • Leading children who have developmental disabilities in play activities that promote coordination and socialization
  • Encouraging patients to complete activities and tasks
  • Teaching patients how to use special equipment—for example, showing a patient with Parkinson’s disease how to use devices that make eating easier
  • Recording patients’ progress, reporting, and doing other administrative tasks

PTA Responsibilities

What does a PTA do? Under the direction and supervision of Physical Therapists, they help patients recover from injury or illness through exercise, massage, balance training, and other therapeutic interventions.

(Video) Occupational Therapy Assistant

TheBLSlist typical PTA duties like:

  • Observe patients before, during, and after therapy, noting the patient’s status and reporting it to a physical therapist
  • Help patients do specific exercises as part of the plan of care
  • Treat patients using a variety of techniques, such as massage and stretching
  • Use devices and equipment, such as walkers, to help patients
  • Educate patients and family members about what to do after treatment

Occupational Therapy Assistant vs. Physical Therapist Assistant | Brookline College (2)

OTA vs. PTA: Education

OTA Educational Requirements

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) outlines that the first step to obtaining a license as an OTA is to graduate from anACOTE-accredited OTA educational program. Typically, this means earning an associate degree in a two-year program and studying subjects like anatomy, psychology, and pediatric health. Additionally, you’ll need to complete about 16 weeks of fieldwork.

Once completing a program, graduates must apply for and pass the NBCOT® certification exam. This OTA certification will allow you to work in the field. Each state may require additional steps before gaining licensure and starting to work.

PTA Educational Requirements

An associate degree from an accredited program (CAPTE) is also required for those seeking to become a PTA. These programs take about two years to complete, and coursework usually includes subjects like anatomy, kinesiology, and physiology. About 25 percent of your program will be clinical work outside the classroom.

(Video) Occupational Therapy Assistant Program

Once you graduate, the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE®) is the exam you must pass to become a licensed PTA. The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Your state board may require additional licensing steps.

OTA vs. PTA: Salary

How Much Do OTAs Make?

In its most recent data from May of 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average OTA salary* nationwide was about $64,000. The highest 10 percent of OTAs make over $80,000 per year. The five top-paying states for OTAsaverage between $71,930 and $78,100. Nevada holds the top position for average salary. These salary* ranges translate to an hourly rate of between $34.58 and $37.55 per hour.

How Much Do PTAs Make?

The BLS reports that the current average PTA salary* is about $61,000. Like their counterpart, the highest 10 percent of PTAs make over $80,000 annually. The five top-paying states for PTAs average between $68,390 and $73,150, with California leading the way. These salary* ranges translate to an hourly rate of between $32.88 and $35.17 per hour.

OTA vs. PTA: Job Outlook

OTA Job Outlook

Thedemand for OTAsover the next decade is projected to grow at 25 percent, much faster than the average growth of all occupations. Much of this demand will be created by the need to replace workers who move to other occupations or retire.

PTA Job Outlook

Also projected to be very strong, thejob growth for PTAsover the next ten years is expected to grow at 24 percent. It’s anticipated that about 25,500 new openings for Physical Therapist Assistants and aids will occur each year. Much of that growth will also come from those exiting the workforce.

(Video) Physical Therapist Assistant Program Information | Concorde Career College

The Pros & Cons of Becoming an OTA vs. PTA

Both careers offer great salaries and a very favorable job outlook. The differences will appear in some of the daily work that OTAs and PTAs perform. Your preference for the type of work may tip the scales one way or the other as you weigh the pros and cons of each career.

Pros of OTA Cons of OTA
  • Jobs are in high demand
  • Finish your program in 2 years or less
  • Earn a competitive average salary of $61,730
  • Good benefits; mostly weekday work
  • Fewer available positions per year (9,300)
  • Some evening and weekend work
  • High rate of on-the-job injuries and illnesses
  • Requires state licensure
Pros of PTA Cons of PTA
  • Strong job growth and more available positions per year (25,500)
  • Finish your program in 2 years or less
  • Earn a competitive average salary of $61,180
  • Good benefits; mostly weekday work
  • Some evening and weekend work
  • Frequently on feet and vulnerable to back injuries lifting patients
  • Physically demanding career
  • Requires state certification

Occupational Therapy Assistant vs. Physical Therapist Assistant | Brookline College (3)

OTA vs. PTA: Which Career is Best for You?

Whether you pursue a career as an OTA or a PTA may come down to your personal preferences on which type of therapy work most interests you. Both professions are equally rewarding.

You can learn more about ourOccupational Therapy Assistant programif you feel more rewarded for helping people regain their ability to care for themselves and improve their fine motor or cognitive skills.

Or, if you enjoy helping patients recover from common injuries, managing pain, and extending their endurance and range of motion, be sure to read about ourPhysical Therapist Assistant program.

(Video) Learn About Our Physical Therapist Assistant Program | Concorde Career College

Take the time now to consider the type of therapy career you may be most interested in for the long term. This will help you make the best decision for your career.


Occupational Therapy Assistant vs. Physical Therapist Assistant | Brookline College? ›

PTAs will also help patients learn to use adaptive equipment, such as crutches, prosthetics or wheelchairs. In addition, PTAs administer massage therapy and may use ultrasound or hydrotherapy equipment. OTAs will coach patients through performing daily tasks.

What's better PTA or OTA? ›

Both professions offer generous pay. However, OTAs generally have a wider range of responsibilities or career specializations, which allows them to earn more than PTAs.

Is PTA the same as OTA? ›

The goals of PTAs and OTAs both involve assisting patients and therapists. PTAs focus on helping patients regain movement or mobility and manage pain, while OTAs focus on helping patients learn or relearn to do daily activities.

What is an OTA PTA? ›

Occupational Therapist Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant Education Accreditation Program (OTA & PTA EAP) The program is recognized by the Occupational Therapists Assistant and Physiotherapist Assistant Education Accreditation Program as an Affiliated Education Program.

What is the difference between OTA and COTA? ›

What is a COTA? A COTA, or Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, does all the duties of an OTA, but has taken an extra step to get certified in their field. Specifically, they registered with the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and completed the necessary certification exam.

How much does a PTA get paid in College Station? ›

Physical Therapy Assistant Salary in College Station, TX
Annual SalaryHourly Wage
Top Earners$72,084$35
75th Percentile$62,300$30
25th Percentile$45,400$22

What type of PTA makes the most money? ›

Physical therapy assistants' salaries vary based on location and industry. The top 10% of physical therapy assistants and aides earned more than $80,170 in May 2021, according to the BLS. Home healthcare services and nursing care facilities paid the most lucrative salaries.

Are PTA on high demand? ›

PTAs are in high demand, and this is expected to continue through most of this decade. According to the BLS, PTA jobs are expected to grow by 29% through 2029.

Is OTA a good career choice? ›

You will have an In-demand career.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for occupational therapy assistants are expected to grow much faster than average. Having such growth in the field means that you will have a high chance of getting a job.

What is OTA known for? ›

An online travel agency (OTA) arranges and sells accommodations, tours, transportation and trips on an online platform for travelers. They are third parties who sell services on behalf of other companies. Usually, these OTAs offer many benefits with added convenience with more of a self-service approach.

Is an OTA job stressful? ›

OTA is considered to be a lower stress career compared to other health care careers.

What does OTA mean in education? ›

Occupational Therapy Assistants (OTAs) are in Demand

Many students who once thought of majoring in kinesiology, physical therapy assistant, nursing, or other patient-care focused degree programs are seeing the long-term career benefits of going to OTA school.

Can an OTA discharge a patient? ›

No. The occupational therapist must review any information from the occupational therapy assistant(s), determine if goals were met or not, complete and sign the discharge documentation and/or make recommendations for any further needs of the patient in another continuum of care.

Where do otas make the most money? ›

Top Paying States for Occupational Therapy Assistants
  • Nevada. Average Hourly Wage: $37.55. Average Annual Salary: $78,100.
  • California: Average Hourly Wage: $36.10. Average Annual Salary: $75,080.
  • Hawaii: Average Hourly Wage: $35.25. ...
  • New Jersey: Average Hourly Wage: $35.03. ...
  • Delaware: Average Hourly Wage: $34.58.
Jan 4, 2023

Who certifies otas? ›

In order to practice in the United States, you must pass the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) examination. State licensing requirements vary, so make sure to consult your state's occupational therapy regulatory agency.

How many questions is the COTA exam? ›

Candidates have four hours to complete the COTA exam. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice and multi-select items. Each item is presented on the screen one at a time. Some of the items include a picture or chart containing information needed to answer the question.

What OTA setting pays the most? ›

Work in a SNF or Home Health

These are some of the highest paid settings for occupational therapists. Home health can be lucrative, but make sure to strategize so you aren't wasting time commuting all day.

Where do OTAs make the most money? ›

Top Paying States for Occupational Therapy Assistants
  • Nevada. Average Hourly Wage: $37.55. Average Annual Salary: $78,100.
  • California: Average Hourly Wage: $36.10. Average Annual Salary: $75,080.
  • Hawaii: Average Hourly Wage: $35.25. ...
  • New Jersey: Average Hourly Wage: $35.03. ...
  • Delaware: Average Hourly Wage: $34.58.
Jan 4, 2023

What is the highest paying setting for OTA? ›

What type of occupational therapist gets paid the most? According to the BLS, OTs who work in home healthcare get paid the most. The annual mean wage of home health care OTs was $102,640 in 2021.


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