OTA vs. PTA Careers

If you love helping people live more fulfilling lives and working with your hands, a career in healthcare might be something you’re considering. There are many rewarding, fast-growing careers in this field that you can train and study within two years at many academic institutions. Two of these careers include Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) and Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA). Both career paths are similar in some ways but have different goals when it comes to patient care.

OTAs and PTAs both help patients stretch and do exercises, but each serve a different purpose. PTAs are focused on helping patients recover from injuries or illnesses that have limited their ability to move. These exercises help patients regain their range of motion, strength, flexibility, improve balance and coordination, and relieve pain. OTAs are focused on helping patients accomplish tasks, master skills, or to adapt to circumstances that would inhibit them from living their life independently. These circumstances can also include permanent physical, mental, developmental, or other disabilities.

The daily duties of OTAs and PTAs also differ. PTAs guide patients through different exercises, movements and may introduce patients to adaptive equipment to help them recover. They also offer first hand treatment like massage therapy and can recommend other forms of treatments. OTAs help their patients adapt to their permanent injury or illness while comfortably performing activities of daily living like tying shoelaces or feeding oneself.

Both OTAs and PTAs need to have effective communication, problem solving, and motivation skills in order to excel in their fields. PTAs usually focus more on strength and stamina in order to move, lift, and assist their patient through exercise effectively. They also need to have great interpersonal skills in order to make patients feel comfortable even when they’re attempting uncomfortable movements and exercises. In addition to strength and interpersonal skills, OTAs need to be perceptive and creative in order to find ways to help their patients manage situations effectively. OTAs should be able to multitask, be able to adapt to their patient, and need to be attentive to details.

Both fields are valuable and you’re able to work to help patients. If you’re looking for a fulfilling career that offers a flexible schedule a career as an OTA would be right for you. As an OTA, you help people gain their independence and other skills that improve their quality of life. Because of the diversity of treatments, OTAs can work in a lot of different settings that are not limited to hospitals; this can include school clinics, community centers, nursing facilities, and even private homes.

With an average wage of $70,000 in New Jersey1 and an expected employment growth of over 30 percent, Occupational Therapy Assisting is becoming the next big career in healthcare. In 2019, Occupational Therapy Assistants were one of the top 20 highest paid occupations for workers with an associate degree2. And if all this has you picturing a future as an occupational therapy assistant, you don’t need to look far to fulfill your new career aspiration. Eastwick College offers an associate degree in OTA at their Ramsey campus which you can obtain in under two years.

1. Wage information represents median values in 2020 for New Jersey from O*Net Online. Entry level wages may be lower.
2. Based on U.S. News articles of the 25 highest-paying associate degree jobs.