What Is an Occupational Therapy Aide?

Definition & Examples of Occupational Therapy Aide

Occupational Therapy Aide
Vicky Kasala / Stone / Getty Images

An occupational therapy aide prepares materials and equipment for occupational therapists and assistants and may help patients get to and from treatment rooms. They may also perform clerical duties such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, and filing patient records.

Learn more about what an occupational therapy aide does and what it takes to become one.

What Is an Occupational Therapy Aide?

Occupational therapy involves rehabilitating individuals who have lost their ability to perform activities of daily living due to an illness, injury, or disability. Unlike an occupational therapist or an occupational therapy assistant, an occupational therapy aide does not provide direct patient care. Instead, they help facilitate treatment by providing support for those who do.

  • Acronym: OT aide

How an Occupational Therapy Aide Works

Most OT aides work in occupational therapists' offices, nursing care facilities, and hospitals. Although their actual duties may vary depending on their employer, they usually include:

  • Setting up therapy equipment
  • Preparing treatment areas, including cleaning the areas and equipment
  • Wrapping up after treatments by cleaning, putting away equipment, and gathering laundry
  • Transporting patients
  • Taking inventory of equipment and materials to ensure adequate supply
  • Performing clerical tasks, including filing, scheduling appointments, and answering calls and emails
  • Helping patients with billing and insurance forms

Often, occupational therapy aides need to be able to lift, transfer, and transport patients safely. They also need to be able to handle medical equipment and work with technology such as computers and software systems.

Occupational therapy aides earned a median annual salary of $29,230 or $16.50 per hour in 2019.

Requirements for Occupational Therapy Aides

To get an entry-level position as an OT aide, you will need a high school or equivalency diploma. Your employer will provide on-the-job training that will last from a few days to a few weeks that will include how to set up equipment and keep treatment rooms germ-free.

Soft skills OT aides usually need to succeed in this field include:

  • Active listening: Strong listening skills will allow you to understand, and therefore, follow instructions from occupational therapists and assistants. It will also help you care for your patients.
  • Verbal communication: You must be able to clearly convey information to your colleagues and patients.
  • Interpersonal skills: In addition to excellent listening and speaking skills, you must be able to understand non-verbal cues, coordinate your actions with others, and show empathy and sympathy.
  • Service orientation: You must have a desire to help people.
  • Detail orientation: Attention to detail is imperative, especially when it comes to following therapists' instructions, keeping treatment rooms clean and tidy, and helping patients complete forms.

Occupational Therapy Aides vs. Occupational Therapist Assistants

Occupational Therapy Aides

Occupational Therapy Assistants
Not directly involved with patient care

Assist patients with therapeutic activities

Need at least high school diploma or equivalent Need an associate's degree from an accredited training program
Not required to be licensed or registered Must be licensed or registered by the state in which they work

OT aides and assistants differ from one another significantly regarding their educational requirements and job duties. Occupational therapist assistants help patients do therapeutic activities under an occupational therapist's supervision. OT aides are responsible only for tasks that are indirectly related to patient care.

OT aides need only a high school or equivalency diploma while OT assistants must earn at least an associate's degree from an accredited training program. OT assistants must be licensed or registered by the state in which they want to work, but there is no such requirement for aides. 

If you're interested in becoming an occupational therapist or OT assistant, then becoming an OT aide can be a good way to get to know the field and decide whether it's for you before committing to more schooling.

Key Takeaways

  • Occupational therapy aides, or OT aides, provide support to those who provide occupational therapy to patients.
  • They don't treat patients, but they do set up treatment areas and equipment and provide other needed support to OTs and OT assistants.
  • To become an OT aide, you will need a high school or equivalency diploma.
  • OT aides differ greatly from OT assistants in the duties they perform and the amount of schooling required.