Occupational Therapy Assistant


Program Description
There have been dramatic shifts in U.S. population as a result of an increased average life span. This phenomenon, along with advances in science, technology, wellness, and medicine has brought occupational therapy into the forefront of the health care field.  The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected employment of occupational therapists to increase by 18% and of occupational therapy assistants to increase by 31% between 2018 and 2028.  United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports a 2018 median annual income of $60,220 for occupational therapy assistants.

The Occupational Therapy Assistant curriculum prepares entry-level occupational therapy assistants to work in community and institutional health care programs, providing direct and consultative occupational therapy services to individuals, groups, communities, and populations.

The Occupational Therapy Assistant curriculum combines Occupational Therapy Assistant and general education courses with selected laboratory experiences.  Program courses cover theory and application of theory, development across the lifespan (birth to death), therapeutic use of self, pediatric/adult/and geriatric patient/client treatment, physical disabilities/mental health, research, evidence-based practice, technology and documentation.  The Occupational Therapy specific classes are complemented with general studies in anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, and English composition.  Although the Occupational Therapy Assistant curriculum is designed to be completed in two academic years, students may take a longer time to fulfill their degree requirements, depending on individual circumstances.

In the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program, students receive instruction in theory and develop practical skills relating to occupational therapy through classroom, laboratory and fieldwork settings. Through second year course work, students participate in fieldwork practice settings to include general physical medicine and psychiatric centers, developmental disabilities, schools, nursing homes and community agencies. In these experiences, students work with and teach patients and clients methods for engagement in self-care, work, play/leisure, education, social skills, rest/sleep, and home/community living skills.

Technical Ability Standards do exist for the OTA Program and they are a reality of the profession.  However, due to the diversity of occupational therapy practice areas, OTA Education lends itself toward attracting students of diverse abilities.  The Erie Community College OTA Program is committed to the notion of dis-ABILITY as diversity.  Provided a student has the capacity to successfully navigate the program, graduate, and pass their certification exam, it is our goal to provide reasonable accommodations to facilitate every student's success.  Please read, "Special Admission Requirements/Pre-requisites:  Technical Ability Standards," as listed below for more information.

Program Details

Campus: North

HS biology, psychology, anatomy and physiology, algebra, geometry, statistics and probability, physics, English and writing, as well as volunteer experience in a health care setting.

Pre-Admission Recommendations: High school average of 80%
College transfer of 2.8 GPA within 5 years of prospective admission
Completion of developmental English and math or placement test waiver.

In addition to the requirements of the SUNY Erie Admissions Department which includes an application indicating OTA as the program of choice for the semester of interest, transcripts, and Placement Testing or waiver, OTA applicants must also meet special admission requirements.  All applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Department to check the status of their application and verify receipt of all required documents (transcripts, entrance essay, proof of shadow hours).  All intended majors are encouraged to make sure that they communicate with the Admissions Department to add an OTA Program focus.

Applicants should have an 80 percent or above high school average within five years of prospective admission for applicants without any college credit.  Should an individual only have high school GPA information older than 5 years, they need to establish an undergraduate college GPA with at least some of the OTA general education courses.

A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8 is required for all undergraduate colleges attended within five years of prospective admission.  Should an individual only have undergraduate college GPA information older than 5 years, overall undergraduate college GPA will be considered.

Applicants will comply with the college's math and English competency requirement, as well as complete developmental course-work prior to admission into the program.

  • Applicants must pass the SUNY Erie Math Placement Test with an Algebra Test score of 40 or higher, unless waived from taking the test.  (If not successful, applicant must complete and pass MT 006.  Any math developmental course must be successfully completed with a minimum passing grade of "C".  Developmental courses may be repeated only once, including grades of "W" (withdrawal).
  • Applicants must pass the SUNY Erie English Placement Test at the EN 110/EN 100 level or above unless waived from taking the test.  Any English developmental course must be successfully completed with a minimum passing grade of "C".  Developmental courses may be repeated only once, including grades of "W" (withdrawal).

Submission of an entrance essay (formal, typed paper, with a title page) addressing all of the following (name typed on all pages of your document):

  • Demonstrate research into the field of Occupational Therapy by describing the roles and responsibilities of an Occupational Therapy Assistant in two diverse areas of practice.  Identify, compare, and contrast the roles and responsibilities of the OTA and OT.
  • Describe plan for balancing personal life and academic responsibilities to optimize ability to be successful in this rigorous program of study.
  • Describe personal attributes, accomplishments, and experiences that will contribute most to effectiveness and success as an Occupational Therapy Assistant.
  • Explain reasons for entering the field at the Occupational Therapy Assistant level.  Entry point degrees for the field of Occupational Therapy are as an Occupational Therapist and as an Occupational Therapy Assistant.  Provide reasons for pursing the OTA degree.

Complete 15 hours (minimally) of observation, volunteering or shadowing in an occupational therapy area of practice. Complete and submit the College provide form (see Department Webpage link). This form will be uploaded through part of your online application. Applicants may distribute observation/shadowing hours across two areas of practice.

Special Admission Requirements/Prerequisites
Technical Ability Standards
"Technical ability standards" for the Erie Community College Occupational Therapy Assistant Student are essential functions or abilities required to meet the physical and intellectual demands of an OTA student while participating in the program. Technical ability standards can be met with or without reasonable accommodations. Students must demonstrate good physical endurance and good health. Sufficient physical strength is required for lifting and moving the human patient in a clinical setting. Additional required skills for a clinical setting include: visual observation of patients and clients in treatment sessions; manipulation and handling of therapy equipment; and ability to demonstrate cognitive skills relative to problem solving, clinical reasoning and handling stress. If you have any concerns that you might not meet these standards, please contact the OTA Department to set up an appointment for advisement. Additionally, as a student of the SUNY Erie OTA Program, students must conduct themselves in a professional manner adhering to the American Occupational Therapy Association Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice, client rights, and confidentiality.

Introduction of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of SUNY Erie Community College's services, programs or activities or be subjected to discrimination by SUNY Erie. The term "qualified individual with a disability" means an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or for participation in programs or activities. Students must be able to perform the essential functions of the program in order to meet certain minimum academic and technical standards.

Essential Functions as needed for typical program success:
Motor Capability:

  • Move from room to room and maneuver in small spaces
  • Transfer patients who may require physical assistance
  • Guard and assist patients with ambulation
  • Perform exercise techniques, including applying resistance during exercise. Therapeutically handle patients
  • Lift and carry up to 50 pounds, and exert up to 100 pounds force for push/pull
  • Squat, crawl, bend/stoop, reach above shoulder level, kneel, use standing balance, and climb stairs
  • Use hands repetitively; use manual dexterity. Ability to use fine skilled movements such as finger dexterity and eye-hand coordination, for effective tool use, dressing, personal hygiene, grooming, cooking, and communicating
  • Adjust, apply, and clean therapeutic equipment
  • Perform CPR
  • Travel to and from academic and clinical sites
  • In the average clinical day, students sit 1-2 hours, stand 6-7 hours, travel 1-3 hours

Sensory Capability:

  • Coordinate verbal and manual instruction
  • Assess a patient from a distance that allows visual observation of patient posture, response to treatment, and interpretation/assessment of the environment
  • Respond to a timer, alarm, or cries for help
  • Monitor vital signs
  • Auditory, visual, and tactile abilities sufficient to assess patient status and perform treatment (including seeing skin color changes, seeing facial expressions and non-verbal communication, hearing heart/lung sounds, and feeling for muscle contractions/to discriminate hot vs. cold/to fabricate splints)
  • Ability to effectively attend to multiple features of a task, personal interaction, and/or group to include ability to selectively focus and attend to key features, use divided and alternating attention between two or more features in a quick and safe manner

Communication Ability:

  • Communicate effectively in English with patients, families, and other health care providers, both in person and through documentation (including explaining treatment procedures, teaching patients and families, documenting in charts)
  • Effectively adapt communication for intended audience
    Interact, and establish rapport with individuals, families, and groups from a variety of social, emotional, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds
  • Assume the role of a health care team member
    Function effectively under supervision and effectively communicate with supervisor

Problem Solving Ability:

  • Function effectively under stress
  • Respond appropriately to emergencies
  • Adhere to infection control procedures
  • Demonstrate problem-solving skills in patient care (including reasoning, prioritizing, and synthesizing data or information)
  • Use sound judgement and safety precautions
  • Address problems or questions to the appropriate person at the appropriate time
  • Organize and prioritize job tasks, materials, and schedule
  • Follow policies and procedures required by clinical and academic settings

Social-Emotional Capability and Professionalism: 
Ability to use effective work ethic skills to include attendance, punctuality, positive work attitude, respect, cooperation, teamwork, professional manners, productivity appropriate to course and job role requirements and to work with persons of diverse backgrounds.

Computer/Technological/Information Literacy:

  • Ability to use basic computer (word processing/PowerPoint/Excel), electronic communication and on-line course skills on a regular basis
  • Ability to access, evaluate, and use a variety of information resources such as library services, electronic catalogs, and databases in an efficient, ethical, and legal manner

SUNY Erie OTA seeks to create an inclusive learning environment.  If there are aspects of the curriculum that result in barriers to a student's inclusion, they are strongly encouraged and invited to notify the Department Head.  Our program mission involves serving our students which means making course materials accessible and fostering student success.  Students taking classes in the Occupational Therapy Department at Erie Community College who are considering requesting reasonable accommodations or academic adjustments are encouraged to contact Students Access Center at 716-851-1487.

The need for adaptations within the typical OTA program as determined by essential functions may preclude specific OT practice areas for fieldwork placement.  For example, an individual who cannot lift and carry up to 50 pounds or exert up to 100 pounds of push/pull force would not be best suited for a traditional clinic-based adult physical disabilities fieldwork placement.  For another example, an individual who does not possess the sensory-motor skills to fabricate an arm/hand splint would not be eligible for fieldwork placement in hand therapy/orthotics.  Due to the diverse practice areas of occupational therapy, placement is possible in mental health settings, as well as emerging practice areas.

It is strongly recommended that interested students meet with a Health Sciences Admission Counselor as admission into the program is based on academic qualifications and space availability.  Students with an OTA focus should meet with OTA Department Head for advisement and for consideration of transfer credit.  Acceptance into General Studies does not guarantee future entrance into the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is housed at North Campus and admits students in the Fall Semester only. Application deadline is February 15. All pieces of the application packet must be submitted by the deadline of February 15 (online application, high school and all college transcripts, entrance essay, and proof of shadowing hours as specified above).

Meeting program admission requirements does NOT guarantee acceptance into the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. Viable candidates are invited for group interviews to help determine final selection for admission. Admission is based on the academic qualifications of the student (transcript rubric, entrance essay rubric) as well as soft skills of the candidate (as determined through interview rubric). Admission is also based on space availability.

If an applicant is not selected for admission, they must submit another application packet for the following Admission term to be reconsidered. Applicants re-applying must submit an entrance essay and proof of shadowing hours for each time that they apply to the Program. Shadowing hours are good for up to 1 year from the application deadline.

SUNY Erie OTA does not have a waiting list. If an accepted applicant declines their seat, the Department will contact the next most qualified candidate based on rubric scores.

An Associate in Applied Science degree is granted to each student who successfully completes all coursework and all fieldwork. The student must also demonstrate proficiency in algebra with a minimum placement test score of 40 for the Algebra Test.

New York State licensure is required for employment in New York State. Upon graduation from the program, an individual is eligible to apply to take the NBCOT OTA Certification Exam and to apply for licensure.  All states in the U.S. require state licensure. Separate applications for state licensure must be filed within that state.  Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination and attain state licensure.

New York State DOES require passing of the National Certification Exam (NBCOT) for employment in New York State. A final, official transcript indicating confirmation for an Associate in Applied Science degree (A.A.S.) in Occupational Therapy Assistant must be submitted to NBCOT as part of the application process for the national certification exam.

Retention Data and Results of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Exam

Admit/Graduation Year

Program Graduates 

Graduation Rate

New Test Takers

Passed Exam

Passed Exam (%)




(13 graduates/22 admits)







(17 graduates/24 admits)







(19 graduates/24 admits)







(X graduates/21 admits)







(X graduates/23 admits)







(X graduates/19 admits)











*TBD=To be determined
**Graduation Rate includes both 2 and 3 year track students.

Program results from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) can be found online at https://secure.nbcot.org/data/schoolstats.aspx.

Website for NBCOT: www.nbcot.org

Website for NYSED-Office of the Professions regarding licensure/authorization/permit to practice: http://www.op.nysed.gov/

New York State prides itself in the high quality of its licensed and certified professionals.  For the protection of its citizens, each license and certificate has requirements that individuals must meet in order to be licensed or certified in New York State.  SUNY’s academic programs leading to licensure or certification are carefully designed to meet and exceed these State requirements. This is a role SUNY plays in protecting the public.  Other states frequently have their own requirements, so if your goal is to practice in another state, the following disclosure statement will help you check to see what that state requires.

Per U.S. Federal Regulations, §668.43 (2019 Rule), and in compliance with the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA) Manual version 19.2, SUNY ERIE Community College OTA Program provides the following disclosure statement related to the educational requirements for professional licensure and certification:

SUNY Erie’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is an ACOTE accredited occupational therapy assistant educational program.  The Program also meets the educational requirements by the Board of Regents in New York State to award an Associate in Applied Science Degree (AAS) with a major in occupational therapy assistant.

ACOTE® accredited occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant educational programs satisfy the states' educational requirements in all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Students graduating from an ACOTE® accredited occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant educational program are eligible to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification exam and apply for licensure in all states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. For more information regarding state qualifications and licensure requirements, please refer to the AOTA State Licensure webpage: https://acoteonline.org/about/

The program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, Maryland 20852-4929.
ACOTE: 301-652-AOTA
AOTA: www.aota.org

Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy assistant administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination and attain state licensure.


For more information:
Evelyn Post-Dunn, North Campus
Room K122B
6205 Main Street
Williamsville, NY 14221
(716) 851-1320