Occupational Therapy Assistant

Occupational therapy is a health profession, which utilizes every-day life activities to help people of all ages prevent, lessen, or overcome disabilities that interfere with their ability to lead independent and satisfying lives. The occupational therapy assistant, under the supervision of a registered occupational therapist, works in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, rehabilitation facilities, mental health settings, and in community-based intervention.

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Program Offerings: 

  • Full-time (program courses offered one day/week, supported by online assignments during the week, core educational courses offered weekdays, evenings, or online).
  • Part-time, if core requirements have been met elsewhere. A maximum of 30 credits of general education coursework may be transferred from another institution. If all general education coursework is transferred in, it is possible for the student to be part-time (less than 12 credits) during semesters 1 and 3. No prior OTA courses will be accepted from another institution. OTA does not accept advance placement or credit for experiential learning. 
  • Fall and spring start for program courses. For Fall start, all program courses meet on Fridays, for Spring start, all program courses meet on Saturdays. Pre-program core requirements/developmental coursework may begin anytime, fall, spring, or summer semesters. 
  • Clinical component - Semesters I-III, observations at clinical sites, four days a semester. Last semester consists of two eight-week, full-time clinical placements.

Prerequisites for Admission:

  • Minimum combined SAT score of 900
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5
  • Completion of high school level biology course with “C” or better 

Application Requirements:

  • Completed Harcum College Application
  • Official high school transcript or GED transcript. This requirement is waived for applicants who have completed a bachelor's degree, unless specifically requested.
  • Completion of high school level biology course with "C" or better. A college level course may be substituted for a high school level biology course.
  • Minimum combined SAT score of 900 (critical reading and math scores only).
  • Minimum GPA of 2.5.
  • TOEFL scores are required for students for whom English is a second language. An overall TOEFL score of at least 87 is required for the online test with minimums for the individual sections as follows: Writing - 21, Speaking - 23, Reading - 21, and Listening - 22.
  • Official college transcripts, if applicable
  • Written essay (“Why I want to enroll in Harcum’s OTA Program”)
  • Letter of recommendation from an employer, teacher, guidance counselor, etc.
  • Recommended: A minimum of ten volunteer hours in an occupational therapy setting

Application Deadlines 
The priority deadline for the OTA Fall Friday-track program is March 15. The priority deadline for the OTA Spring Saturday-track program is October 15.

Additional Criteria for Accepted Students:
Once students have been accepted into the program, the following additional criteria must be met before enrolling in professional coursework:

  • All OTA students must take placement exams in English, Math, and Reading. Any required developmental coursework must be completed before enrolling in OTA 121.
  • All OTA students must provide proof of the following medical and legal clearances (or of application in progress). Process for submission of these documents will be mailed to students with their admissions packet. All forms are managed electronically via Certified Background (see tuition page for additional fees):
    • Child Abuse Clearance
    • Criminal Record Check
    • FBI Background Check
    • Current (not older than one year) physical exam
    • Documentation of Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and Varicella Immunizations
    • Two-step PPD test (if positive, chest x-ray necessary)
    • Hepatitis B series (at least begun with first of three doses)
    • Tdap Booster (within the past 10 years)
    • Nine panel urine drug screen
  • All OTA students are required to have Accident and Health Insurance throughout their period of enrollment at Harcum.
  • Distance learning technology requirements: During the course of study in the OTA program, there are four Professional Seminar classes that are taught in a distance learning format (online) while all other OTA courses are "web enhanced". Likewise, many core/general education courses are offered online. Each student admitted to the program will be required to have regular access to a computer or other device with access to the internet with audio output. Additional information for online learning at Harcum can be found at harcum.edu/onlineed.

Clinical Experience

Students participate in two levels of fieldwork experiences throughout their enrollment in the OTA program:

Fieldwork Level I is designed to provide students with opportunities to collect data by observing, shadowing and interviewing professionals in the field. The curriculum requires three Fieldwork Level I experiences; each one is taught as part of an "anchor course" in each of the first three semesters and reflects that semester's focus: FW IA General Concepts, FW IB Child/Adolescent Practice, and FW IC Adult/Geriatric Practice. FW Level I is carried out on four one-day placements throughout the semester.

Fieldwork Level II is a hands-on experience, in which fieldwork students gradually assume the roles and responsibilities of an entry-level occupational therapy assistant. Fieldwork Level II experiences consist of two eight-week, full-time (40 hour) placements and follow the facilities' business hours.

All placements are designed by the Fieldwork Coordinator. Selection of placements is guided by the goal of giving students the broadest exposure to the field as possible, including traditional and emerging practice settings.

Traditional settings include acute care hospitals, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, schools, mental health facilities, and other educational/medical facilities. Emerging practice settings are represented by community-based programs, specialty programs, such as driver training or hippotherapy. A clinical instructor from the placement site's staff supervises all fieldwork experiences. Students are responsible for their own transportation to and from the clinical sites.

Essential Functions

Essential Functions are defined as the skills you need to bring into the program in order to be successful as an OTA student. An inability to perform any of the functions listed below - even with accommodations - may indicate that you do not have the prerequisite skills to be successful in this profession and that occupational therapy assisting should not be your field of choice. Call the program director if you have questions.

Physical Factors: Motor Skills

  • Standing (with good balance)
  • Walking
  • Sitting
  • Lifting 100 lbs.
  • Carrying 50 lbs.
  • Pushing/Pulling 100 lbs.
  • Bending
  • Kneeling
  • Crawling
  • Floor sitting
  • Grasping (firm/strong)
  • Grasping (light)
  • Finger dexterity
  • Reaching forward
  • Reaching overhead
  • Coordination of hand, wrist and fingers
  • Eye-hand coordination

Physical Factors: Sensory Perceptual

  • Vision acuity: near/far
  • Vision depth perception
  • Color vision
  • Full field vision
  • Spatial perception (ability to "visualize" objects)
  • Form perception (ability to perceive and recognize shapes)
  • Hear normal conversation
  • Hear telephone conversation
  • Be comfortable with tactile contact
  • Discriminate objects by touch

Physical Factors: Environmental

  • Ability to do indoor work and outdoor work
  • Tolerate exposure to dust, fumes, odors, and toxic or caustic chemicals
  • Being around moving machinery, electricity
  • Exposure to slippery or uneven surfaces
  • Exposure to vibration
  • Wearing of protective clothing (mask, silicone gloves)

Cognitive Factors

  • Reasoning - deal with abstract and concrete variables, define problems, collect data, establish facts, and draw valid conclusions
  • Interpret instructions furnished in oral, written, or schedule form
  • Problem solving - deal with unexpected situations
  • Carry out written or oral one to two-step instructions
  • Ability to remember instructions and carry out tasks over time
  • Ability to generalize instructions from one situation to another
  • Mathematics - add, subtract, multiply, and divide whole numbers and fractions, calculate time, make simple measurements
  • Reading - comprehend manuals, instructions for maintenance of equipment, safety rules and procedures, medical and educational charts
  • Clerical reading - perceive pertinent detail, proofread words and numbers, observe differences in copy
  • Writing - prepare reports using prescribed format, make entries into medical and educational charts
  • Writing - conform to all rules of punctuation, spelling, grammar, and style
  • Work pace - ability to maintain a work pace appropriate to a given workload, including regular attendance at the site
  • Computer Skills - send and receive email, perform a basic web search, participate in online course work. All OTA students must have regular access to a computer with Internet connection.

Social-Emotional and Communication Factors

  • Social Skills - ability to engage in a face-to-face verbal conversation, making eye-contact and using appropriate body language
  • Dependability - effective time management, follow-through on commitments and responsibilities
  • Professional Presentation - presenting oneself in a manner (dress, body language, verbal style) that is accepted by peers, clients, and employers
  • Initiative - self-starting projects, tasks, and communication, searching out answers
  • Empathy - being sensitive, responding to the feelings and behaviors of others
  • Cooperation - working effectively with other individuals
  • Organization - prioritizing needs, tasks, responsibilities, maintaining effective work space
  • Supervision - ability to give and receive constructive feedback and to modify behavior accordingly
  • English Language Proficiency - ability to understand spoken and written English, express self clearly in English, and be easily understood when using the English language.

The occupational therapy assistant program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200 Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, phone: 301-652-2682www.acoteonline.org.

OTA Program Director:
Dr. Michael Gerg, DOT, OTR/L
Academic Center, Room 218
Phone: 610-526-6115