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Degree Overview

Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant

OTA students learning in classroom setting
Compassionate Care: Occupational Therapy Assistant Overview at South University

South University’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program prepares qualified students to pursue becoming occupational therapy assistants*. Occupational therapy assistants (OTA) work with people across their lifespan to help patients perform meaningful and purposeful daily activities. Occupational therapy assistants work with people of all ages who have physical, psychological, or developmental conditions to promote health, well-being, and their ability to participate in the important activities in their life. This includes taking care of themselves and their families, working, volunteering, and going to school, among many others. OTAs do this through activities such as crafts, games, cooking and provide Activities in Daily Living (ADL) care such as dressing, bathing, and self-feeding.

It is up to each student to review the national and state licensure requirements for licensure, as well as the eligibility criteria to sit for licensure exams. South University cannot guarantee each graduate will pass the required licensure examinations. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University. Students must pass the required licensure to work in their respective field.

NBCOT Certification Exam Program performance data on the NBCOT certification examination is available for public viewing by state and program level: https://www.nbcot.org/Educators-Folder/SchoolPerformance.

*South University does not promise or guarantee employment or salary amounts.

Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Columbia 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, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-6611. https://www.acoteonline.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, most 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 or attain state licensure.

Accreditation Status: Probationary Accreditation

The occupational therapy assistant program at South University-Columbia, Columbia, South Carolina, was placed on Probationary Accreditation effective April 22, 2023, because the area of noncompliance related to 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate) is so serious that the capability of the program to provide acceptable educational experiences for the students is threatened. In addition, based on review of the 2023 Annual Report, ACOTE determined that the program was in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes). ACOTE voted to grant the program’s request to extend the time frame for compliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 until August 2024.

At its August 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the Plan of Correction and Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program returned to compliance with 2018 OTA Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes). However, the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.

On October 9-10, 2023, ACOTE conducted a fact-finding visit of the program to further assess compliance with the Standards.

At its December 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the results of the fact-finding visit and the Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). In addition, based on review of the results of the fact-finding visit, ACOTE determined that the program is in noncompliance with 2018 Standards A.1.5 (notification requirements), A.2.2 (faculty composition), A.2.3 (faculty qualifications), A.2.9 (sufficient faculty), A.2.12 (adequate space), A.2.15 (distance education), A.3.7 (faculty advising), A.4.1 (program publications), A.4.2 (published program outcomes), A.5.5 (curriculum design), A.5.7 (written syllabi and assessment strategies), A.6.1 (strategic plan), A.6.2 (professional development plans), A.6.3 (program evaluation), and course content (B.4.4 and B.4.18). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.

The program has been requested to submit a Plan of Correction and Progress Report to return the program to full compliance with the Standards within the mandated time period for correction.

Admission Requirements

Procedure for Admission into the Professional Phase of the Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant Program

Admission into the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program is a two-step process:
  1. Candidates are eligible to enter the general education phase of the OTA program as “OTA students” by meeting South University’s General Undergraduate Admission Requirements.
  2. Candidates must complete prerequisite coursework and meet all requirements outlined below to be eligible for admission to the professional phase of the OTA program.

Students may transfer prerequisite courses into the program before entering the professional phase if approved by the registrar. The coursework that is transferred to South University must permit the student to obtain a 2.85 CGPA by the time the student applies for admission into the OTA professional phase. Students who transfer coursework into South University but cannot mathematically attain a CGPA of 2.85 by the time they would enter the professional phase will not be admitted to the OTA program.

Transfer credit will not be accepted for South University courses with an OTA prefix.

Note: This policy does not apply to South University OTA students (in good standing) transferring between campuses.

Admission Requirements for the Professional Phase of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program

Applicants must apply for admission into the professional phase of the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program. Applicants must submit a complete application packet and meet all admission requirements as stated below to enter the ranking process. The professional phase slots will be filled by applicants with the greatest academic potential for success as determined by the ranking process. Applicants with the highest numerical ranking will be admitted to the professional phase of the program.

The criteria to determine admission to the OTA program include:

  1. Application must be submitted seven (7) weeks prior to the start of the professional phase of the program.
  2. Applicants must meet the Essential Functions of the OTA program.
  3. Applicants must have a minimum grade of ‘C’ or above in all prerequisites, except for the following course, in which students must achieve a minimum grade of ‘B’ or above: OTA1003 Introduction to Occupational Therapy Assistant. (OTA1001 Introduction to Occupational Therapy is an acceptable substitution.)
  4. Applicants must achieve a minimum CGPA of 2.85 or greater in prerequisite coursework. All prerequisite coursework must be successfully completed prior to entry into the Professional Phase of the OTA program.

Applicants must have successfully completed the following courses in the past seven years from the intended start date of the Professional Phase of the OTA program: Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology I (lecture and lab) and Anatomy and Physiology II (lecture and lab). Applicants must have successfully completed OTA1003 Introduction to Occupational Therapy Assistant in the past two years from the intended start of the Professional Phase of the OTA Program. (OTA1001 Introduction to Occupational Therapy is an acceptable substitution.)

Ranking of Applicants for Admission into the Professional OTA Curriculum will be based upon the following criteria:

  1. Cumulative GPA in required prerequisite coursework (2.85 or greater required).
  2. Science GPA (2.0 or greater required). Science coursework will not be accepted if greater than 7 years old.
    1. AHS1001 Medical Terminology
    2. BIO1011 Anatomy and Physiology I
    3. BIO1012 Anatomy and Physiology I Lab
    4. BIO1013 Anatomy and Physiology II
    5. BIO1014 Anatomy and Physiology II Lab

NOTE: If a qualified student is not accepted or if a student is unable to matriculate into the Professional OTA Curriculum, they may use that same application to apply into the next cohort on that same campus within one year from the date of application submission. After that time, the student must apply as a new student.

Essential Functions for the OTA Program

The following are considered to be essential functions related to the profession of occupational therapy to be successful in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program and in future employment as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).

It is the responsibility of the OTA Program at South University to inform students considering a career as a COTA about the essential functions required both in the academic program and in the workforce. Factors and requirements will vary, depending on the specific area of practice and work setting.

Students must demonstrate safe and continuous application of these essential functions or of any and all others that are integral to the success of the OTA student and future occupational therapy practitioner. Students will display professional behaviors, assess their own performance with respect to the behaviors, and be ready to make behavioral changes as directed by academic and clinical faculty.

In addition, the OTA Progressions Committee may become involved in issues related to a student's performance of the essential functions. The OTA Progressions Committee may make recommendations to the OTA Program Director that result in, but are not limited to, a lower course grade, the creation of a remediation plan, exclusion from a course, dismissal from a Level I or Level II Fieldwork experience, professional behavior probation or dismissal from the OTA program and/or South University.

Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.A. Section 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination against "otherwise qualified" persons with a disability. South University provides accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. The Disability Services office assists qualified students with disabilities in acquiring reasonable and appropriate accommodations.

All students must demonstrate competency in the following essential functions related to the profession of occupational therapy:

Behavioral/Emotional Functions

Adaptation: The ability to respond with flexibility to change or difference.

Emotional Stability: The ability to control one's own emotions, differentiate between different emotions and identify each appropriately; use emotions to guide thinking and direct behavior.

Interpersonal Skills: The ability to interact effectively with others.

Safety: Maintain the well-being of others in compliance with policies and procedures.

Ethics: The ability to distinguish between right and wrong, to comply with authority and with policies and procedures.

Professional Behavior and Appearance: The ability to adjust behavior and appearance in response to given circumstances.

Cognitive Functions

Critical Thinking: The ability to define and resolve issues by asking questions, gathering and analyzing information.

Time Management: The ability to identify and prioritize tasks to be accomplished and maintain work pace appropriate to given work load.

Math, Reading Comprehension: The ability to apply basic math functions, calculate time and simple measurements; comprehend written words.

Perception: The ability to be aware of things in relation to others and to discriminate between those relationships.

Communication Functions

Verbal: The ability to speak using the English language, clearly communicating and clarifying information.

Written: The ability to communicate legibly and concisely in English, using proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, style and formatting.

Listening, Comprehending, Responding: The ability to hear, understand and respond appropriately to what was communicated.

Sensory Functions

Hearing: The auditory ability to detect sound within 10 feet away, sufficient to monitor clients and interact with others.

Touch: The ability to come into physical contact with something and perceive that it is there.

Vision: The ability to look at and see something or someone close-up and from a distance greater than 20 feet, noting verbal and nonverbal postures or behaviors.

Physical Functions

Fine motor dexterity: The ability to coordinate small muscle groups during movement, usually involving coordination between the hands, fingers and eyes to manipulate small objects.

Gross motor skills: The ability to coordinate large muscle groups to move and to stabilize the head, trunk, arms and legs to reach, lift, push, pull, stand, balance, walk, run, bend, kneel and crouch; possess minimum grip strength of 30 pounds in one or both hands, and the ability to stand up to 30 minutes at a time, push up to 250 pounds and lift/transfer up to 250 pounds.

Mobility: The ability to independently move easily from point A to point B.

Endurance: The ability to exert self and remain active for a long period of time (e.g., 45 minutes); stamina.

Environmental Functions

Working conditions: The ability to recognize, avoid and prevent safety and health hazards in the work setting.

For additional admissions information please see the admissions section here.

ACOTE’s Disclosure Statement regarding Probationary Accreditation Action:

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Tampa are 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, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE's telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA, and its web address is
http://www.acoteonline.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 or attain state licensure. More information on ACOTE may be obtained at
http://www.acoteonline.org.

The occupational therapy assistant program at South University-Columbia, Columbia, South Carolina, was placed on Probationary Accreditation effective April 22, 2023, because the area of noncompliance related to 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate) is so serious that the capability of the program to provide acceptable educational experiences for the students is threatened. In addition, based on review of the 2023 Annual Report, ACOTE determined that the program was in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes).

ACOTE voted to grant the program’s request to extend the time frame for compliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 until August 2024.

At its August 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the Plan of Correction and Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program returned to compliance with 2018 OTA Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes). However, the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.

On October 9-10, 2023, ACOTE conducted a fact-finding visit of the program to further assess compliance with the Standards.

At its December 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the results of the fact-finding visit and the Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). In addition, based on review of the results of the fact-finding visit, ACOTE determined that the program is in noncompliance with 2018 Standards A.1.5 (notification requirements), A.2.2 (faculty composition), A.2.3 (faculty qualifications), A.2.9 (sufficient faculty), A.2.12 (adequate space), A.2.15 (distance education), A.3.7 (faculty advising), A.4.1 (program publications), A.4.2 (published program outcomes), A.5.5 (curriculum design), A.5.7 (written syllabi and assessment strategies), A.6.1 (strategic plan), A.6.2 (professional development plans), A.6.3 (program evaluation), and course content (B.4.4 and B.4.18). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.

The program has been requested to submit a Plan of Correction and Progress Report to return the program to full compliance with the Standards within the mandated time period for correction.

Career Outlook

Areas of practice for OTA's include pediatrics, mental health, physical disabilities, and geriatrics, working with people who have cancer, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, musculoskeletal, neurologic, neuromuscular, orthopedic, sensory conditions, and more.

Practice settings include but are not limited to acute care hospitals, rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, public and private school systems, and private practice.

Certification

Requirements

If you are interested in pursuing a career as an occupational therapy assistant, you must have a high school diploma or equivalent and an associate’s degree from an accredited program offering the occupational therapy assistant curriculum. Individuals graduating from the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University will graduate with an Associate of Science degree.

Once all academic and fieldwork requirements are completed, students apply to take a national certification exam that is administered online by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Program performance data on the NBCOT certification examination is available for public viewing by state and program level: https://www.nbcot.org/Educators-Folder/SchoolPerformance.

Upon successful completion of this exam, individuals may use the designation COTA following their name. NBCOT re-certifies occupational therapy practitioners every three years and has set continuing education requirements as part of that process.

The practice of occupational therapy is regulated in all 50 states; different states have various types of regulation that range from licensure, the strongest form of regulation, to title protection or trademark law, the weakest form of regulation.

Be sure to contact the licensing department in your intended state of practice to obtain the appropriate information specific to you.

The Web site address for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) is http://www.nbcot.org/.

Columbia OTA Performance Data on NBCOT Certification Exam

Program performance data on the NBCOT certification examination is available for public viewing by state and program level: https://www.nbcot.org/Educators-Folder/SchoolPerformance.

 

Course Requirements

Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant: 109 Credits

For students enrolled prior to January 2024.

Offered at Columbia and Tampa.

Area I General Education Requirements: 32 Credits
Basic Communications
ENG1100 Composition I 4.0 Credit Hours
ENG1200 Composition II 4.0 Credit Hours

Choose one additional course from the list below:

Mathematics and Statistics Choose one:
MAT1001 College Algebra I 4.0 Credit Hours
MAT1005 College Algebra II 4.0 Credit Hours
Natural Sciences

(must be taken concurrently)

(must be taken concurrently)

Social and Behavioral Sciences
PSY1001 General Psychology 4.0 Credit Hours
Area II: Foundation Requirements: 11 Credits
Associate of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant: 109 Credits

For students enrolled January 2024 and after.

Offered at Columbia and Tampa.

Area I General Education Requirements: 32 Credits
Basic Communications
ENG1100 Composition I 4.0 Credit Hours
ENG1200 Composition II 4.0 Credit Hours
Mathematics and Statistics
MAT1001 College Algebra I 4.0 Credit Hours
Natural Sciences

(must be taken concurrently)

(must be taken concurrently)

Arts and Humanities
Social and Behavioral Sciences
PSY1001 General Psychology 4.0 Credit Hours
Area II: Foundation Requirements: 11 Credits

Cost of Attendance

Cost of Attendance

To view the South University, Columbia OTA program cost of attendance, please click HERE.

Graduation Rates

Graduation Rate for OTA Program at South University, Columbia

The total number of graduates from the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Columbia during the three-year period of 2021-2023 was 31, with an overall graduation rate of 79%.

Graduation Year Number of Students Entering Program  Number of Students Graduating Program  Graduation Rate 
2021 19 15 79%
2022
11 10 91%
2023 9 8 89%

Program results from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) can be found online at https://www.nbcot.org/Educators-Folder/SchoolPerformance.

 NOTE: This information is posted in compliance with ACOTE Standard A.4.2. Accurate and current information regarding student and program outcomes must be readily available to the public on the program’s Web page.  At a minimum, the following data must be reported for the previous 3 years: Total number of program graduates and graduation rates.

NOTE: Graduation rate is determined by dividing the number of students newly enrolled in a cohort of the Professional OTA Program by the number of students in that cohort who successfully complete degree requirements within 150% of the published length of the Professional OTA Curriculum, which includes time enrolled.

 

Outcomes

The occupational therapy assistant works under the supervision of the occupational therapist to help individuals regain or accommodate to decreased range of motion, muscle strength, coordination, perception and activities of daily living, which includes dressing, eating, toileting, hygiene and home management.

The Associate of Applied Science and the Associate of Science degrees in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) degree program are dedicated to providing educational opportunities of the intellectual, social and professional development of a diverse student population. Through its carefully balanced and sequenced curricular design over eight quarters or nine quarters, the Occupational Therapy Assistant program is designed to prepare qualified graduates to seek entry-level employment as occupational therapy practitioners. The program prepares students with knowledge and skills for competent entry-level practice in a variety of contexts for an ever-changing world. The Occupational Therapy Assistant program further seeks to lead the profession and community through its contributions in educational leadership, community and professional service, lifelong learning, and scholarship.

The Professional Phase of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program is delivered on campus at each of the campuses where the program is offered. It is offered on the Virginia Beach campus in two modalities: fully campus-based with the 8 Quarter curriculum or blended with the 9 Quarter curriculum. Students enrolled in the blended modality meet face-to-face in the classroom and asynchronously online over the 11-week term.

Program Student Learning Outcomes

The OTA program goals address student competency in the following areas

  1. Prepare occupational therapy assistants who appreciate and adapt to diverse and alternative cultures, settings, systems, processes, and ideas. (adaptation thread)
  2. Foster student skill in accessing relevant literature and information, using research-based evidence to make informed decisions in occupational therapy practice. (information literacy thread)
  3. Cultivate student skill in effective critical thinking, problem-solving, and clinical reasoning with clients across the lifespan in diverse practice settings. (critical thinking thread)
  4. Foster development of student's communication skills to promote effective, appropriate interaction with all stakeholders. (professionalism thread)
  5. Instill in the student the values, attitudes and behaviors consistent with the occupational therapy profession's philosophy, standards and ethics. (professionalism thread)
  6. Provide the student with opportunities to acquire skills in advocacy for the profession of occupational therapy to other professionals, service providers, consumers, third-party payers, regulatory bodies, professional associations and the public. (professionalism thread)
  7. Provide the student with a challenging curriculum is designed to prepare graduates to deliver occupational therapy assistant services with entry-level competency under the supervision of an occupational therapist in a variety of practice settings. (professionalism and critical thinking threads)
  8. Impart to the student a passion for lifelong professional development to meet changing societal needs. (lifelong learning thread)
  9. Provide ongoing opportunities for stakeholders in the OTA program to have input into the development and evaluation of the OTA program to ensure the program remains true to its mission and philosophy. (information literacy thread)

Accreditation

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Tampa are 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, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE's telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA, and its web address is
http://www.acoteonline.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 or attain state licensure. More information on ACOTE may be obtained at
http://www.acoteonline.org.

The occupational therapy assistant program at South University-Columbia, Columbia, South Carolina, was placed on Probationary Accreditation effective April 22, 2023, because the area of noncompliance related to 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate) is so serious that the capability of the program to provide acceptable educational experiences for the students is threatened. In addition, based on review of the 2023 Annual Report, ACOTE determined that the program was in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes). ACOTE voted to grant the program’s request to extend the time frame for compliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 until August 2024.

At its August 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the Plan of Correction and Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program returned to compliance with 2018 OTA Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes). However, the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.

On October 9-10, 2023, ACOTE conducted a fact-finding visit of the program to further assess compliance with the Standards.

At its December 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the results of the fact-finding visit and the Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). In addition, based on review of the results of the fact-finding visit, ACOTE determined that the program is in noncompliance with 2018 Standards A.1.5 (notification requirements), A.2.2 (faculty composition), A.2.3 (faculty qualifications), A.2.9 (sufficient faculty), A.2.12 (adequate space), A.2.15 (distance education), A.3.7 (faculty advising), A.4.1 (program publications), A.4.2 (published program outcomes), A.5.5 (curriculum design), A.5.7 (written syllabi and assessment strategies), A.6.1 (strategic plan), A.6.2 (professional development plans), A.6.3 (program evaluation), and course content (B.4.4 and B.4.18). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.

The program has been requested to submit a Plan of Correction and Progress Report to return the program to full compliance with the Standards within the mandated time period for correction.

Learn More

About Occupational Therapy Assistant at South University

When someone is in need, are you quick to lend a hand? Have you often been described as a good listener?  As you choose your own career path, it is important to think about areas where you naturally excel in day-to-day life. those everyday talents - such as showing compassion, paying attention to detail, and even physical strength - will serve you well as an occupational therapy assistant. We invite you to find out more by contacting the Admissions Department at South University. Let us help point you in the right direction as you explore your future career path

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