OTA vs PTA: Make Your Right Career Choice

While Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) and Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) have something in common, they are in two different fields.  This post will help you get a better understanding of those two jobs in order to make the right choice. 

OTA vs PTA: Make Your Right Career Choice
OTA vs PTA: Make Your Right Career Choice

Education Requirement

Both aspiring OTAs and PTAs are required to complete a two-year associate degree program from an accredited college, which can be completed in 20 months. However, OTAs after that have to gain practical experience by about 4 months of fieldwork under an occupational therapist’s supervision.

Education Requirement
Education Requirement

Typically all kinds of therapy assistants need to earn a license before applying for a position. To get a license, PTA graduates need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) after their associate degree. Whereas, OTA graduates need to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam to be certified. 

Goals & Duties

A PTA focuses on helping clients recover from injuries, regain mobility, or relieve pain. They work with people who have limited abilities to perform functional activities in their daily lives.

PTA jobs often include:

  • Providing hands-on therapy such as massage therapy 
  • Observing and recording patient progress 
  • Ensuring that the treatment facility operates smoothly. 
  • Implementing treatment planned and advised by a physical therapist
  • Introducing the patient to adaptive equipment like crutches
  • Teaching how to live with permanent solutions like prosthetics or wheelchairs
  • Assessing pain tolerance of patients
  • Helping patients manage their emotional reactions

While PT’s focus is regaining strength, the center of OT is building confidence to complete tasks and achieve life goals. OTA jobs target enabling patients to take care of themselves in their daily lives, so they can live life independently. 

Goals & Duties
Goals & Duties

OTAs’ responsibilities include:

  • Assessing the home or work environments of patients and suggesting adjustments as needed
  • Interviewing patients and recording medical histories
  • Educating family members on patient care 
  • Advising patients on equipment that simplifies daily tasks
  • Monitoring routine functions to ensure patients are performing them correctly
  • Providing encouragement and motivation to patients
  • Implementing treatment planned and advised by an occupational therapist

Work Environment

The working environment of those two professionals is nearly the same. They can opt for working in in-home healthcare facilities, hospitals, health practitioner offices, or nursing care facilities. The vast majority of both groups work in private offices, under the supervision of occupational or physical therapists. 

Growth & Salary

The average Certified Physical Therapist Assistant salary in the United States is $60,200 (May 2021), which is approximately the same as that of a Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant. According to BLS, from 2019-2029, the employment growth will be 35% and 33% for PTAs and OTAs respectively. 


Though both occupational therapy assistants and occupational therapy assistants work with people to help them improve their physical functions and mobility, each field approaches differently. There are a few important similarities and differences to consider. Discover the main difference between PTA and OTA and the basic qualities to be a successful physical therapist to determine which may be the right career path for you. So, occupational therapy vs physical therapy – which is your destiny?