If you want to know how to go from a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA) to an occupational therapist (OT), the following guide will help you make informed and confident decisions. It will also help those who are wondering if it makes sense to start as an OTA and become an OT further down the career path.

To offer a comprehensive resource, this guide will give you information on the following topics:

The Differences Between OTAs and OTs

Bridge Programs

OTA to OT Triumph Tips

The OT Travel Advantage

The Differences Between OTAs and OTs



A two-year associate’s degree from an ACOTE accredited programs is the minimum qualification needed. OTAs must also pass the NBCOT COTA Exam and be licensed in the state in which they practice. CEUs are required to renew licensure (requirements vary by state).


A master’s degree in OT from  an accredited program is the minimum qualification needed. An undergraduate degree and certain prerequisites must be completed prior to the master’s program. OTs must also pass the NBCOT OTR Exam and be licensed in the state in which they practice. CEUs are required to renew licensure (requirements vary by state).



The median national pay for an OTA is $54,520 per year and $26.21 per hour.


The median national pay for an OT is $80,150 per year, $38.54 per hour, and $1,985 per week.

Patient Involvement


OTAs get the opportunity to be very involved with patients, but it is a supportive role with consistent supervision.


OTs are responsible for creating treatment plans, executing them, supervising OTAs, patient intake and discharge, and most paperwork



Fieldwork I is set by the specific program and Fieldwork II requires a minimum of 16 weeks full-time.


Fieldwork I is set by the specific program and Fieldwork II requires a minimum of 24 weeks full-time.

*Resources: Bls.gov, Indeed and AOTA

Bridge Programs

Graduating StudentsOTA to OT bridge programs are usually intended to cater to the time and financial constraints of working adults. Oftentimes, they are hybrid courses that can offer a blend of distance learning, on-site classes, weekend classes, and fieldwork.

It is important that an OTA take the time to research accredited OTA to OT programs before applying. This can involve online research, speaking to an advisor, and even campus visits. This will help an OTA choose the bridge program that matches his or her needs.

Some bridge programs also allow the application of prior academic credits and fieldwork to the master’s degree bridge program. This can expedite your time spent in the program and lower the financial burden of the program you are considering.

Another difference you may find between bridge programs is whether they require a bachelor’s degree. Some do and others may only require students take additional courses as prerequisites.

Where To Start Your Search For An OTA to OT Bridge Program

AOTA offers a comprehensive list of OTA to OT Programs by state. Currently, there are accredited bridge programs in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ney York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. This will be an excellent resource to begin your research!

OTA to OT Triumph Tips

Look Before You Leap 

Growth and self-actualization are incredibly honorable goals, but get all your ducks in a row and make sure you’re ready before getting started. Planning and preparation will help you commit to the right program at the right time.

Get Support

Going back to school, even if it is a hybrid program, will be a change. Get your friends, family, co-workers, and employers on your side. You will get the support and flexibility you need to follow your dreams.

Be Good To Yourself

Take the time to be kind to yourself before you start the program, while pursuing the program, and before you find your OT job. In fact, just be good to yourself always.

The OT Travel Advantage

When you graduate from your OTA to OT bridge program, you will be able to join our New Grad Program. We offer great pay packages, comprehensive medical coverage from day one, and new grad benefits like free CEUs and $5,000 in tuition reimbursement. And while you’re in your bridge program, you can take on a few of our OTA travel assignments which will give you the flexibility you need as you pursue the next chapter in your career.

As a New Grad with Advanced Travel Therapy, we will hook you up with a dedicated recruiter and an  OT mentor. Your Advanced Recruiter will make getting the perfect OT job a piece of cake. He or she will line up the opportunity, negotiate on your behalf, get all your benefits squared away, and even help you with more stressful to-dos like licensure, moving, and housing. Your OT mentor, on the other hand, will be there to answer all your clinical and professional questions while on assignment.

Travel Benefits

  1. 100% Paid Medical Coverage

  2. Lucrative Pay

  3. 401k with Company Matching

  4. Customized Travel Packages

  5. Robust Clinical and Lifestyle Mentorship

  6. Large Support Staff

  1. State Licensure Reimbursement

  2. Significant Referral Bonus

  3. Personal Recruiter

  4. Exceptional Customer Service (24 hours/day)

  5. Clinical Director

  1. Corporate Furnished Housing or Generous Lodging Per Diem

  2. Travel Expense Allowance

  3. Meals and Incidentals Stipend

  4. Professional & General Liability Coverage

  5. Advanced Education CEU's

Travel Is Worth Exploring!

Talk To A Recruiter