Occupational Therapy: Living Life to Its Fullest


National American University is excited to offer students this high-demand program at the Centennial, Colo.  and Independence, Mo. locations.  The associate degree program provides students with skills needed for this growing career. The demand for occupational therapy (OT) services is on the rise, and new clinicians are needed to fill the demand.  The job market continues to flourish for this career, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for OTA practitioners will grow by 28%, or “much faster than average” between 2016 and 2026[1].

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a health and rehabilitation profession whose practitioners ask, “What matters to you?” not “What’s the matter with you?”  Occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in activities they want and need to do through the use of therapeutic occupation.  Occupation refers to the activities that people do in their day-to-day lives that occupy their time.  Occupational therapists may help children with disabilities participate in school or social situations, those recovering from an injury to regain skills and independence, or support older adults who are experiencing physical or cognitive changes.  Occupational therapy empowers people to live life to its fullest. Occupational therapists have a holistic perspective. Under the supervision of an OT, OTAs use meaningful activities to develop and improve clients’ cognitive, sensory, motor, and social skills to promote health and enhance participation in activities. OTAs participate in the delivery of services including assessment, intervention planning and implementation, documentation, and review of client progress. The American Occupational Therapy Association identified six predominant areas of practice:

  • Children and youth
  • Health and wellness
  • Mental health
  • Productive aging
  • Rehabilitation, disability, and participation
  • Work and industry[2]

OT practitioners work in a diverse variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, community settings, mental health settings, and higher education.


NAU’s occupational therapy assistant program prepares students with the knowledge and hands-on skills necessary to become successful OTA practitioners.

The OTA faculty has a warm and caring approach and are able to give students individual attention due to the small class sizes.  The 21-month program offers a blended curriculum format where students take some courses online, some on-campus, and some in combined online and on-campus format.  The program is designed for working adults who may wish to continue working while completing the program.

Occupation is the overarching concept throughout the program.  The curriculum is both developmental and cyclical.  It is developmental in terms of following a human lifespan perspective, from infancy to old adulthood.  The curriculum is cyclical in that important threads are embedded throughout the program.  These threads are introduced early on and are reinforced and strengthened with more in-depth content and examples as the student progress through the curriculum.   These threads include:

  • Occupation-based practice
  • Professional communication and behaviors
  • Professional responsibility and advocacy


Throughout the program, a wide range of fieldwork experiences are offered, This allows students to have hands-on experience which helps connect lecture, lab, and video with practical experience.  As part of the program, students have direct interaction with clinicians who practice in pediatric, rehabilitation, psychosocial and geriatric settings. After graduating from NAU’s program, the graduate will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).  After successful completion of this exam, the graduate will be a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA), allowing the OTA to be eligible to work anywhere in the nation. 

National American University offers a wide array of on-ground and online allied health degrees. Learn more about our undergraduate degree programs. For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program and other important information, please visit our website www.national.edu/about-nau/information-disclosures/

Published January 2013

[1]Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapy-assistants-and-aides.htm

[2]American Occupational Therapy Association. (2018) retrieved from https://www.aota.org/Practice/Manage/Niche.aspx



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