Occupational Therapy Assistant

The OTA Associate of Applied Science degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

The Occupational Therapy Assistant Program is offered as an Associate of Applied Science degree embedded within a liberal arts institution. The overall mission of the OTA program is to prepare students as confident entry-level practitioners, understanding the importance of both leadership and service in the communities they serve. In addition, the CMU OTA graduate desiring an advanced degree benefits from the unique opportunity to expand upon their OTA education by pursuing a planned advanced CMU Bachelor of Science degree in Health Sciences. The OTA curriculum at CMU includes a strong liberal arts groundwork providing opportunity to transition easily into the advanced coursework in health services leadership, a practical expansion built upon the intricacies of healthcare and healthcare delivery systems.

Central Methodist University’s program placement within a four-year liberal arts university situates us in an exciting position for future expansion of the degree. In Spring 2015 ACOTE determined that the entry-level degree for the OTA will be offered at both the associate and bachelor’s degree level. The decision to move to a dual entry-level for the OTA allows opportunity for CMU to be among the first of such programs in the country.  

OTA Curriculum Design and Threads

The OTA curriculum is designed as both a ladder and a model for progressive, lifelong professional learning.  Students will learn foundational knowledge early in the program and will progressively build upon this knowledge base through evolving levels of professional coursework and integrative activities. OTA program coursework is 20 months in length and is composed of lecture, laboratory, collaborative experiences, community activity, and offsite fieldwork experience.

Our approach to curriculum design is driven by the profession’s conceptual understandings about occupational performance and its emergence in roles across and throughout the lifespan. Evidence-based literature supports that participation in meaningful occupation results in the ongoing human pursuit for a sense of wellbeing and meaning. In addition, to understanding the development of humans and its impact on occupational choice and engagement, students will be able to articulate their roles as practitioners within the lifespan progression and as advocates of the occupational therapy profession. CMU graduates will exemplify the qualities of professional and social responsibility, excellence and leadership as their role of occupation and client-centered practitioner grows and is defined through the program. Further, CMU graduates will understand their role as change agents as they engage and inspire clients to reach wellness through occupations of meaning (The Commission on Education, 2011).

In recognition of the profession’s published philosophy regarding occupational performance, and our understanding that humans learn in diverse ways we have referenced multiple educational philosophical approaches to meet the learning needs of our students. Implementation of these philosophies within the curriculum design defines a predominant pattern of consistency. Conceptual threads that are woven through the curriculum with a devoted emphasis in each course include occupational beings across the lifespan, lifelong learning, professionalism, and client-centered practice. These threads directly link to core qualities defined with the Central Methodist University mission. These core qualities are integral pieces defining a holistic education:

Professional Excellence:
Commitment to progressive, lifelong learning as individuals and professionals.
Agents of change; committed to advocacy, leadership, and service.
(AH100 Introduction to OT, Integrated Lab Skills I, II, & III)

Ethical Leadership:

Examples of engagement client-centered practice, acts of service, therapeutic use of self with clients and within intra/inter-disciplinary teams.
(Health Sciences for the OTA: Ethics, Management and Leadership OTA211)

Social Responsibility:

Values engaging in occupations/occupational performance to humans throughout the lifespan.
Client-centered practice.
(OT Fundamentals and Practice 1: Early Development OTA104, OT Fundamentals and Practice II: Adult Development OTA105, OT Practice Settings: Outpatient, Inpatient, and Community OTA209, OTA130-233 Fieldwork Levels I, II, III, & IV)

OTA Program Outcomes

Course sequences evolve from introductory material to higher levels of content requiring critical thinking and problem solving capability on the part of the student. Progression through the program requires that students incorporate aspects from all courses in the format of an integrated lab. The integrated lab will be used as an assessment of student knowledge progression.

Upon successful of the OTA program the OTA graduate will:

  • Demonstrate qualities of leadership and social responsibility. These qualities will be apparent within the occupational therapy field, professional settings, and within community.
  • Apply critical thinking and problem solving to the provision of occupational therapy services evidenced by successful completion of fieldwork practicums.
  • Incorporate the principles of communication, advocacy and healthcare education into practice.
  • Exhibit commitment to individual and professional growth as a lifelong learner.
  • Demonstrate collaboration with other healthcare providers to promote the full human potential.

The OTA Program Learning Model

Our curriculum design is presented within a fusion of old and new pedagogy. Features have been borrowed from Bloom’s taxonomy levels of learning, the principle of constructivism theory and the progressions of learning as explained by Knowles principles of adult learning (Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative, 2007) and self-determined learning as described by Hase and Kenyon (Hase & Kenyon, 2001).

Combined models of learning support a natural advancement of student development. It is our firm belief that students must understand how to learn if they are to transition into the professional environment as a lifelong learner with the ability to remain skillful as a clinician. Integrating the referenced philosophies of learning addresses the needs of both the millennial and traditional learner.

How it all works….

In Semester-I of the program students are introduced to health issues and the impact of illness/diseases on occupational performance (OTA100). A foundational knowledge of muscle movement will be obtained, introductory concepts of neuroscience will be explored and the student will learn to think critically regarding intervention and creative strategies to facilitate client engagement. In Semester-II students will build upon concepts of illness and dysfunction through advanced coursework. Global understandings of disease, movement and occupation will be expanded upon as coursework is refined further into dedicated areas of specificity. Course materials will transition from introductory entry-level engagement to building the fundamental core abilities of analysis, problem-solving and cultivation of practice. Student knowledge will be further enhanced; narrowed into lifespan groups including childhood and adolescence (OTA104), adult development and later or older adult (OTA105). The holistic approach to occupational therapy will be further expanded upon with emphasis in mental health (OTA106) and physical dysfunction and rehabilitation (OTA107) coursework. In Semester-III the student embraces the advanced level of practitioner through functional execution of knowledge in various settings. Students will integrate and apply knowledge from year one into hands-on scenarios. Foundational and fundamental knowledge will now be applied through practice; practice in the healthcare community and through campus initiatives, incorporating both traditional and emerging practice opportunities. Students will learn how to incorporate refined aspects of leadership and management into their professional and personal lives. The courses OTA 209, 210, 211, and 212 will prepare the student for final fieldwork assignments.

Class time will be characterized by opportunities for students to explore, discuss, debate and test out ways to use new knowledge and skills.  The instructor will have a primary role as facilitator, helping students learn the strategies needed to strengthen their learning skills and expand their repertoires of approaches to learning. Our unique Practice Skills Integrated Lab (OTA103 OTA108 & OTA212) exemplifies the cohesive combination of these philosophies and is just one example in how learning needs will be addressed for our students.

Fieldwork experience is critical to practitioner development; hands on participation allows the OTA student to build confidence, learn therapeutic use-of-self, understand what it means to engage as part of a bigger team, develop professional skills that reinforce a healthy mix of both leadership and supporter qualities.

Requirements for Licensure

  1. Graduation from an accredited OTA program.
  2. An arrest or conviction may disqualify a candidate for licensure examination. The State Board of Occupational Therapy has the authority to refuse the issue of a license (Reference: Occupational Therapy Practice Act RS MO 324.086.1)

Additional Cost

In addition to tuition, housing, books/supplies, and transportation costs students in the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program will incur additional expenses. 

A full list of OTA student expenses can be viewed on the CLAS Health Profession Program Fee page.

Immunizations are required to be up to date. Cost of updating immunizations status will vary greatly dependent upon student needs and provider charges. Students are responsible for all charges related to updating immunization status. Each applicant should work with his/her primary care physician for updating and or to verify the immunization status.  Details regarding these expectations and requirements will be enclosed in the letter of acceptance to the program and is included in the student handbook.

Program Fee:

Liability Insurance: $50 for duration of program.  This is a requirement for participation in clinical labs and practice and is to be paid by the student at the start of the program.


Each student is responsible for acquiring personal access to a tablet or notebook computer that the student can bring to class, the simulation and ADL lab. This device must be portable and have a good battery. Reliable home internet access is essential; dial-up access may not be fast enough, depending on your provider. The students tablet, or notebook must support newer versions of Microsoft Word and EXCEL. Preferred browsers include Internet Explorer 9.0 or higher, most current version of Mozilla Firefox, or most current version of Google Chrome. The device must have a standard screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768 pixels for standard display. Devices with integral cameras or recording capability are not allowed as these constitute a potential HIPAA violation. This aspect of the device may be disabled by covering the camera lens aperture.  Any device capable of supporting MS Window 7/8, a MacBook laptop, or an iPad will work.  Newer 'high-end' Android tablets such as Samsung Note or Google Nexus will also work.  It is the responsibility of each student to provide their own computing hardware!

Non-Discriminatory Policy

The OTA Department does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, religion, sex, national origin, age, or federally defined disability in its recruitment and admission of students.

Admission Criteria for Selection of Students

Admission criteria and a detailed explanation of the selection process may be viewed on the OTA website.

Majors and Minors

Major Minor

AAS in Occupational Therapy Assistant
Last updated: 11/05/2020