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Occupational Therapy Assisting


Q. What is the Process of Accreditation?

There are three main stages for new OTA programs to go through in order to achieve full accreditation status. The process begins with the submission of a Letter of Intent and submission of Eligibility Data for St. Andrews (SAU)  Occupational Therapy Assistant Bachelor of Science (BSOTA) Program. The purpose of this letter is for ACOTE to confirm eligibility to seek ACOTE accreditation. Each phase or step of the accreditation process is explained in further detail below:

(Precandidacy Phase) Step 1: Application Review

  • The SAU BSOTA will submit a Candidacy Application describing how the program plans to demonstrate compliance with the ACOTE Accreditation Standards prior to the admission of the first class of students into the program.
  • The ACOTE Accreditation Department reviews the ‘Candidacy Application’ submitted on behalf of the OTA program. The ACOTE initial review team takes a more in-depth look at the OTA program.
  • As this stage, if all is found to be in order, the SAU BSOTA Program is granted Candidacy Status, students may be admitted to core OTA courses and the program gets to move on to ‘step 2’.

(Preaccredidation Phase) Step 2: Preaccredidation Review

  • In this step, the SAU BSOTA program assesses its compliance with the ACOTE Standards and submits an initial Report of Self Study.
  • Upon Review of this report, if all is well and the program is in compliance with all ACOTE standards, Preaccredidation Status is granted.

(Accreditation Phase) Step 3: The Initial Onsite Evaluation

  • The third step of the process is an initial On-Site Evaluation. As the final component to the ACOTE’s accreditation review, ACOTE representatives must conduct a multi-day, on-site visit and observe the students.
  • The ACOTE team prepares a Report of On-Site Evaluation. If all is found to be compliant, full accreditation status is received.
  • All students enrolled in the SAU BSOTA program are now eligible to sit for the National Board Certification Examination to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
Q. How long is the process of accreditation?
The projected timeline for the BSOTA Program to complete the accreditation process is described below:
Accreditation Process/Step Status Date
Submission of Letter of Intent Complete
Submission of Candidacy Application In Process December 2021
ACOTE Candidacy Decision TBA April 2022
(If Candidacy Status is Granted)
Students are Notified of Acceptance into the OTA Program. TBA May 2022
First Class Starts TBA August 2022
Initial Report of Self Study TBA March 2023
Initial Onsite Evaluation TBA September – November 2023
Q. Why it is important for an OTA program to be accredited?

Accreditation is a process for evaluating higher learning and is a way to standardize the quality of education across institutions. There are various accrediting bodies at the university and program level who develop and maintain these standards and hold academic institutions accountable. When a university launches a new program, that program must be accredited as a separate process from any similar programs it may already have. In addition, The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) is responsible for administering the
national licensure exam that all aspiring OTA’s must pass in order to become a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). In order to be eligible to sit for the COTA® exam, a student must have graduated from a program that is accredited by the ACOTE.

Q. Who Determines if an OTA Program is Accredited?

“Accreditation of educational programs for the occupational therapist and the occupational therapy assistant is granted by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The ACOTE is recognized as the accrediting agency for occupational therapy education by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Placement on the list of recognized accrediting agencies also serves consumer interests by acknowledging an accrediting body’s ability to identify institutions or programs of quality” (AOTA, 2020a).

This is this stamp of approval you should look for when researching occupational therapy assistant bachelor’s degrees.

Q. What is the Purpose of Accreditation?

“Accreditation has two fundamental purposes: to assure the quality of the institution or program and to assist in the improvement of the institution or program. The specific purposes of the AOTA accreditation process are:

  • To encourage continuous self-analysis and improvement of the occupational therapy educational program by representatives of the institution’s administrative staff, teaching faculty, students, governing body, and other appropriate constituencies, with the ultimate aim of assuring students of quality education in this profession and assuring patients of appropriate occupational therapy care.
  • To determine whether the occupational therapy educational program meets the appropriate approved educational standards.
  • To encourage faculty to anticipate and accommodate new trends and developments in the practice of occupational therapy that should be incorporated into the educational process.
  • To assure the educational community, the general public, and other agencies or organizations that the program has both clearly defined and appropriate objectives, maintains conditions under which these objectives can reasonably be expected to be achieved, appears to be accomplishing them substantially, and can be expected to continue to do so” (AOTA, 2020b)