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What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives

When I finish the program, I will automatically be a COTA?

Not quite.  Upon completion of the OTA Program, graduates will be able to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy assistant administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of the exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). Most states, including Texas, require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination.  A felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to take the NBCOT exam or attain state licensure.  

When I finish the program and pass the national certification exam, can I start providing OT services?

Not quite.  You have to first get a license to practice.  Licensure is the governmental (state) regulation of practice, designed to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of a state against unscrupulous or incompetent practice by persons who have not met prescribed qualifications. In Texas, occupational therapy assistants are required to obtain a license to practice from the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners before practicing. Failure to do so renders both the individual as well as his/her employer (if applicable) liable for misdemeanor charges and fines. The Board maintains certain rules and regulations that govern eligibility for a license, as well as requirements for licensure renewal.  For additional information, contact the Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners at 333 Guadalupe, Suite 2-510, Austin, Texas 78701-3942 Tel. (512) 305-6900. If you have been charged or convicted of a felony offense, you might not be eligible for OTA licensure in Texas and for certification by the National board for Certificate in Occupational Therapy.

But what if I have been convicted of a crime?

A felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to take the NBCOT exam or obtain state licensure.  Based upon the nature and severity of criminal activity, fieldwork sites may refuse to allow a student to participate.  The OTA faculty and staff will be happy to assist you with questions regarding criminal history, certification and licensure.

How long is the program?

The program is two years.

Are there any requirements or pre-requisites to apply to the program?

Yes, applicants must obtain full admission to Panola College, complete the prerequisites listed on the Admission Criteria page in the "How to Apply" dropdown on the OTA Program homepage, and must have a core curriculum course GPA of 2.50 or better.

How do you select students for the OTA program?

Because clinical practicum space is limited, students are admitted on a competitive basis. Preference will be given to applicants who have met TSI requirements. Students will be selected based on several factors such as residency, interview performance, and any combination of high school, GPA or equivalent, college GPA and TSI scores; see  the Admission Criteria page in the “How to Apply” dropdown on the OTA Program homepage for more details.


Will I automatically be accepted into the OTA program?

Not necessarily. Admission to the OTA program is on a competitive basis.

Do I HAVE to pass the TASP in order to be admitted to the OTA program?

All Texas Success Initiative (TSI) requirements must be met within the first year of the OTA program (prior to the beginning of the third semester).   For specific information regarding TSI, click here.  Students applying to the OTA program who have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher are TSI exempt for the OTA program.

When should applications be submitted?

The application is located on our website and is available from January to May.  The application should be filled out and submitted online. The due date is mid May.  The specific date will be posted on the application.

How many students do you admit per year and when?

The OTA program enrolls up to 24 new students each Fall semester.

What kind of instruction can I expect during OTA classes?

Based on the philosophy of experiential education (Association for Experiential Education, 2022) each OTA course emphasizes “learning by doing” through the use of hands-on learning activities that require problem-solving and learner reflection.  Furthermore, courses in the OTA program are facilitated utilizing a Team-Based Learning™ approach.  According to the Team-Based Learning Collaborative, “Team-Based Learning is an evidence-based collaborative learning teaching strategy designed around units of instruction, known as “modules,” that are taught in a three-step cycle: preparation, in-class readiness assurance testing, and application-focused exercise” (Team-Based Learning Collaborative, 2022).   As such, faculty members strive to provide meaningful, engaging learning activities (occupations) that facilitate a collaborative and interactive approach to the teaching-learning process. Clinical courses in the OTA program involve a service learning component, where students learn through engagement in projects designed to enhance the lives of local residents.   This program is designed for active learners who are ready to experience education beyond the lecture podium.


How is Occupational Therapy different from Physical Therapy?

Occupational therapy practitioners provide unique services by using occupations or activities to promote recovery, health and wellness. For example, while a PT or PTA might work with a client on how to use a walker or cane, an OT or OTA would help that same person figure out how to use that walker or cane safely when doing laundry, preparing meals, accessing tight spaces such as the bathroom, etc.

Are any of your courses online or hybrid?

Yes.  Hybrid and web-enhanced courses are a part of our curriculum.  None of our classes are exclusively online, aligning with our philosophy of experiential learning.  Our four program hybrid courses expand and strengthen the instructional content and include weekly face-to-face instruction and lab engagement time.