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A Pediatric Perspective

COTA/L to OT/R – Decisions, Decisions

Published January 24, 2014 9:39 AM by Wendy Spoor-Hof
On a personal note, I have been working at a COTA/L since 2003 when I graduated from Bay Path College's weekend COTA program.  It was a wonderful program that allowed me to work full time and attend college on the weekends.  It was hard work but with the support of my family I was able to do it.  Did I mention that I was doing it at the age of 41 after already having worked in the travel field for the past 20 years?  It took me a couple years to get up the courage to go back to school and I have never regretted that choice and love working as a pediatric COTA but I am coming to another fork in the road and have to decide which direction I want to go in.

As much as I love being a pediatric COTA in the birth-to-three field I can't help but feel that I might be even more valuable to the company I work for and to the therapists I work with if I was to become a OT/R. As it stands right now my case load and the territory I cover is quite large as I'm the only one who services the occupational therapy needs in our office. I'm able to do this because COTAs are not allowed to do evaluations so I have the room in my schedule to see more children. However, this leaves the lion's load of the evaluations that are referred to us with motor concerns to the PT in our office to cover.  If I was to get my Master's degree I would be able to take some of that load from her.

So I am at that fork in the road...  trying to decide what would be best for me, my family, and my job.  I have been accepted into the COTA to OT Master's degree program at New England Institute of Technology.  It's a weekend program just like my COTA program of study was at Bay Path.  What's nice about this program is that it is every other weekend at the college and then on-line study in-between.  Quite doable for a full time working mom like myself.

But I am now 51 and I have to figure in the cost of the 2.5 years of study and weigh it with what the pay increase may be.  As I am not independently wealthy or have a wealthy family member who may want to sponsor me I will need to take out loans for what financial aid won't cover.  Do I want to have to go back to paying back a student loan again?  On the plus side there would be more opportunities for me to work as a pediatric OT/R than there are as a pediatric COTA/L.  On the negative side it would mean going back to studying and research papers and classwork assignments and all the fun things that come from being a student.  On the plus side, once both my kids graduate from high school we could look into working overseas where there is more opportunities for a OT/R than there is for a COTA/L.

Decisions, Decisions. . .

Has anyone else made the move from COTA/L to OT/R?  If you have, are you happy you did it?  If you haven't, do you wish you could do it? 

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Thank you so much everyone for your comments and your encouragement.  After talking it over with my family and taking a huge breath, I am stepping forward and going to do it!  I will be taking a mandatory English class this July and then jumping into the weekend classes starting in October.  So we will have a college junior (my oldest son), myself going back to college, and a high school sophomore.  Let the fun begin!  LOL

Wendy Spoor-Hof February 11, 2014 8:31 PM

It is Brooklyn, NY not Rhode Island

wayne roberts February 9, 2014 6:02 AM
Brooklyn NY

Hi Wendy, it was just by chance I came across your story and subsequent question. At 45, I decided to enter a full-time COTA program at a community college, while also working full-time as a  LPN at a nursing home. It was very challenging, but I made it. After about four and a half years working as a pediatric COTA, I took the courageous and bold step to enter a week-end OT program at Dominican College, Orangeburg, NY. At age 50, my two daughters and I were going to college (smile). I too, weighed the negatives that you cited and was a bit apprehensive. However, the pluses outweighed the negatives, as there is no limit to upward mobility, so I went for it. Today, while I have to contend with repaying a student loan, I feel very fulfilled. I hope my story give you the motivation and necessary encouragement to pursue your dream. Best of Luck, Wendy.    

wayne roberts, OT - MS OTR/L, ST,Francis De Sales School for the Deaf February 9, 2014 5:57 AM
Brooklyn RI

Hi Wendy, I am a graduate from the first MSOT class at NEIT and I highly recommend it. They will support you through anything and you will not be the oldest in the class! I have recommended the program to many people.

jaime collard February 5, 2014 8:00 PM

Thanks for the great question, Wendy! I am also interested in going on to the master's program and am also older (49) and am trying to weigh the decision. I think that in your situation: you have a job in OT already, the company could really benefit from your degree, etc. you should go for it. Could you go to your company and ask for help with the tuition, etc.? Because they are going to benefit they might be willing to help. Good luck! And Amy, where are you going to school?


Joan-Hannah Kaytonah, student - student, St. Catherine University January 28, 2014 3:54 PM
Minneapolis MN

Thank you for sharing Amy.  Congratulations on going back to school and nearly being done with it!  I am leaning more towards going back because, as you said, the new opportunities and rewards would be worth it.  :)

Wendy Spoor-Hof January 25, 2014 10:15 PM

I have been a COTA/L for about 19 years, and have considered going back to school for almost as long. I finally did it. I am currently attending a three year weekend program, it is every other weekend as well. I am almost in my third year. Although having a family, working, and completing the required assignments is challenging, I believe the new opportunities will be rewarding, and worth the work and cost. I will be 41 when I graduate. Best wishes to you!

Amy Adkins January 25, 2014 2:13 PM

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