Comparing OTA school and nursing school difficulty levels based on two images of a female nurse with a stethoscope and notebook.

Is OTA School Harder Than Nursing School?

In short, the difficulty of OTA school versus nursing school depends on your personal skills, preferences, and career goals. Both programs have their unique challenges, and it’s important to understand the differences between them before making a decision. Let’s dive into the details to help you determine which path may be the right fit for you.

Understanding the Differences between OTA and Nursing School

Understanding the OTA Program

Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) programs typically take around two years to complete and provide education and training in assisting occupational therapists. OTA students learn how to help patients regain their independence and improve their daily living skills. The program emphasizes the therapeutic use of everyday activities to enhance physical and mental well-being.

Understanding the Nursing Program

Nursing programs, on the other hand, can vary in duration, ranging from two to four years depending on the degree level pursued. Nursing students learn how to provide care, promote health, and prevent illness in diverse healthcare settings. They receive training in areas such as medical-surgical, pediatric, psychiatric, and community nursing.

The Academic Rigor in OTA and Nursing School

Coursework in OTA School

In OTA school, you can expect to study subjects such as anatomy, physiology, psychology, therapeutic techniques, and occupational therapy theory. You’ll also gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations. While the coursework is challenging, it may be more focused and specialized compared to nursing school.

Coursework in Nursing School

Nursing school curriculum typically covers a wide range of subjects, including anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, and community health nursing. The coursework is comprehensive and requires a deep understanding of complex medical concepts. Additionally, nursing students are required to complete clinical rotations in various healthcare settings.

Comparing the Practical Experiences

Practical Experiences in OTA School

In OTA school, practical experiences focus on assisting occupational therapists in providing therapy to patients. You’ll have the opportunity to work directly with individuals of different age groups and conditions, helping them develop skills for daily life activities. These experiences allow you to apply what you’ve learned in a real-world setting.

Practical Experiences in Nursing School

Nursing school provides practical experiences in different healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. During clinical rotations, nursing students work alongside registered nurses, gaining hands-on experience in patient care, administering medications, and collaborating with the healthcare team. These experiences are crucial for developing clinical skills and decision-making abilities.

Evaluating Your Personal Skills and Preferences

Skills Needed for Success in OTA School

To succeed in OTA school, you should possess good communication skills, empathy, attention to detail, and the ability to work collaboratively with healthcare professionals and patients. Problem-solving skills and a strong understanding of human anatomy and physiology are also essential. If you enjoy helping individuals regain independence and improving their quality of life through therapeutic activities, OTA school may be a good fit for you.

Skills Needed for Success in Nursing School

Nursing school requires a combination of technical skills and interpersonal abilities. You should be compassionate, have excellent communication skills, and be able to handle high-stress situations. Critical thinking, time management, and strong clinical judgment are also crucial. If you have a passion for providing holistic care, working in a fast-paced environment, and being part of a healthcare team, nursing school may be the right path for you.

Making the Final Decision

Reflecting on Personal Interests and Strengths

Consider your personal interests, strengths, and long-term career goals when deciding between OTA and nursing school. Reflect on what aspects of healthcare appeal to you the most. If you are drawn to the therapeutic aspects of rehabilitation and helping individuals regain independence, OTA school may be a better fit. On the other hand, if you have a passion for the comprehensive care of patients, working in a variety of healthcare settings, and being part of a multidisciplinary team, nursing school may be the more suitable option.

Considering Future Career Goals

It’s important to consider your long-term career goals when deciding between OTA and nursing school. OTA may be a good choice if you are interested in working specifically in occupational therapy settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or schools. As an OTA, you would work closely with occupational therapists to help patients improve their daily living skills and regain independence.

On the other hand, nursing provides a broader range of career opportunities. Registered nurses can work in hospitals, clinics, schools, home health settings, and more. Nursing also offers opportunities for specialization in areas such as pediatrics, critical care, oncology, or mental health. If you have a desire for a diverse and flexible career path, nursing may be the better choice.

So, as you consider whether OTA school is harder than nursing school for you, remember that the decision ultimately depends on your personal skills, preferences, and career goals. Trust your instincts, do your research, and seek guidance from professionals in the field. With dedication and passion, you can succeed in either program and embark on a rewarding career in healthcare.


Q: What are the admission requirements for OTA school?
Admission requirements for OTA school may vary, but typically include a high school diploma or GED, completion of prerequisite courses, satisfactory GPA, and submission of an application including references and a personal statement.

Q: Can I transfer credits from OTA school to nursing school?
The transferability of credits from OTA school to nursing school depends on the specific policies of the institutions involved. It’s best to contact the admissions offices of both programs to inquire about credit transfer options.

Q: Are there any opportunities for specialization within OTA school?
While OTA programs generally provide a broad foundation in occupational therapy, some schools may offer elective courses or additional certifications in specialized areas such as pediatrics, mental health, or geriatrics.

Q: Can I work as an OTA while pursuing further education in nursing?
Yes, working as an OTA while pursuing further education in nursing is possible. It provides valuable healthcare experience and may enhance your understanding of patient care. However, it’s important to manage your time effectively to balance work and school responsibilities.

Q: What are the job prospects like for OTAs compared to nurses?
Job prospects for OTAs and nurses are generally favorable due to the increasing demand for healthcare professionals. While both fields offer opportunities for employment, it’s recommended to research job outlook and demand in your specific area to make an informed decision.

Q: Can I work as an OTA or nurse in a different country after completing my education?
Working as an OTA or nurse in a different country after completing your education may require additional steps such as obtaining licensure or certification in that country. It’s important to research the requirements and regulations of the specific country you are interested in practicing in.

Q: Are there opportunities for advancement in the OTA field?
While the OTA field does not typically have as many advanced practice roles as nursing, there are opportunities for advancement such as becoming a supervisor, specializing in a specific area, or pursuing further education to become an occupational therapist.

Q: Can I pursue a doctoral degree in occupational therapy after completing OTA school?
Yes, it is possible to pursue a doctoral degree in occupational therapy after completing OTA school. Many OTA graduates choose to continue their education to become occupational therapists through bridge programs or transitional pathways.

Q: What is the salary range for OTAs compared to nurses?
The salary range for OTAs and nurses can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and setting of practice. Generally, registered nurses tend to have a higher earning potential compared to OTAs.

Q: What are the continuing education requirements for OTAs and nurses?
Both OTAs and nurses are required to participate in continuing education to maintain their licensure or certification. The specific requirements vary by state and professional organization, and may include completing a certain number of hours of continuing education courses or attending conferences and workshops.