Masters in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy degrees span individual Masters programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, kinesiology, nutrition, athletic training and more. Students in Masters in Kinesiology and exercise science-focused programs could study human movement and how the body responds and adapts to physical activity and sports injuries. Masters in Occupational Therapy and PT degree programs could enable students to do vital hands-on rehabilitative work which might help clients recover, improve range of motion, or live holistically. Discover all these fields have to offer.
written by Rana Waxman
Curricula for Masters in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy degrees often include evidence-based practices, research, academic courses and a clinical or practical component. That said, there are some dynamic differences between all these fields. Make sure to compare Masters in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy programs against your career goals and personal interests.
Masters in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy degrees may be available in various formats. Campus programs typically involve classes at set times and might especially appeal to visual learners and those who prefer to learn in person. Online programs could entail brief residency or be exclusively set up through a web-based platform. Whatever your preference, you could search for the type of Masters degree in occupational therapy, physical therapy, athletic training or kinesiology. Then, filter further by program format or locate schools in a preferred city or state.
One of the main differences between occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) is that OTs treat the whole person – motor skills, emotions, behaviors,
cognitive abilities. By contrast, PTs treat the person’s body and their ability to move through healthy ranges of motion. Because of their differences, students could expect to study different courses and work to gain distinct skills. Some of these are examined below.
DID YOU KNOW?
When surveyed about their education, 71% of Occupational Therapists and Assistive Technology Trainers reported they had a masters degree. i
Today, students who want to pursue a Masters in Physical Therapy (MPT) may not have the option to do so. The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is now considered the entry-level education for licensure and professional practice as physical therapists (PTs).ii Physical therapists, sometimes called ‘PTs’ help all types of patients improve their mobility and manage their pain. That said, those students who have graduated with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy could look for what is called a ‘transitional’ or ‘post-professional’ DPT program. This type of program could build on prior knowledge and skills.
Masters in Occupational Therapy programs could lead to a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) degree. Occupational therapists need at least a Masters degree in occupational therapy to pursue compulsory state licensure, therefore a Master of Occupational Therapy is thought of as a professional degree.iii
How Many Years Is OT School?
Most occupational therapy masters programs take two to three years to complete. Some grad schools may also offer a dual bachelors/masters degree which could take full-time students about five years, and there are part-time formats to discover as well. ii
Admission to a Masters in Occupational Therapy program may vary between OT schools. Applicants may need a bachelors degree, earned in any major, and some schools set the bar above a minimum GPA.
In addition, there are several prerequisite courses that may either be necessary or highly recommended, so it is a good idea to prepare yourself. Prerequisite courses might include undergraduate credits in anatomy, neuroscience, social science, psychology and statistics.
Additional requirements often include related work or volunteer experience, personal statement, letters of reference, and TOEFL scores, if applicable. Some OT schools grant interviews by invitation and might factor the outcome into a final decision.
Occupational therapists help their patients perform day-to-day tasks, whether this means recovery from injury, illness, or help with the mentally or cognitively impaired. Typical MSOT program curricula often meld academic coursework with at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork at an approved location.iii
A MSOT program usually follows a set progression and might entail about 80 credits. For instance, at the outset of their program, students might take courses in clinical kinesiology and anatomy and could learn basic interview skills. As the program progresses, OT masters students might learn intervention methods and integrative practices that might be tailored to adults, children, youth, and mental health patients. While the course topics below could provide some insight into the nature of a syllabus, prospective students should refer to individual schools.
Students could look for an OT masters program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. Graduation from an approved program is a requirement for candidates to be eligible to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. Therapists must pass the NBCOT exam to use the title “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR). ii
One of the goals of occupational therapy is to help individuals function independently in their daily activities, and assistive technology may play an important role. Per the ACOTE, an assistive technology device is “is any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.”iv
For those students who do not want to pursue a Masters in Occupational Therapy, a Master of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services may provide a great alternative. In this type of program, students could learn the skills and knowledge that might enable persons with disabilities to live more independently through assistive technology (AT). Applicants may need to have earned a Bachelor's degree in any major from a regionally accredited college or university, with a minimum GPA.
A Master of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services curricula might include academic coursework and a final project. Academic courses might initially discuss current trends in AT as well the history, law and policies that surround assistive technology. As the program progresses, classes could explore AT and lifespan, functional biology and counseling. A course in medical conditions might prepare students to design and apply AT as they come to understand the systems of the body, pathology and the impacts of illness and injury.
Masters in Kinesiology programs could lead to a Master of Science (MS) in Kinesiology. A Masters degree in Kinesiology is a post-professional degree that could help students fortify skills in exercise science, health, and fitness. Students could look for Kinesiology Master's programs that are regionally accredited and/or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).v
Why a Masters in Kinesiology?
Graduates of Kinesiology Masters programs may be eligible to pursue extra certification through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) such as the Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) ®.v
Admission requirements to Kinesiology Masters programs could differ between universities. In some schools, applicants must have earned a Bachelors degree, and be a health, wellness, sport, or fitness professional with at least two years of professional experience. Schools may also specify that candidates have an NCAA-specific, NCCA-accredited certification or be an acting licensed healthcare professional (e.g. PT, DC, OT, RN etc.). In their application, students usually furnish transcripts, current resume, essay and TOEFL scores as needed.
Curricula are typically evidence-based and may consist of about 42 credit hours of study. Kinesiotherapists, another name for exercise physiologists, work to improve overall patient health through health education and exercise plans. Consequently, Masters in Kinesiology students might take courses in science and health-related subjects, such as biology, anatomy, kinesiology, and nutrition, and clinical work.vi Core kinesiology coursework could also cover the following topics, although students should review individual schools and degree programs.
Aside from the core courses, students might be able to tailor their studies to their interests and aims via a certificate or 'track’.
Sports Conditioning Track: A focus in sport conditioning might cover topics such as sport-specific fitness and performance testing. Courses could also explore muscular fitness development, and metabolic conditioning; and students might gain practical methods to develop speed and agility with different athletic populations.
Exercise and Sport Psychology Track: A focus in exercise and sport psychology could examine psychological theories and methods applied to a sport to enhance the performance and personal growth of athletes and coaches. In their coursework, students might learn the principles of health psychology, behavioral change, and health promotion. Other courses could help students understand the links between depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and stress with exercise.
Geriatric Exercise Science Track: A focus on geriatric science could explore the psychological and social aspects of the aging process as well as the impact of regular physical activity on the older adult. Students might therefore study fitness instruction and assessment methods for the older adult as well as motivational strategies.
Corrective Exercise & Orthopedic Rehabilitation Track: A focus in corrective exercise could examine the relationship between the control of skilled movement and movement impairment and dysfunction. Students might take a course in the epidemiology of common orthopedic injuries with attention on how to develop and apply a corrective and post-rehabilitative exercise program.
Adaptive Sports Track: A focus in adaptive sports could discuss the various sociological, public health, and legal aspects of the Paralympic and Adaptive sport movement. Students might learn about Adaptive sport organizational structure (e.g. personnel), and common adaptive sport participant medical diagnoses and functional limitations.
Masters in Athletic Training programs could award a Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) degree. MSAT degree programs could have both classroom and clinical components that might include science and health-related courses such as biology, anatomy, physiology and nutrition. Interested students could look for regionally accredited schools or those with individual masters in athletic training programs that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE).vii
Admission to MSAT programs could vary between universities. Applicants typically need a Bachelors degree with a minimum GPA. Students may also need to fulfill prerequisite coursework. Prerequisites might include but not be limited to, physics, kinesiology, exercise physiology, nutrition, statistics and psychology. Aside from transcripts and an essay, an applicant may need to furnish documentation that shows they have been observed under the direct supervision of a NATA-BOC certified athletic trainer.
Athletic Trainers prevent, diagnose and treat muscle and bone injuries and illnesses and may work with people of all ages and skill levels – anyone from children to soldiers to professional athletes. Through various techniques, they might help their clients with initial injury management, emergency care, evaluation of injuries and rehabilitation so they could return to their peak performance.viii Consequently, a MSAT core curriculum might include courses such as the examples below. Also make sure to refer to individual schools and their syllabus.
Aside from their courses, students typically take part in an evidence-based practicum and may have to complete a Master's capstone.
Why a Masters degree in Athletic Training?
MSAT programs may enable students to develop professionally, which may prepare graduates to pursue career advancement.vii
Eager to compare Masters in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy degrees? Use the menu to read about sponsored schools with Masters in OT, Masters in Athletic Training, Masters in Kinesiotherapy and more! Filter by program format or location, then easily connect with schools via the on-page form.
[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1122.00 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm#tab-4 | [iv] aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Professionals/RDP/assistive-technology.aspx | [v] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm#tab-4 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm#tab-2 | [vii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm#tab-4 | [viii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm#tab-2