Occupational Therapy Degrees
Students in occupational therapy programs learn how to use the intervention methods of occupational therapy to learn how to assess and treat people so they can take part in their daily activities throughout the course of their lifespan.
Occupational therapy shows you how to treat people who are injured, have permanent disabilities, or are ill (e.g. cerebral palsy) and help them learn to use adaptive technology like wheelchairs. Also, you might be instructed how to help specific groups like children, those with autism spectrum disorders, or the elderly.
Occupational Therapy Degree Requirements
To be admitted to graduate-level Occupational Therapy Programs generally requires students to have earned a bachelors degree at a regionally accredited college. Also, students typically must complete specific coursework if their degree is not a Bachelors in Occupational Therapy. Occupational Therapy Prerequisites might include courses such as the ones listed below.
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Introduction to Psychology
- Abnormal Psychology
- Life Span Development or Human Behavior
- Statistics or Applied Biostatistics
- Introduction to Anthropology or Sociology
Aside from transcripts, most universities ask for reference letters, an essay, and resume of work and volunteer experience. Some schools do require a minimum GPA or GRE scores for certain programs.
To be eligible to sit for the NBCOT certification examination, one must graduate from an ACOTE-accredited program.ii
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Occupational Therapy Program?
Full time students may be able to complete a masters in occupational therapy program in 2 to 3 years.i Occupational Therapy doctorate programs may take about 3-years post-masters.i Some schools also offer a dual-degree program in which the student earns a bachelors degree and a masters degree in 5 years.i Or, a school might offer a two-tiered masters/doctoral program that might take a full-time student three years to complete post-bachelors.
Occupational Therapy Masters Programs
The Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program is a professional entry-level degree for students who have earned a bachelors degree in a related field. MSOT graduates may be eligible to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. They must then pass the NBCOT examination to become a registered occupational therapist (OTR). However, a successful pass of the exam does not equal a state practice license. The state license is required to practice occupational therapy where it is issued.
Some MS in Occupational Therapy programs entail about 69 to 80 credits of coursework and supervised fieldwork. Aside from foundations of occupational therapy, courses often draw from multiple disciplines. Students are likely to take courses from the sciences and human services fields, for example. Course names vary, but below is a list of sample topics.
- Mental Health Evaluation and Intervention
- Analysis of Human Activity
- Health Advocacy and Administration
- Pediatric and Geriatric Intervention
Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy Online: Professional Insight
“My degree in Occupational Therapy has afforded me countless opportunities to advance in the profession as a clinician, administrator and educator. It has enabled me to grow through engagement in scholarly pursuits which in turn has directly impacted changes in my clients. Occupational Therapy is a wonderful profession that remains client centered. I truly enjoy helping to restore client independence through engagement in meaningful activities.”
– Stacy Rumfelt OTR/L, OTD, CHT, CLT of Orthocarolina
Some OT schools offer a joint masters and doctorate program. The masters program typically prepares students to take their certification exam, while the doctorate program may develop a clinical competency. Often 90 credits, this type of program may help students interpret and put into practice current research trends.
MA/Post Professional Masters in Occupational Therapy (OTTH)
The MA in Occupational Therapy is a post-professional program. It is designed for individuals who earned their Bachelors in Occupational Therapy from an approved professional occupational therapy program. This type of program may be more accelerated, in that it may entail about 30 credits, which a full-time student might earn in one year.
Also, while they may take a series of core courses, students in an MA in Occupational Therapy program may get to tailor their degree to interests through several electives. Orthopedic evaluation and intervention, pediatrics, special education, and assistive technology are a few examples.
M.S. Assistive Technology
Students who specifically want to work within disability services might opt for a Master of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services. Assistive Technology (AT) professionals help, train, and empower the populations they work with, such as children, young adults, seniors, veterans, and others.
Occupational Therapy Doctorate Programs
The clinical Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree is a post-professional, non-research degree designed for practitioners who aspire to define their area of practice and build a professional portfolio. Some OTD programs are designed for currently licensed occupational therapists who have a masters degree.
OTD Course of Study
As a practitioner-focused, terminal degree, an OTD may entail about 31 to 36 credits (a variable). As part of their program, students may take part in clinical fieldwork or a clinical residency. These experiences tend to help them with their terminal project (portfolio), which may be used to advance evidence-based practices in their chosen emphasis.
PhD in Occupational Therapy
The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Occupational Therapy is a research-based terminal degree. Students typically take courses, and use their research to prepare and defend a dissertation. This type of program might suit an individual who wants to pursue a career as a researcher or faculty member. As a result, PhD students may develop grant writing and research skills.
Accredited Occupational Therapy Programs
Occupational Therapy programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education which is part of the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Do You Need an Occupational Therapy Graduate Degree?
At the graduate level, accredited Occupational Therapy programs instruct students in a course of study necessary for a career as a licensed occupational therapist. Per the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®), the masters and the doctoral degree are considered the entry-level degree standard for practice as an occupational therapist. As a result, most occupational therapists enter the occupation with a masters in Occupational Therapy degree.i They might then use the doctorate to refine an area of practice, such as pediatrics.i
The path to licensure as an OT requires students to earn a masters degree from one of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTE)-accredited Occupational Therapy Programs. Once students have completed their courses and fieldwork, they are generally able to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.i After the exam has been passed, they may be eligible for state licensure; all states require occupational therapists to be licensed.i
Potential Career Outlook
Occupational therapists work in skilled nursing facilities, home healthcare services, offices of other OTs, hospitals, and schools. Per the BLS, employment of occupational therapists is estimated to grow 27 percent from 2014 to 2024. i They also report that the median annual wage (May 2016) of occupational therapists was $81,910. i Associated career paths include Industrial Rehabilitation Consultants, Assistive Technology Trainer, Pediatric OT, and Early Intervention OT. iii
Occupational Therapy Program Formats
Students can choose to attend OT graduate school in a classroom setting on campus, or attend an accredited online Occupational Therapy program. Use the menu to find accredited OT schools with on-campus programs by city, state or country. Or, refine your search for online OT programs.
Find 7 Occupational Therapy Programs
Browse the listings below to find OT graduate programs or use the filter above to narrow down your search. Contact the schools directly to learn more and apply today!
[i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm | [ii] aota.org/Education-Careers/Find-School.aspx
California State University, Northridge
University of Pittsburgh
Saint Francis University