Occupational therapists, also known as OTs, treat patients of all ages with injuries, illnesses or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, and improve the skills needed for daily living and working. Some occupational therapists work as part of a health care team, along with doctors, registered nurses and other types of therapists.
There is no one particular major required for entrance into an OT program. Pre-Occupatonal Therapy is a career goal that includes a set of course requirements that prepare you to succeed as an occupational therapist. You should choose a major you enjoy, and one in which you will excel.
- 2 semesters Anatomy & Physiology with labs (general biology required at some schools as well)
- 1 semester General Chemistry with lab (required at some schools)
- 1 semester Physics with lab (required at some schools)
- 4 semesters Social/Behavioral Science
- Recommended courses are General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Life Span Development and Introductory Sociology
- 2 semesters Communications (written and/or verbal)
- Recommended courses are English Composition and a speech course
- 1 semester Statistics
- Other requirements may include: Medical Terminology, Ethics, College Algebra
Generally a grade below a C is not acceptable for prerequisite courses.
Becoming an OT
A master’s degree or higher in OT is the minimum educational requirement. While the minimal practice degree is currently a master's degree, the field seems to be moving toward offering doctoral degrees (OTD). Applicants to OT programs have a bachelor’s degree in any major, with the appropriate prerequisite courses. Many programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting. Admissions requirements vary from program to program. For both the master's and doctoral-level occupational therapy programs, the professional content will be similar; however, the entry-level doctoral programs will place a greater emphasis on management, theory, research and critical thinking.
Occupational therapy programs are generally two years for the master’s degree, with doctoral programs taking longer (generally about 3 years) to complete an OTD (doctorate in occupational therapy). Both master’s and doctoral programs require several months of supervised fieldwork. All states require OTs to be licensed. Certification is voluntary, but many choose to become certified. They must pass the national board exam and take continuing education classes to maintain their certification.
Aptitude Test and Application
Pre-OT students typically need to take the GRE (Graduate Record Exam). It is usually taken in the spring of your junior year, or the following summer. Application is made through an online system called OTCAS (Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service).