Occupational therapists (OT) specialize in:
- Designing customized treatment programs to improve a patient's ability to perform daily activities
- Evaluating home and job sites with adaptation recommendations
- Assessing performance skills and devising treatments
- Recommending adaptive equipment and training patients on usage
- Providing guidance to family members and caregivers
In order to become an OT, you must graduate from an accredited OT master’s or doctoral program, complete Level I and Level II fieldwork requirements, pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy certification examination and apply for a license.
Both master's and doctoral degree programs prepare students to become entry-level practitioners, but doctoral students take additional coursework and complete a 16-week experiential component and culminating project. Graduates of both programs practice as generalists. OTs who wish to specialize may enroll in post-professional programs.
For more information, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) FAQ on OT Education and Career Planning.
You should refer to individual schools to ensure that you have satisfied their prerequisites before applying. Prerequisite coursework varies significantly across occupational therapy programs, but may include coursework similar to this list.
- General Biology (8 hours)
- Anatomy & Physiology (8 hours)
- Statistics (3 hours)
- Abnormal Psychology (3 hours)
- Medical Terminology (3 hours)
- Bioethics (3 hours)
- Sociology (3 hours)
- Sociocultural Anthropology (3 hours)
Most schools require students to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The exam is offered year-round at computer-based testing sites across the country.
GPA and Extracurricular Experience
Competitive applicants to occupational therapy programs typically have at least a 3.2 overall undergraduate GPA and strong GRE scores. Some programs will require a minimum of a “C” grade in all prerequisite coursework. In addition, some programs require that students have observation or volunteer experience prior to applying. Even if schools do not require clinical experience, having exposure to the field will make you a more competitive candidate. For more information, see AOTA’s Common Occupational Therapy Program Formats and Admissions Criteria.
The Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) allows occupational therapy applicants to use a single web-based application and one set of transcripts to apply to multiple schools. The OTCAS maintains a list of participating programs. If a program is not listed, you will need to visit the school’s website to find its unique application and instructions.
The annual OTCAS application typically opens in July, one full year prior to the start date of OT programs. Application deadlines vary. Some schools expect your transcripts to be verified prior to the deadline, and this process can take up to six weeks to complete after you have submitted your application (see OTCAS overview). Admission decisions are made on a rolling basis, so early applicants have a significant advantage.
- The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)
- The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)
- Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS)