Occupational therapists (OTs) help people of all ages work towards independent and satisfying lives.  OTs assist clients with exercises and activities that will allow them to master the skills needed to perform day-to-day tasks at home, work, school and in the community.  These activities range from teaching joint protection techniques, how to safely move from a bed to a wheelchair, and muscle strengthening exercises to teaching life skills such as cooking, dressing, driving, walking and eating. OTs create customized treatment plans for patients and assist them in implementing that plan.  They make recommendations about adaptive equipment that would be useful and provide training in this equipment use.  OTs also work extensively with family members and caregivers, giving them important guidance in these roles. 

Academic Requirements

A post baccalaureate entry-level degree in occupational therapy is the minimum requirement for becoming an Occupational Therapist.  A list of accredited masters-level programs is available through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).

 Undergraduate Coursework Required by Most Graduate OT Programs:

       Introductory Chemistry

       Introductory Biology

       Human Anatomy

       Educational Psychology Basic Statistics (completed within the last five years)

       Social & Behavioral Science Coursework (e.g. Abnormal Psychology,

       Developmental Psychology, Introductory Sociology, Sociocultural Anthropology)

       Medical Terminology

       Ethics

Please note the pre-requisite requirements differ from school to school. As such, it is important to research the specific requirements at each school to which you intend to apply.

Undergraduate Major

The courses required by graduate OT programs can generally be fit into almost any major undergraduate major. However, some programs require more extensive science preparation, than others.  Therefore, it is important that you work closely with your academic advisor and carefully plan your undergraduate coursework.  Common undergraduate majors include psychology, kinesiology and a variety of science-related majors.

Co-Curricular Experiences

In addition to completing specific coursework, OT applicants must have experience working or volunteering with people who have mental, physical, or developmental disabilities.  Securing these experiences is an excellent way to make sure that OT is a good match for your interests and skills.  In addition, it will help demonstrate your seriousness of purpose and your understanding of the field to graduate admissions committees. Observation and/or work in at least two different types of OT settings is strongly recommended. Likewise, at least one experience should be extensive ( at least 40 hours) and be overseen by a licensed occupational therapist.

Additional Information

American Occupational Therapy Association

ExploreHealthCareers.org Career Overview