Occupational therapy (OT) is a branch of health care that helps people of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems. OT can help them regain independence in all areas of their lives.Occupational therapists help with barriers that affect a person’s emotional, social, and physical needs through the use of everyday activities, exercises, and other therapies.
Occupational Therapists typically do the following:
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
- Adaptability. Occupational therapists must be flexible when treating patients. Because not every type of therapy will work for each patient, therapists may need to be creative when determining the treatment plans and adaptive devices that best suit each patient’s needs.
- Communication skills. Occupational therapists must listen attentively to what patients tell them and must explain what they want their patients to do. When communicating with other members of the patient’s medical team, therapists must clearly explain the treatment plan for the patient and any progress made by the patient.
- Compassion. Occupational therapists are usually drawn to the profession by a desire to help people and improve their daily lives. Therapists must be sensitive to a patient’s needs and concerns, especially when assisting the patient with personal activities.
- Interpersonal skills. Because occupational therapists spend their time teaching and explaining therapies to patients, they need to earn the trust and respect of those patients and their families.
- Patience. Dealing with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities is frustrating for many people. Occupational therapists should exhibit patience in order to provide quality care to the people they serve.
Learn more about Occupational Therapy:
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.
Coming Soon! General Occupational Therapy Pre-Requisites.
** BIOL 222 and *** BIOL 376 may not meet the admissions criteria of your intended program. If the program you are preparing for has prerequisites that K College doesn’t offer, most commonly human anatomy and physiology, you may take them at Western Michigan University under our inter-institutional enrollment arrangement. Please contact the Registrar’s office a K College for the policy, procedure, and forms. This is done on a space-available basis so plan ahead and make your arrangements early. The cost is included in your K tuition and the grades will appear on your K transcript and be calculated into your K GPA.
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 & Admissions Criteria.
Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
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.
Length: 3 hours and 45 minutes
Sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing
Scores: Scores range from 260-340 Verbal and Quantitative Composite, and 0-6 Analytical Writing.
Cost: The registration fee is $205 which includes the exam and scores sent to four schools. Sending scores to additional schools costs $27 each. Applicants with financial need may request a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate to cover 50% of the GRE fee.
Number of schools: Students typically apply to between 5-7 Occupational Therapy programs.
It is essential to select schools that are not only a good fit for you academically, but also a good fit for your values, skills, interest, and that will help you become the professional you want to be. Take time to research programs prior to the application process. Here are some factors you should consider:
Factors to consider:
- Admission requirements: The prerequisite coursework and clinical experience requirements vary widely between each OT program. Determine where you’re eligible to apply based on the coursework you’ve completed or will complete before matriculation.
- Location: Urban vs. rural setting, proximity to family, recreational opportunities, cost of living, etc. Additionally, think about where you will be doing your clinical work – types of hospitals/clinics, patient population, etc.
- Mission Statements: You should look for schools with mission statements that fit with your own goals.
- Curriculum: Seek out information about the curriculum and consider how it fits with your learning style.
- Cost: Consider tuition and type of financial aid available
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.
- Centralized Application Service: OTCAS – Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service
- Number of Participating Schools: Approximately 200
- Cost: $150 which includes one DPT program designation. Each additional school is $65.
- Fee Assistance? Yes, through the OTCAS Fee Assistance Program. Each fee waiver covers only the initial application fee, so if you wish to apply to additional programs, you are responsible for the remaining balance.
- Application Requirements:
- Personal information
- Academic history
- Supporting information
- Program materials
- Recommendation letters
For most schools, 1-2 evaluation letters from science faculty who taught you in a course, 1 from a non-science college instructor, and 1-2 letters from occupational therapists should be enough. Some schools will specify exactly how many and from what type of authors and you should, of course, provide exactly what they request. For the application service (OTCAS), you are able to enter 3-5 evaluator names.
- Individual school websites
After submitting the primary application, and secondary applications where required, students may receive interview offers in the year preceding matriculation. Not all programs require an interview as part of the application process, but for the ones that do, the interview is a very important element in the application process. When a school invites you to an interview, they are indicating an interest in selecting you. The interview gives both of you the opportunity to exchange information to determine if you are a good “fit” for each other.
Schools use personal interviews with applicants to assess qualities such as self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and ability to overcome challenges. Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in physical therapy and the experiences that have motivated you.