Occupational therapy is skilled treatment that helps individuals achieve independence in all facets of their lives. It gives people the “skills for the job of living” necessary for independent and satisfying lives. Occupational therapy practitioners are skilled professionals whose education includes the study of human growth and development with special emphasis on the social, emotional and physiological effects of illness and injury. Occupational therapists (OTs) work in health and human service areas and have been members of a team delivering quality health care since 1917, when the profession was established. OTs work in hospitals (inpatient and outpatient programs), rehabilitation centers, early intervention programs, schools, mental health programs, home health care agencies, skilled nursing facilities, private practices, correctional facilities, shelters, community based programs or as faculty at universities or colleges.
All accredited occupational therapy programs are at the post-baccalaureate (master’s or doctoral) degree level. Currently, there are 157 colleges and universities that offer accredited master’s-level programs in occupational therapy and 6 accredited doctoral-level programs. Further information on OT educational programs can be found at the American Occupational Therapy Association. The employment outlook for occupational therapists is expected to remain very strong and according to the US Department of Labor, the employment opportunities are expected to increase much faster than average for all areas of practice through 2014.
Choosing a Major
Programs do not generally require a specific major. Some majors include many of the prerequisites commonly associated with occupational therapy programs; this will allow the student to reduce the number of additional courses that he/she is required to take in order to meet both the requirements of the major and the prerequisites of many OT programs. The admissions requirement information presented here should be used only as a guide when planning your pre-OT curriculum. It is important that you do not interpret these guidelines as definitive statements regarding admission requirements or policies of individual OT programs. We strongly recommended that students contact each occupational therapy program they plan to apply to in order to understand specific course prerequisite and admissions criteria.
Early Planning is Critical to Success
Students planning for a career in occupational therapy should discuss their goals with their pre-professional health and undergraduate advisers. It is important to begin this planning process when you begin your studies for a variety of reasons:
- You may be able to select courses that will meet the requirements of your major and of specific OT programs.
- You will need time to meet all requirements including hours of volunteer OT experience. Some programs require 40 to 100 hours of volunteer experience with occupational therapy professionals (document your hours).
- Admission to OT programs is competitive, allow yourself time to explore and plan for several options.
- Each OT program specifies its own requirements and procedures.
Potential applicants should make a concerted effort to identify which OT Program(s) are best suited to them and seek advice early in their preparation through a Pre-OT advisor.
Occupational therapy programs have a set of prerequisite courses and experiences that may be unique to the particular program. Prerequisites generally include extensive undergraduate coursework in both the biological and behavioral sciences:
- BIO 270: Human Physiology (4 credit hours)
- BIO 290: Human Anatomy (4 credit hours)
- CHEM 120: Concepts of Chemistry (3 credit hours)
- HTH 210: Medical Terminology (3 credit hours)
- MATH 220: Elementary Statistics or HTH 320: Health Statistics (3 credit hours)
- PHYS 140 and 140L: College Physics I (4 credit hours) or HTH 441/KIN 407: Rehabilitative Biomechanics (3 credit hours)
- PSYC 160: Life Span Human Development (3 credit hours)
- PSYC 250: Abnormal Psychology (3 credit hours)
- SOCI 110: Social Issues in a Global Context or SOCI 140: Individual in Society (3 credit hours)
Students are encoiuraged to take additional course work in biology (BIO 140), communication (SCOM), ethics (PHIL 150), psychology and cultural anthropology (ANTH 195).
Academic performance is a critical factor in the OT programs admissions process. Many programs have a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) requirement and review the overall GPA and the GPA from selected prerequisite courses. They may also examine the applicant’s transcript for evidence of academic consistency, course load and improvement in grade performance over time.
The vast majority of OT programs require the completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as part of the application. The JMU Occupational Therapy Program requires applicants to complete the verbal, quantitative, analytical and writing components of the GRE. Please refer to individual program requirements for additional tests that may be required.
Most OT programs admit one group of students per year and the starting dates vary. Some programs require that all prerequisites be completed at the time of application while others are satisfied when all prerequisites are completed by the time of enrollment. The application deadline for the JMU Occupational Therapy Program is December 1st. Applications submitted by the due date are reviewed first and given earliest consideration for entry into the program, after the deadline applicant consideration will depend on enrollment numbers.
Some programs require 40 to 100 hours of volunteer experience with occupational therapy professionals (document your hours).
Letters of Recommendation or Evlauation
All occupational therapy programs require submission of letters of evaluation (LOE) as part of the application. Students should establish relationships with faculty within the university as well as with employers in OT work place settings. Letters of evaluation from a professor or health care professional are typically preferred over personal references.
The Madison Advising Peers will return to the Pre-Professional Health office to assist students in Fall semester 2016!
The Pre-Occupational Therapy Advisor is Dr. Jeanne Wenos in the Department of Health Sciences.
Additional support is provided by advisors in Pre-Professional Health (PPH) Advising. To schedule an appointment with an advisor in PPH Advising, calling 540-568-6652, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting PPH Advising in Roop Hall, G24.