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otbannerGeneral Overview

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.


Pre-Professional Health Advising has developed requirements for the Pre-Occupational Therapy (OT) program based on pre-requisite courses of 52 OT schools in the District of Columbia and 8 states (CT, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, and VA). The review of pre-requisite courses to develop the requirements for the Pre-OT Program below was completed in spring semester 2017. You should look at individual OT schools' list of pre-requisites to assure completion of all pre-requisite coursework. Because these courses are pre-requisites to OT programs, OT school admissions committees will use your academic success in these courses as a metric of your ability to achieve success in OT school.

If you have credit for any of the following courses by earning Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Exam (CIE), community college credit, or departmental test credit, please read the Non-JMU Coursework for Pre-Requisite Coursework below.

Biology Coursework

Before taking Human Anatomy or Physiology, we strongly encourage OT students to take an introductory Biology course. 22% of OT schools required an Introductory Biology, and an additional 2% listed it as a requirement option. To meet this pre-requisite at JMU, you can take BIO 140 or BIO 103. 6% of schools required an accompanying Introductory Biology lab; 4% of schools recommended the lab. To have an accompanying Introductory Biology lab, you need to take BIO 140 (not BIO 103). An additional 4% of schools required 8 credits of Introductory Biology, which means the BIO 140-150 sequence at JMU.

  • BIO 103: Contemporary Biology (3 credits)
  • BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (4 credits)

Human Anatomy and Physiology are both required for Pre-OT students at JMU. 94% of OT schools required Human Anatomy, and 96% required Human Physiology.

  • BIO 290: Human Anatomy (4 credits)
  • BIO 270: Human Physiology (4 credits)

Chemistry Coursework

Only 4% of OT schools required Chemistry as a pre-requisite; however, Chemistry is a pre-requisite at JMU for BIO 270: Human Physiology, which is required by 96% of OT schools.

  • CHEM 120: Concepts of Chemistry (3 credits)
  • CHEM 131: General Chemistry I (3 credits)

Physics Coursework

Students are required to complete 4 credit hours of General Physics with labs. 21% of schools required a Physics lecture, and an additional 4% recommended it. 12% of schools required the associated lab, and 4% of schools recommended the lab. Some OT programs may allow HTH 441/KIN 407: Rehabilitative Mechanics (3 credits) to fulfill their Physics requirement; therefore, this course may satisfy this requirement.

  • PHYS 140*: College Physics I (3 credits) or PHYS 240: University Physics I (3 credits)
  • PHYS 140L: General Physics Laboratory I (1 credit)

* Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends that you take the PHYS 140-150 sequence rather than the 240-250 sequence, unless your major requires otherwise. The PHYS 140-150 sequence is the non-calculus sequence in general physics. The 240-250 sequence is the calculus sequence that requires MATH 235-236 as co-requisites, respectively. Because it is not the calculus sequence of Physics, PHYS 140-150 is able to cover more breadth within Physics than the 240-250 sequence.

Mathematics Coursework

Pre-OT students are required to complete 3 credits of a 200- or 300-level Statistics. There are two considerations when choosing appropriate statistics courses.

  1. Double-Counting with Other RequirementsRefer to major and minor requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog to determine if there are specific statistics courses required for your major or minor requirements. Most of these classes will fulfill General Education: Cluster 3: Quantitative Reasoning, but this may also be a consideration.
  2. Your Math Placement Exam (MPE) ScoresUtilize the MPE Matrix to determine the appropriate statistics courses to take. You can find your MPE for statistics within the Student Center of MyMadison. You can watch a video to learn how to find your MPE scores.

There are two statistics courses that Pre-OT students are encouraged to take at James Madison University. Your MPE - Statistics score may require that you take MATH 105: Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning beforehand to be successful in these courses.

  • MATH 220: Elementary Statistics (3 credits)
  • MATH 318: Introduction to Probability and Statistics (4 credits)

Behavioral and Social Science Coursework

Pre-Medicine students must complete 9 credits of Psychology, 3 credits of Sociology, and 3 credits of Anthropology. This is a total of 15 credits of Behavioral and Social Science coursework.

Psychology. 96% required Lifespan Human Development, 88% required Abnormal Psychology, and 42% required General Psychology. An additional 10% of schools reuqired an additional 3 credits of Psychology (unspecified, and 10% listed an additional 3 credits of Psychology (unspecified) as a requirement option. Therefore, Pre-OT students are required to complete the following Psychology coursework:

  • PSYC 101: General Psychology (3 credits)
  • PSYC 160: Life Span Human Development (3 credits)
  • PSYC 250: Introduction to Abnormal Psychology (3 credits) or PSYC 335: Abnormal Psychology (3 credits; Psychology majors only)

Please note, PSYC 101 and 160 will also count for General Education's Cluster 5: Sociocultural Domain.

Sociology. 17% of OT schools required introduction to Sociology coursework; an additional 15% listed it as a requirement example or option. An additional 12% of schools required Sociology, but did not specify a course within the Sociology discipline. 44% of OT schools listed additional Sociology coursework as a requirement option, but did not specify a course within the Sociology discipline. Therefore, Pre-OT students are required to complete one of the following Sociology courses:

  • SOCI 110: Social Issues in a Global Context (3 credits)
  • SOCI 140: Microsociology: Individual in Society (3 credits)

Please note, SOCI 110 will also count for General Education's Cluster 4: The Global Experience, and SOCI 140 will also count for General Education's Cluster 5: Sociocultural Domain.

Cultural Anthropology. 10% of OT schools listed Cultural Anthropology as a pre-requisite; an additional 60% listed it as a requirement option. Therefore, Pre-OT students are required to complete:

  • ANTH 195: Cultural Anthropology (3 credits)

Please note, ANTH 195 will also count for General Education's Cluster 4: The Global Experience.

Medical Terminology Coursework

Pre-OT students must complete 3 credits of medical terminology, because 21% of OT schools listed this course as a pre-requisite. An additional 2% listed it as strongly recommended, and 2% listed it as recommended.

  • HTH 210: Medical Terminology (3 credits)

Ethics Coursework

Pre-OT students are strongly encouraged to complete ethics coursework. 8% of schools required an ethics course; 4% listed it as a requirement options. Typically, schools will accept any coursework that lists "Ethics" in the title. Examples at JMU include:

  • IPE/NSG 415: Ethical Decision-Making in Healthcare: An Interprofessional Approach (1 credit)
  • PHIL 150: Ethical Reasoning (3 credits)
  • PHIL 262: Problems of Applied Ethics (3 credits)
  • HTH 423: Ethics of Critical Thinking in Health (3 credits)

Admissions Criteria and Academic Record

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.

Preparation Timeline

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 Evaluation

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.

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