Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy is a health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement.

Typical Responsibilities

  • Observe patient doing tasks, ask the patient questions, and review the patient's medical history
  • Establish a treatment plan for patients, laying out the types of activities and specific goals to be accomplished
  • Demonstrate exercises that can help relieve pain for people with chronic conditions
  • Evaluate a patient’s home or workplace and identify how it can be better suited to the patient’s health needs
  • Educate a patient’s family and employer about how to accommodate and care for the patient
  • Recommend special equipment, such as wheelchairs and eating aids, and instruct patients on how to use equipment

Preparing for Admission

  • Occupational therapist entry-level degrees are either masters or doctoral degrees and practitioners are required to sit for the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) Exam administered by the NBCOT. However, it should be noted that the American Occupational Therapy Association has issued a statement that the profession should transition toward a doctoral-level single point of entry for occupational therapists, with a target completion date of 2025.
  • Resources for researching schools: A complete list of accredited master’s degree programs can be found on The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) website. A complete list of doctoral programs can be found on the same website.
  • Prerequisite coursework: Varies by school. There is no central cite that lists all OT pre-requisite courses.  Review the specific program website for each program’s pre-requisite courses.
  • Experience/Exposure: Many programs require applicants to have a certain number of volunteer or paid experiences working with patients under the supervision of a licensed occupational therapist. These requirements vary by program and will be outlined on the admissions requirements section of each program website.

The Admissions Cycle

  • There is a Centralized Application Process (OTCAS) that most occupational therapy programs participate in.
  • Application opens: annually mid-July
  • Fees: OTCAS: $140 for the first program, $60 for each additional program.  Additional information can be found on the OTCAS website.
  • Fee waivers: There is a fee assistance program to help cover application deadlines available to eligible students to apply.
  • If required by program, GRE and TOEFL test scores must be entered on the application. Not all programs require the GRE and the specific school admissions sites will outline the requirements.
  • AOTA has created a thorough instruction manual and FAQ which is helpful for students in the application process.For general application questions refer to the OTCAS FAQ.