Pursuing Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs: 2023 Everything You Need to Know

Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs

Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs Occupational therapy is a growing field that offers rewarding career opportunities to those who are interested in helping others. It requires specialized training, and one of the best ways to gain this knowledge is through an occupational therapy graduate program.

In this article, we will explore what these programs entail, their benefits, and how you can find the right fit for your needs.


By pursuing an occupational therapy graduate program, students have access to advanced coursework and clinical experience which prepares them for a successful career path. Graduates often enter into a variety of settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, schools, long-term care facilities, psychiatric institutions, or private practice settings.

Through rigorous academic preparation and hands-on learning experiences with clients from diverse backgrounds and abilities, graduates learn how to assess patient needs and build individualized treatment plans that maximize the quality of life across all areas of functioning.

How Can I Choose the Right Occupational Therapy?

Choosing the right occupational therapy graduate program depends on various factors including the length of the program, cost of tuition and fees, type of instruction offered (online or in person), required internships/fieldwork hours, and the overall reputation of the school or institution offering the program. With so many options available it’s important to do research before making a decision.

Overview Of Occupational Therapy Graduate Programs

Occupational therapy graduate programs provide students with the necessary skills to become licensed professionals in this field. For instance, Sarah was a recent college graduate looking for an occupation that allowed her to help people while utilizing her strengths of problem-solving and communication.

After research and investigation into different medical fields, she decided on occupational therapy as it matched her values and interests. Occupational therapy graduate programs offer courses such as anatomy and physiology, physical disabilities, gerontology, mental health disorders, pharmacology, public policy reform, and assistive technology.

Through these classes, they examine the patient’s lifestyle including their social context to determine how provided treatment will benefit them in everyday activities.

In addition to coursework related to clinical practice, most OT programs contain internships or field experiences where students gain hands-on experience working with clients under the direct supervision of a licensed clinician. This education component allows future therapists to observe professional behavior and learn ethical practices within the profession before graduation.

From here they can apply their knowledge from classroom lectures and develop their style of therapeutic intervention through practical application. With successful completion of all requirements for certification by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), graduates are eligible for licensure in all fifty states across America.

Moving forward, we will explore the types of degrees available for those interested in pursuing an education in occupational therapy.

Types Of Degrees Available

Occupational therapy is a career field that requires specialized training beyond the undergraduate degree. Graduate programs in occupational therapy offer many different types of degrees, allowing students to pursue their interests and goals. The various degrees available include the following ;

  • Master’s Degree.
  • Doctorate Degree.
  • Post-professional Certificates
  • Dual-degree Options.

Each offers its unique benefits for those entering this profession.

1. Master’s Degree.

Master’s Degree Programs are designed to train practitioners who will provide direct patient care after completing all requirements for licensure and certification.

These programs typically emphasize clinical skills development as well as research activities such as evidence-based practice, community engagement, and program evaluation. A Master of Science (MS) or Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) can be earned with most graduate-level programs lasting two years full-time or three years part time study.

2. Doctorate Degree.

Doctoral Degrees expand on the knowledge gained from a master’s degree by emphasizing advanced scientific principles related to occupational therapy theory and application in health systems management and leadership roles within the healthcare industry.

Doctoral-level studies often culminate in either a Doctor of Science (DSc) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Graduates may choose to work independently as researchers or hold faculty positions at universities where they can teach courses related to their specialty area.

●  Post-Professional Certificates

Post Professional Certificates allow professionals who already have a master’s degree in occupational therapy an opportunity to further specialize in an area that could lead to an advanced position within the workplace.

Post-professional certificate holders also have the potential to become board-certified specialists through additional examination processes offered by both American Occupational Therapy Association and National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy organizations.

Completion times vary depending upon course load but generally range between 12–24 months when taken part-time or 9–18 months when taken full-time. With these credentials, individuals can demonstrate mastery of specific competencies needed for certain job functions such as administrator, consultant, or team leader/coordinator among others.

●  Dual-Degree Options.

The flexibility provided by dual degree offerings allows working adults increased access to higher education opportunities without sacrificing employment commitments due to scheduling restrictions. Students enrolled in dual degree programs complete two complementary areas of study simultaneously resulting in multiple diplomas upon completion; usually one from each school involved with the program along with any associated certifications required by employers in their chosen fields.

This type of educational experience offers graduates greater chances for success because they gain expertise across multiple disciplines while developing valuable personal connections throughout their academic pursuits. Program requirements for entry into these dual degree programs vary based on each institution’s individual admissions criteria so research should be conducted before applying if considering this option.

Program Requirements

  • Occupational therapy graduate programs typically require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in an area such as human anatomy, psychology, or kinesiology. Courses may also include topics related to healthcare and social sciences. Depending on the program, some prerequisite courses may be required before applying.
  • Students should have strong communication skills and knowledge of medical terminology. Previous experience in occupational therapy is not always necessary, but it can help enhance the application.
  • Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow individuals with previous clinical practice experience to complete the master’s degree faster than those who do not have any prior background in this field. Prospective students need to research the specific requirements of each program they are considering since these vary from one school to another.
  • Most programs will require applicants to submit letters of recommendation along with their applications for admission. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to learning about occupational therapy through coursework and other activities such as internships or volunteer experiences.

To move onto the next stage of admissions criteria, potential students must submit satisfactory academic qualifications and meet all prerequisites established by the college or university offering the program.

Admissions Criteria

The field of occupational therapy graduate programs is a growing area, with the number of applicants increasing by 8.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 alone. To be accepted into an occupational therapy graduate program, prospective students must meet certain admissions criteria. Generally, these include having earned a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0-grade point average and submitting letters of recommendation and GRE scores.

Those applying for entry-level master’s or doctoral degrees may need to have completed prerequisite courses in areas such as anatomy & physiology, biology, chemistry, and psychology.

Additionally, many schools require applicants to submit personal statements that provide information on their motivations for pursuing this profession.

All materials should be sent directly to the school either electronically or through the mail. Upon review of all admission requirements and documents submitted, some individuals may receive an invitation to interview with faculty members before receiving acceptance into an occupational therapy graduate program.

Following the successful completion of the interview process, candidates will learn if they are admitted into their desired program within a few weeks after applying. With fulfillment of the necessary criteria comes access to curriculum and coursework which focuses on helping people develop skills needed for meaningful activities in daily life.

Curriculum And Coursework 

Once students have met the admissions criteria for occupational therapy graduate programs, they will need to review the curriculum and coursework offered. Programs provide a comprehensive education in human occupation and health sciences, with courses that include the following ;

  • Anatomy & physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychology
  • Physical Disabilities
  • Sensory Integration
  • Perceptual Motor Development
  • Assistive Technology Assessment
  • Intervention strategies

The program also provides specialized clinical experience in areas such as geriatrics, pediatrics, mental health, and practice management.

To be successful in their studies, learners must demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through self-directed study. Active engagement is essential both inside and outside of class participation. Additionally, some programs emphasize research skills to help prepare graduates for careers where their work may lead to evidence-based interventions or outcomes. Students can enhance their understanding of concepts by taking advantage of field trips to local clinics or other community facilities related to occupational therapy services.

Finally, many schools offer an online component so that students can complete part or all of the program from home without sacrificing quality instruction. Online learning options enable professionals who are already working full-time to pursue advanced degrees while continuing on the job without interruption. These hybrid educational models offer flexibility in how and when classes are taken while still providing access to knowledgeable faculty and experienced peers for feedback and support along the way.

Online Learning Options

Occupational therapy graduate programs offer students the opportunity to learn through online learning options. Often, these courses are offered as part of an accredited program and provide a convenient way for students to complete their studies while maintaining other obligations. Online learning provides flexibility with course scheduling, allowing learners to participate on their schedule without having to attend in-person classes.

Furthermore, most online courses include interactive activities such as discussion boards, webinars, or video conferencing that allow for collaboration among students and faculty members. The use of technology also enables occupational therapists to review audio/visual materials from lectures and presentations at their convenience.

Additionally, many online courses feature supplemental resources like tutorials, quizzes, simulations, and virtual labs that enhance the student’s learning experience. With this accessibility comes responsibility; successful completion of online courses requires effective time management skills and independent study habits.

Online courses can be beneficial for individuals who wish to pursue a degree in occupational therapy but may not have access to traditional education settings due to geographic distance or lack of available options in the area.

Technology has made it easier than ever before for occupational therapist graduates to stay current with advances in research and practice trends within the field by providing them with greater access to educational opportunities worldwide. Transitioning into the next section about the ‘application process’… To apply for admission into an occupational therapy graduate program, potential candidates must meet certain criteria established by each institution’s admissions department. 

Application ProcessPrepping and processing applications for occupational therapy graduate programs require precision, patience, and planning. Before starting the process, potential students should review the requirements of their preferred program, including any prerequisite classes or admissions tests that must be completed before the deadline submission.

Once all qualifications are met, applicants can start preparing their application materials. When submitting an application package, prospective students need to demonstrate academic excellence by providing undergraduate transcripts as well as two letters of recommendation from former professors or supervisors.

Additionally, they also need to submit a personal essay outlining why they want to pursue a graduate degree in Occupational Therapy. This helps programs assess whether candidates have prepared themselves properly and understand what is expected of them during their studies.

Prospective students should ensure accuracy when filling out forms and double-check that all documents are submitted before the deadline. Submitting all required components on time increases the chances of success in being accepted into the desired program. With admission secured, attention turns towards the career outlook and opportunities available with a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy.

Career Outlook And Opportunities

Occupational therapy graduate programs prepare students to become healthcare professionals who help people with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. With an increasing demand for occupational therapists in the job market, graduates of these programs have several career opportunities available to them.

Here are four key benefits that come along with pursuing this field;

  • Accessibility
  • Variety
  • Flexibility
  • Job Security

1.  Accessibility

 Occupational therapy is becoming increasingly accessible due to advances in technology and research. This means there are more ways for patients to receive effective treatments.

2.  Variety

There are many different types of occupational therapy jobs such as working in rehabilitation centers, teaching courses at universities, or even starting your private practice. This allows for plenty of variety when it comes to choosing where you want to work.

3.  Flexibility

The flexibility offered by occupational therapy makes it possible for individuals to work around their schedules rather than being tethered to one specific job or location.

4.  Job Security

Occupation therapists generally enjoy high levels of job security since they provide essential services that are difficult to replace. These factors combine to create an attractive career outlook for those considering entering this profession.

As the need for qualified occupational therapists continues to grow alongside advancements in healthcare technology, so too will the opportunity and potential rewards associated with this field of study.

By understanding what occupations offer both short-term and long-term prospects within their respective fields, students can make informed decisions about which path they wish to pursue after graduating from an accredited program. Transitioning smoothly into the next section on financial aid and scholarships requires that prospective students understand how much money may be involved in covering tuition costs and other expenses related to earning a degree in this field.

Financial Aid And Scholarships

Given the increasing demand for occupational therapists, there are various financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to prospective students interested in an Occupational Therapy (OT) graduate program.

Federal and state grants as well as private scholarships can provide considerable assistance with tuition costs. Additionally, federal student loans may be available to qualified applicants. When researching potential OT programs, it is important to determine if any funding sources are available from that particular institution or department.

Many times universities will have their internal awards for incoming students such as merit-based scholarships or special awards related to a certain area of study within the field of OT. Scholarship searches online may also help locate additional resources for students looking for ways to pay for their education.

Prospective students must take advantage of all possible options when considering financing an OT degree program. Financial advisors at schools offering these types of degrees can often guide how best to finance an OT program and what kind of support might be accessible through the university itself or external organizations.

With this in mind, exploring professional organizations and resources related to occupational therapy could offer invaluable insight into furthering one’s career ambitions.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Occupational therapy graduate programs offer students a wealth of professional organizations and resources to help them on their educational journey. Joining an organization is like stepping into a car with the navigation set for success; it can provide support, guidance, and access to the latest information in the field.

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is the primary resource for any student or therapist looking to get involved in occupational therapy. AOTA offers membership levels from student to advanced practitioner and provides benefits such as professional development opportunities, networking events, publications, news updates, advocacy services, discounts on products/services related to OT practice, and more.

Other prominent associations include The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), which administers certification exams that allow therapists to become registered practitioners; the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT), which works globally with other occupational therapy organizations; Special Interest Sections (SISs) within AOTA tailored specifically towards different areas of practice; professionalism groups like Honor Society of Handicapped Students & Professionals (HSHSP); and international associations such as British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT).

In addition to these organizations, there are online communities providing advice about topics ranging from personal experiences in school to job searches after graduation. These forums are great places for connecting with fellow peers and mentors who have gone through similar pathways before you. It’s important to take advantage of all available resources while pursuing your degree – they can make all the difference when working towards a successful career as an occupational therapist!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Cost Of The Program?

The cost of programs is an important factor to consider when selecting a graduate program. Depending on the institution, tuition and fees may vary significantly, so prospective students need to understand what they can expect financially before enrolling in their chosen course of study.

When considering the overall cost of a particular program; Tuition fees are typically assessed at per-credit or per-course rates and may also include technology, library access, academic materials, graduation costs, and other expenses. Room and board as well as books and supplies should be factored into the equation too. It is common for schools to offer discounts or scholarships that help lower the overall expense.

However, these need to be applied for early enough in advance to ensure eligibility. Financial aid such as federal student loans can also provide some relief from educational costs; however, potential students should research all available options beforehand to make informed decisions about which type of assistance best fits their needs. Understanding the total price tag associated with occupational therapy graduate programs is an important step towards successful enrollment – one that requires thoughtful consideration by each applicant before making any commitments.

Is There An Internship/Externship Component?

The question of whether there is an internship or externship component to a program has come up in many contexts. One such context may be within occupational therapy graduate programs, where the importance of hands-on experience and practical application of skills can have a significant impact on one’s success as a professional. Students need to understand the structure and requirements of their program when considering this option.

Here are four key points about internships/externships that should help inform potential students;

Most major universities or colleges offering occupational therapy graduate programs include some form of fieldwork or clinical rotation as part of their curriculum. The duration and extent of these experiences vary greatly from school to school.

Generally speaking, placements are sometimes unpaid but provide valuable real-world experience applicable to one’s career. Internship/externship opportunities may also exist outside the university setting; they could be found through research or networking with alumni who work in related fields. While researching different schools, it is important to look into any details about fieldwork opportunities so prospective students can decide if they will benefit from them. Such information can often be found on the website or by contacting admissions offices directly for more detailed descriptions regarding specific programs offered at each institution.

Additionally, consulting with faculty members familiar with the respective programs would likely yield useful insight into the availability and benefits associated with internships/externships during the study for an occupational therapy degree. All things considered, learning about available options early on will ensure that students make informed decisions when choosing which program best suits their needs and interests.

Are There Any Specializations Available?

Many graduate programs offer specializations for students to focus their studies. This is particularly true in fields such as occupational therapy, where the study of specialized topics can be beneficial for those looking to enter a specific area of practice.

With this in mind, it is important to consider whether any specializations are available within an occupational therapy graduate program. There may be several potential areas of specialization offered by occupational therapy graduate schools. These could include but are not limited to: mental health and disabilities; physical conditions; pediatric/school-based settings; geriatric care; or even more niche concentrations like assistive technology or driver rehabilitation. Each concentration will require different course offerings and clinical experiences depending on the particular school’s curriculum.

Additionally, some schools might also provide dual-degree options which allow students to specialize in multiple disciplines at once. Before selecting a particular program, prospective students must research all available options thoroughly so they can ensure they find one that best fits their needs and interests. It is recommended that individuals reach out directly with any questions about possible specializations, required courses, and other educational requirements associated with each respective degree program. Doing so can help guarantee that serious attention has been paid to applying for the right program for them before making any commitments or investments into furthering their education.

What Is The Job Placement Rate After Graduation?

The job placement rate after graduation from occupational therapy graduate programs is an important indicator of the overall quality and success of such a program. To understand how well these programs are preparing students for successful careers in this field, it is necessary to consider:

  • The Availability of Jobs.
  • Post-Graduation Job Opportunities 
  • Amounts Offered by Employers
  • Job Security
  • Networking Capabilities
  • Connections made with Alumni
  • Ability to Build Relationships
  • Access to Resources
  • Professional Development
  • Continuing Education Opportunities
  • Career Advancement Options
  • Support services available

When evaluating the effectiveness of any occupational therapy graduate program, the job placement rates should be taken into consideration. Such information often reveals valuable insight into the caliber of graduates that have emerged from each program. The number of graduates who find employment within six months or one year can provide useful data points on the marketability of their skillset and career readiness.

Additionally, an analysis of salary levels may also yield insights as to where graduates tend to land in terms of compensation packages. To make a more accurate assessment of post-graduate success, other factors need to be considered as well such as networking ability, professional development potential, and long-term stability prospects. With all these elements combined, a comprehensive picture can emerge regarding how effective certain occupational therapy graduate programs truly are at helping their students succeed in today’s competitive workforce.

How Long Does It Take To Complete The Program?

The length of time it takes to complete a program is an important factor for students when considering their educational options. This can be especially true for those pursuing graduate degrees in occupational therapy, as the duration of the program will affect career prospects after graduation.

Generally speaking, completing a master’s degree in occupational therapy typically takes two years and may include both academic coursework and clinical practice.

Breaking down this timeline into more detail reveals that: –

  • The first year focuses on core courses, such as anatomy and physiology, psychosocial foundations of health sciences, human development, and professional issues related to occupational therapy practice.
  • During the second year, students take classes in advanced topics while also engaging in fieldwork experiences at approved sites. – At the end of the program, they must pass a comprehensive exam before graduating with their degree.
  • Finally, most schools require students to submit capstone projects or other forms of research reflecting original work completed during their tenure. This timeframe provides graduates with an opportunity to develop their knowledge base and hone skills necessary for successful careers within the profession.

Furthermore, many institutions provide support services throughout the entirety of the process to ensure student success before entering the workforce. Ultimately, understanding how long it takes to finish an occupational therapy graduate program is essential for any prospective student looking to pursue further education in this field.


Graduate programs in occupational therapy are an opportunity for those interested in the field to gain a deeper understanding of its principles and practices. The cost, internship or externship options, specializations available, job placement rate after graduation, and length of a program vary from one institution to another. By researching these aspects carefully before making a decision on which school to attend, prospective students can ensure that they make the best possible choice for their future career goals.

When considering the long-term benefits of completing such a program of study, it is essential to take into account not only the intellectual growth but also the personal transformation that often accompanies professional development. Through gaining knowledge about healthcare and patient management theory coupled with practical experience through internships or externships, graduates become equipped with both technical expertise and interpersonal skills required for success as practitioners in this burgeoning field.

Occupational therapy graduate programs provide individuals with more than just an education; they offer a chance at self-discovery while developing professionally within the framework of evidence-based practice guidelines. With so much promise ahead, these opportunities should be embraced fully by all aspiring therapists who want to give back to society while achieving their life aspirations.


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