Colleges for Occupational Therapy in the U.S.

Occupational therapy programs train students to assist patients in completing tasks that improve memory function and physical dexterity so that they can care for themselves independently. Occupational therapy programs can be found at 4-year colleges and universities. Programs are offered at the bachelor's and master's degree level.

How to Select an Occupational Therapy School

Occupational therapists work to enhance the life skills of people who have physical, emotional or mental disabilities. The bachelor level program introduces students to the concepts that will be mastered in the advanced degree program. After graduating from a graduate school program, students must become licensed in order to work in the field.

Students choosing a school with an occupational therapy program may want to consider the following:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that all states require occupational therapy license applicants to have a master's degree in the field from an ACOTE-accredited school (www.bls.gov).
  • A dual-degree program may benefit students who have not yet earned a bachelor's degree by cutting both time and costs needed to complete the programs.
  • Because master's degree programs typically require students to participate in clinical immersions, internships and externships, working students may opt to enroll in schools that offer weekend or part-time classes.

Occupational Therapy Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree Programs

A bachelor's degree program in occupational therapy focuses on introducing students to the general concepts of the field. The curriculum usually consists of a combination of coursework and supervised clinical sessions. Classes in these programs may cover topics like:

  • Kinesiology
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Communication

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree occupational therapy program curricula include coursework in subjects like:

  • Occupational science
  • Assistive technology
  • Functional movement

The format of these programs includes coursework and fieldwork experiences. Students may be required to complete a project utilizing the clinical and research skills they gained. Programs may also include a 2-week externship experience. Students are often given the option to complete a thesis or take a comprehensive exam. Graduates are usually prepared for entry-level positions in the field.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Licensed therapists can obtain a doctoral degree either in occupational therapy or in a related field, such as rehabilitation sciences. These programs prepare students for careers in scientific research, university-level teaching or specialized clinical practice. Students learn the core concepts of occupational science and are typically expected to complete doctoral projects. Programs may include residency, practicum or clinical requirements. Doctoral-level courses may include:

  • Health promotion and wellness
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Current issues in occupational therapy

Top 10 Schools with Occupational Therapy Programs

College/University Institution Type
University of Southern California 4-year, Private
Boston University (Sargent) 4-year, Private
Washington University in St. Louis 4-year, Private
University of Illinois - Chicago 4-year, Public
University of Kansas Medical Center 4-year, Public
Colorado State University 4-year, Public
Thomas Jefferson University 4-year, Private
Tufts University - Boston School of Occupational Therapy 4-year, Private
University of Pittsburgh 4-year, Public
New York University 4-year, Private

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