What Do Occupational Therapists Usually Major In?

An occupational therapy major is somewhat rare at the undergraduate level, but there are several major options to prepare for the career. Here we answer the question 'what do occupational therapists major in?' and discuss other career information. View article »

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  • 0:00 Occupational Therapy Majors
  • 0:59 Undergraduate Programs
  • 2:01 OT Master's Degrees
  • 3:19 OT Doctoral Degrees
  • 4:25 Licensure & Career Options

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Video Transcript

Occupational Therapy Major

Students interested in becoming an occupational therapist can find a few bachelor's degree programs in occupational therapy. An OT major is usually offered as a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program and helps equip aspiring OT's with hands-on training in the field. However, these programs are typically rare, as most occupational therapists need to complete a master's degree program in the field. Coursework for an OT major may include subjects in:

  • Kinesiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Communication
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Clinical reasoning

Although there are not many occupational therapy undergraduate majors available, there are several other good majors for occupational therapy. Students may wonder 'what major does occupational therapy fall under?' if it is not a common undergraduate major. The answer is that many institutions offer a pre-OT major within the health sciences. There are also closely related programs, such as a BS in Occupational Science.

Students interested in going on to earn their master's may also consider joint BS and Master of Science (MS) degree programs in occupational therapy. These degree programs may allow students to earn both degrees and complete their required fieldwork experience in 5.5 years, or faster than taking each degree program individually.

How to Become an Occupational Therapist

As mentioned, occupational therapy requirements usually include a master's degree, as well as a state license. Doctoral programs in the field are available for advanced education. During their master's program, aspiring OT's obtain clinical experience through extensive fieldwork and may have the opportunity to specialize within the field in areas like pediatrics, mental health, or adult physical rehabilitation. Students interested in specializing may want to specifically look for schools with the specialization, such as pediatric occupational therapy schools.

During their master's degree program, students also typically prepare for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. After passing the exam, students have the title 'Occupational Therapist, Registered' (OTR) and must pursue continuing education for recertification. Students may also pursue specialty certifications in areas like low vision or pediatrics.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

All of this education and training prepares occupational therapists to work with disabled, injured, or ill patients working to improve daily life skills, such as eating, getting dressed, and going to work. These therapists use a wide range of everyday activities as forms of therapy, including stretches. Other occupational therapists job duties may include:

  • Observing patients
  • Examining medical histories
  • Assessing a patient's needs
  • Creating an individualized treatment plan
  • Monitoring a patient's progress
  • Teaching patients to use special equipment, like eating aids or wheelchairs
  • Communicating with patients' families and employers about ways to help

Occupational Therapist Salary

In May of 2018, the average annual salary for an occupational therapist was $85,350, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also noted that most occupational therapists worked in offices of other health practitioners and made an average salary of $87,120. Occupational therapists that made the highest average salary of $94,170 worked in the management of companies and enterprises industry, according to the BLS, but the top 10% of occupational therapists made a salary of $120,750 or more.

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