Occupational therapists help people suffering from a range of disabilities to perform tasks of everyday living by recommending assistive devices, evaluating the home to suggest improvements for function, and providing recommendations for various exercises. To become an occupational therapist, candidates must earn the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) and pass a national licensing examination offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. Virginia residents who wish to pursue the MOT or OTD degree have a range of options within the state.
Graduate Occupational Therapy Programs in Virginia
Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, offers the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD). The OTD is completed as a full-time, three year program. Course topics include analysis of functional movement, occupation analysis, and program evaluation/development. Students also participate in field work opportunities. Initial experiences of field work are designed to introduce students to occupational therapy practice under direct supervision and provide occupational therapy to underserved populations while completing classes. The culminating field work experience provides a full-time, in-depth experience after all course work is complete.
Mary Baldwin University
Mary Baldwin University, in Fisherville, offers the opportunity to pursue the OTD. The entry-level professional doctoral program requires three years of study to complete and focuses on ensuring that graduates have excellent clinical and collaborative skills. Areas of study include psychosocial considerations, motor learning, and technology adaptations. Two twelve week and one sixteen week field work experiences are an important component of the program. In addition, Mary Baldwin offers an on-line program with only one campus visit required to allow occupational therapists with an active license previously trained at the master's level to pursue their doctoral degree.
Shenandoah University, in Winchester, provides a course of study leading to the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree. The 5-semester program at Shenandoah University is offered primarily online, with students attending classes on-campus one day per week. Course topics may involve movement related to occupation, mental health practice, and environmental considerations. Students participate in field work experiences in their own local communities.
Jefferson College of Health Sciences
Jefferson College of Health Sciences, in Roanoake, Virginia, offers a 27-month program to earn the MOT. Students gain fieldwork experience at the in-house Carilion clinic. The program at Jefferson also emphasizes entrepreneurship and the business issues that may be faced by occupational therapists. Coursework and fieldwork focus on the difference between pediatric and adult populations, by ensuring that students take classes and experience fieldwork with each of these population segments. Practicing occupational therapists holding the MOT can take an 8-semester part-time online program through Jefferson to earn their Doctorate of Occupational Therapy, as well.
James Madison University
James Madison University, in Harrisonburg, offers a full-time, 2.5 year program leading to the MOT. Students may apply upon the culmination of a bachelor's degree, and James Madison undergraduates may seek early admission. James Madison does not participate in the OTCAS as discussed below, and application must be made directly to the school. Areas of study include therapeutics, neuroscience, and occupational therapy research. Students are required to participate in multiple fieldwork opportunities throughout their course of study.
Many occupational therapy programs require applicants to utilize the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) to apply to their schools. The OTCAS is open from late July until December 1st for candidates to input information.
Graduate programs in occupational therapy require GRE scores, undergraduate transcripts, recommendations, and personal statements. Prerequisite courses such as anatomy/physiology, statistics, and abnormal psychology are usually required. Overall GPA and grades in required prerequisite courses will be considered. Observations of occupational therapists, typically of thirty to forty hours, are also required.
Occupational therapy can be a rewarding career for those who enjoy helping others. Virginia programs at the master's and doctoral levels can offer students the opportunity to prepare for career options in this field.