Colleges for Occupational Therapy in the U.S.

Jan 02, 2019

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.

Occupational therapists work to enhance the life skills of people who have physical, emotional or mental disabilities. After graduating from a graduate school program, students must become licensed in order to work in the field.

Top 10 Schools with Occupational Therapy Programs

The following schools are among the 2016 top-ranked occupational therapy schools by U.S. News & World Report. Tuition rates are based on the 2015-2016 school year.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition & Fees (2015-2016)*
University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $50,277 (undergrad) $40,670 (grad)
Boston University (Sargent) Boston, MA 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $48,436 (undergrad) $48,082 (grad)
Washington University St. Louis, MO 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $47,620
University of Illinois - Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral $16,527 (in-state) $25,386 (out-of-state)
University of Kansas Medical Center Lawrence, KS 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,825 (undergrad in-state) $26,659 (undergrad out-of-state) $9,958 (grad in-state) $22,049 (grad out-of-state)
Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 4-year, Public Master's $11,357 (in-state) $24,925 (out-of-state)
Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $28,648
Tufts University Medford, MA 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $49,218
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Public Master's $22,060 (in-state) $35,744 (out-of-state)
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral $40,984

*Source: National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

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 (
  • 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.

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, and communication.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree occupational therapy program curricula include coursework in subjects like occupational science, assistive technology and functional movement as well as fieldwork experiences. Programs may also include a 2-week externship experience. 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.

The top occupational therapy schools in the United States are a mix of public and private schools with varying tuition rates. While some schools do offer a bachelor's program, in order to work in the field students must complete a master's degree and become licensed.

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