Distance Learning Education Programs in Occupational Therapy

Jan 02, 2019

Essential Information

Occupational therapy education is available online as a certificate of completion, post-graduate certificate and as a Master of Science degree.


The field of rehabilitation health is growing, making an online certificate in occupational therapy an appealing option to working professionals who need a flexible learning schedule. This credential can be acquired at a variety of levels, including the post-baccalaureate and graduate degree levels.

Occupational therapy distance education programs provide students with important medical vocabulary and anatomical knowledge. Students who obtain this kind of certificate would greatly benefit when seeking a master's or doctoral education.

Depending on the degree level, the fully online programs may require the completion of 3 to 17 credits. Students have the flexibility to decide how many credits they take per semester, controlling how long the program takes to complete.

Common Coursework

The online curriculum for a certificate in occupational therapy covers basic OT topics and is designed to develop students' critical-thinking skills. Examples of courses that may be offered in this distance education program include:

  • Occupational Biomechanics
  • Medical Terminology
  • Leadership
  • Research
  • Entrepreneurial Concepts

Master's Degree

In order to be considered for admission into an online Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree program, the applying student must already hold a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy (or related field), have taken a course in statistics and have a 3.0 GPA or higher. In many cases, online occupational therapy students may take two courses per semester, which will allow them to finish the master's degree in about 2 years.

Common Coursework

As with its on-campus counterpart, an online master's degree in occupational therapy typically involves three major parts: clinical core courses, theoretical core courses covering current occupational therapy issues and research core courses to enhance students' problem-solving and writing skills. Examples of courses that may be offered in this distance education program include:

  • Theories in Occupational Therapy
  • Intervention Strategies
  • Leadership and Management
  • Critical Appraisal
  • Occupational Health
  • Pain Theories
  • Health and Safety
  • Healthy Aging
  • Long-term Care Systems

Learning Environment

Most distance learning occupational therapy programs are hybrid in nature, combining on-campus and online coursework. Even individual classes may be blended, requiring on-campus attendance for one portion, such as a seminar, lab or lecture, and online participation for another, such as a follow-up discussion for topics covered onsite. What's more, online courses may require synchronized class sessions, or they may allow students to work at their pace. Some programs may also integrate practical experiences.

Students participate online through the use of a virtual instructional platform, such as Blackboard. This allows them to communicate with instructors online, interact with other students and submit assignments. Students may need to complete exams under the supervision of a proctor.

Students will need access instructional videos and audio clips, so they should have a compatible and high-speed computer system. Additional software and hardware may be required; students may also need a scanner to submit coursework.

Career Information

Occupational therapy is a health field in which practitioners aid patients in the improvement of their mobility and ability to function in daily working and living environments. Their clients typically have debilitating mental, physical, developmental or emotional conditions. Occupational therapists help improve clients' reasoning skills and motor functions, while also teaching them how to compensate in cases of permanent disability. They also strive to guide clients toward productive, independent and satisfying lives.

An online program in occupational therapy may be an attractive choice for those who need a flexible learning schedule. Fully online or hybrid courses are available at the certificate of completion, post-graduate certificate and master's degree levels.

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