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How do I get an Occupational Therapy Degree?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An occupational therapy degree can be earned after attending a program at a college that offers degrees in occupational therapy. There are several degree options to consider, depending on the level at which someone wishes to practice, and there are also some alternative paths that can be pursued, such as online and low residency degree programs. In all cases, the goal of getting a degree in occupational therapy is to prepare for certification and satisfy training requirements.

The most basic occupation therapy degree is an associate's degree, which will allow someone to assist a practicing occupational therapist. Associate's programs take two years, and they can be used to determine whether or not someone is interested in occupational therapy as a career before committing to more lengthy and expensive training. Bachelor's degrees in occupational therapy are also available.

To practice, a master's in occupational therapy is usually the minimum degree requirement for certification. To get a master's degree, a student will need to complete undergraduate coursework in a biology, pre-med, or similar program. Students should make sure that they have physics, organic chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, psychology, and statistics courses on their transcripts, as these are often prerequisites for a master's programs. It is also a good idea to get work experience in an occupational therapist's office, as candidates for a degree need to demonstrate genuine interest, and they will need letters of recommendation from practicing occupational therapists, along with good test scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

Getting an occupational therapy degree requires a great deal of clinical experience. For this reason, online and low residency programs are primarily aimed at students who hold a bachelor's in the field already and who have completed the bulk of their clinical work. Students who are interested in these options should find out what the clinical requirements for practicing as an occupational therapist are, and make sure that they will satisfy them. It is also important to attend an accredited and recognized program.

While pursuing a degree, students should keep their grades up and get as much clinical experience as possible. Exceeding clinical requirements will only provide a student with a great deal of valuable experience that will come in useful during clinical practice and the certification process. Work experience also allows students to start networking and exploring job possibilities before they graduate so that they will be ready to seek work once they become licensed.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By comfyshoes — On Feb 11, 2011

@Mutsy -I know that occupational therapists that work with children help to develop the child’s fine motor skills by developing their hand muscles.

This can be done with exercises molding clay, or bold coloring with crayons. Children needing an occupational therapist often have poor penmanship and have trouble forming letters.

A great program called “Handwriting without Tears” is a program that is designed to help children with these types of coordination and handwriting issues. Many schools use the program for their preschool students, but parents can also buy the program for the homeschool market.

The creator of the program, who was an occupational therapist herself also, offers certification seminars throughout the country for teachers to be able to administer the program to their students.

By mutsy — On Feb 10, 2011

@Suntan12 - I wanted to say that there are certificate programs available for those seeking to get into this field as an occupational therapy assistant.

However, some states still require a degree in the field before you can sit for the exam.

I also know many people purse the occupational therapy bachelor degree and masters in a combined program. Some specialize and seek additional education. I personally would enjoy working in the pediatrics field because it is so rewarding.

By suntan12 — On Feb 09, 2011

I think that it is really important to go to an occupational therapy school that is accredited because if not your degree will be worthless.

An accredited school will not only be recognized by potential employers but the curriculum will help you prepare for your licensing exam.

It is best to research if your school is accredited by going to the American Occupational Therapy Association website and look at the accredited programs.

They also list schools that are in the process of accreditation and those that are not accredited.

According to the site there are no accredited entry level programs online. Occupational therapy degree programs are best in traditional school environment unless you are seeking advanced training.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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