A number of factors are important when considering which occupational therapy schools to apply to. These include but are not limited to location, tuition, living costs, whether or not part-time or online courses are available and accredited, and the prerequisites necessary for admission.
Because the demand for occupational therapists is so high, admissions at top occupational therapy schools can be very competitive. As an undergraduate, a grade point average of 3.3 or higher, coupled with related volunteer work, can increase your chances of being accepted at the right school. Also, remember that some of the top schools require clinical experience before admission, as much as 150 hours by some colleges. Recommendation letters from occupational therapists or science teachers are also important, as is a good score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
A master’s degree has become the minimum for becoming an occupational therapist, so some individuals will be more interested in occupational therapy assistant programs, which are usually four-year undergraduate programs with special course work focusing on skills necessary to practice in the workplace, or two-year associate degree programs to become occupational therapy aides.
The Internet is the best tool for investigating key features and requirements of different occupational therapy schools, including tuition cost, the number of students enrolled, and available scholarships and student loans , filling out the FAFSA, etc. Internet blogs and online forums hosted by students in occupational therapy schools and recent graduates are also great ways to get a better understanding of what it is to study to become an occupational therapist. Also, it always helps to seek advice from someone already working as an occupational therapist. They can provide insights on the typical day-to-day tasks involved as well as the difficulties and rewards of working in the field.
Some occupational therapy schools also offer internship and work-study opportunities, while some will let you apply any related work experience toward a degree. It is very important to review the specific entrance requirements of occupational therapy schools. These are usually available on a school website or by contacting the admissions office.
Types of Occupational Therapy Schools
Almost 150 colleges and universities in the United States offer occupational therapy programs, but to become a nationally licensed and certified occupational therapist, students must enroll in a school with approved status from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
Occupational therapy programs usually include classes in life sciences, anatomy, chemistry, and biology, as well as general courses. After completing the prerequisites, students will have a full load of classes that deal specifically with occupational therapy concepts and skills and will be required to spend a minimum of 24 weeks doing supervised fieldwork, usually during the last two semesters.
Tuition at occupational therapy schools varies widely but ranges from $12,000 to $15,000 per year for in-state residents at some public universities to $34,000 for out-of-state students. A two-year master’s program at a private school averages around $36,000 per year, but it can be as high as $50,000.
Tuition at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2011, for example, was $965 per credit or around $12,192 per semester for the first four semesters, but then it increased to $14,032 per semester for the last three. On the other hand, tuition at the University of Buffalo, New York, was $13,380 and just $11,000 at Texas Woman’s University, in Denton, Texas.
A PhD in occupational therapy can be pursued by any licensed occupational therapist or graduate student interested in the field, regardless of undergraduate field of study. Many schools offer courses both online and in the classroom. A doctorate in occupational therapy usually takes around ten courses, and PhD students at occupational therapy schools are required to take at least two courses per semester.