Although criteria vary depending on a number of factors, US News & World Report ranks graduate schools each year, including occupational therapy schools. Schools are evaluated based on expert opinions about program quality as well each school’s faculty, their research track record, and student performance. In reaching its decisions on school ratings, US News also considers the opinions of deans, program directors, and senior faculty members asked to judge the academic quality of programs.
While the ratings are helpful, they should guide rather than dictate a student’s choice due to a number of factors, such as tuition cost, location, and admission requirements.
A school’s rank reflects the number of schools that rank above it. For example, if three schools are tied at number one, the next school or schools will be ranked fourth. In its latest review, Boston University’s Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences placed first place out of 152 occupational therapy schools, tying with Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
The following schools also ranked high, in descending order:
- Midwestern University, Downers Grove, Illinois
- The University of Southern California
- The University of Illinois, Chicago
- Tufts University–Boston School of Occupational Therapy
- The University of Kansas
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- Colorado State University, Fort Collins
- New York University
- The University of Pittsburgh
- The University of Washington, Seattle
Accreditation at Occupational Therapy Schools
The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) certifies and accredits occupational therapy schools. Although voluntary, ACOTE develops accreditation criteria and visits and evaluate schools and professional programs seeking accreditation. Each school’s accreditation status is reviewed on a periodic basis, which encourages improvement mechanisms. Graduating from an ACOTE-accredited school is very important when it comes to licensure and finding employment.
In 2009, 150 master’s degree programs or combined bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, as well as 4 doctoral programs, were accredited by ACOTE.
The Secretary of Education publishes a list of the accrediting agencies it recognizes for the quality of education offered, including ACOTE. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy Education (NBCOT) is also charged with certifying all graduates from occupational therapy schools, and students must pass its certification examination in order to practice. All students must attend an academic program accredited by ACOTE to qualify to take the national certifying exam, and students who pass the exam are awarded the title Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR).
States also regulate the practice of occupational therapy, and most require occupational therapy practitioners to be licensed. Eligibility requirements are different but are available from each state’s occupational therapy licensing board.