Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a patient-centered, science-based practice classified among the allied health professions. Occupational therapists, or OTs, are trained to help people recover or maintain their ability to carry out the activities of daily living, commonly referred to as ADLs. This includes not only physical and work 'occupations,' but also personal, social and spiritual activities.

Unlike acute medical service providers, OTs focus on sustainable habit-formation and improving the overall quality-of-life for patients. They assist individuals with bathing, grooming, rest, medicating and eating. They supply and modify objects and devices - everything from eating utensils to entire neighborhoods - to promote functional lifestyles with respect to the environment.

Occupational therapists' work often begins as patients transition out of or between medical treatments. Their targeted interventions are correlated with patients' improved health outcomes, daily functioning and overall life satisfaction. They are trained to see the bigger picture and can help people organize their lives in ways that promote goal achievement.

About Occupational Therapy

OT services are offered to individuals of all ages and from all walks of life. Therapists are responsible for optimizing personal well-being and function with respect to diverse conditions, including physical illness or injury, emotional and mental disorders, poverty, family violence, disfigurement, aging, learning disabilities, autism, and more.

"Occupational therapy looks at how the illness affects the patient's whole life, from the psychological, cognitive and sensory motor standpoints," says Dr. Ben Herz, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy at the Medical College of Georgia.

On the job, OTs work with individuals and families, and sometimes employers and schools, designing personalized intervention plans to maximize well-being and healthy adjustment. The patient might be an infant born with birth defects, a teenager having difficulty adjusting to his parents' divorce, a middle-aged woman with a drinking problem, or an elderly individual transitioning to an assisted living facility.

Occupational therapists work in outpatient clinics, inpatient rehabilitation centers, hospices, community centers, nursing homes, assisted living, hospitals and individuals' homes. They may help people stop smoking, quit drinking, manage long-term pain, lose weight, develop healthy lifestyles, or transition back into civilian life.

Occupational therapists are at the forefront of today's most crucial health issues. As more attention is paid to problems like obesity, arthritis, diabetes and chronic pain, public awareness of the importance of healthy lifestyles and diets is growing. OTs have a critical role to play in educating food and healthcare consumers about their choices.

Accreditation

OT coursework should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, or ACOTE. The recommended curriculum spans medicine, occupational development and performance, and therapeutic practice.

Licensing

Occupational therapy is regulated across the country, although the extent of oversight varies. Most states issue licenses, but a few "certify" or "register" OTs. Graduates who have earned primary certification should apply for a license with the intended state-of-practice.

Be aware that occupational therapists are responsible for acting as ethical professionals. Because their work brings them into close contact with a wide variety of personalities and cultures, they must be sensitive to issues of discrimination on the basis of race, gender and other social factors.

Educational Options in Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is both a 'people' profession and a hard science that requires technical skills. Therapists must therefore be familiar with numerous disciplines, from chemistry and physiology to psychology and anthropology.

Starting salaries for freshly graduated occupational therapists are estimated to be around $50,000 a year. Mid-career median pay approaches $80,000. By comparison, an occupational therapy assistant may earn $30,000 a year.

Primary Certification

Occupational therapists are skilled professionals who must be credentialed through a formal national organization. The principal body for OT professionals is the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapists, or NBCOT. Practitioners may also find the American Occupational Therapy Association, or AOTA, helpful for finding key professional resources.

NBCOT administers the main professional certification examination for this profession, and its programs are recognized by most states. Students must earn not only a four-year bachelor's but also a two-year master's degree in OT to be eligible to sit for the 'National Board Certification in Occupational Therapy,' or NBCOT, examination.

Successfully passing the NBCOT exam means that new practitioners may use the title 'occupational therapist' and the "OTR" credential, as well as apply for a license in the intended state-of-practice.

Post-Secondary Degrees

Occupational therapists are trained up to the graduate level to ensure they are fully qualified to take peoples' health into their hands. There are many high-quality undergraduate programs to consider en route to a graduate-level education in occupational science. The AOTA maintains a complete list of American occupational therapy schools and their requirements.

Most occupational therapists earn a graduate degree at the master's level. In 2012, Forbes named the Master in Occupational Therapy, or M.O.T., one of the highest-value degrees in the United States. Some schools offer blended undergraduate-graduate tracks combining, for instance, a Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Science (B.S.R.S.) with the Master of Occupational Therapy, or (M.O.T.). Blended programs are often accelerated and thus require less time and money.

A master's degree is the standard among occupational therapists, but it's not unusual to go further and earn a doctorate like the Ph.D. in Occupational Science. A less intensive alternative to the Ph.D. offered at some schools is the O.T.D., or Occupational Therapy Doctorate. The O.T.D. is an accelerated doctorate lasting at least two years. The shortest tracks are designed for those with preexisting industry experience. Occupational therapy programs offering online O.T.D.s are available.

Secondary Certifications

The AOTA issues certifications in four areas of emphasis:

Pediatrics

Geriatrics

Mental Health

Physical Rehabilitation

There are several postdoctoral programs available in this field that offer more training and deeper specialization. Other certifications may be obtained through educational institutions. Sensory Integration (SI), for example, is a specialty based on neuroscience as well as educational psychology. SI occupational therapy mainly focuses on minors with developmental, learning and behavioral disorders, from autism to Parkinson's Disease. SI has had a significant influence on pediatric OT practice.

We found 170 schools offering occupational therapy degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 170 Occupational Therapy Colleges in the U.S.

Occupational Therapy Schools Ranked By US News and World Report

1
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 29194

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
2
Boston University
Boston, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 28318

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
2
Washington University in St Louis
Saint Louis, MO  |  Total Enrollment: 12118

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
4
University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 24942

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
5
University of Kansas Medical Center
Kansas City, KS  |  Total Enrollment: 2409

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
6
University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus
Pittsburgh, PA  |  Total Enrollment: 26329

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
6
Tufts University
Medford, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 9106

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
6
Thomas Jefferson University
Philadelphia, PA  |  Total Enrollment: 2256

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
6
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO  |  Total Enrollment: 26807

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
10
New York University
New York, NY  |  Total Enrollment: 37150

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate

Browse All 170 Colleges With Occupational Therapy Programs


Title City State Enrollment
Xavier University Cincinnati OH 6523
Worcester State College Worcester MA 5303
Winston - Salem State University Winston-salem NC 2857
Western New Mexico University Silver City NM 2669
Western Michigan University Kalamazoo MI 28657
West Virginia University Morgantown WV 21987
Wayne State University Detroit MI 30408
Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis MO 12118
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond VA 24066
Vincennes University Vincennes IN 9169
Utica College of Syracuse University Utica NY 2188
University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee Milwaukee WI 23578
University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison WI 40658
University of Washington - Seattle Campus Seattle WA 36139
University of Utah Salt Lake City UT 24948
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 1927
University of St Thomas Saint Paul MN 11288
University of St Augustine for Health Sciences Saint Augustine FL 419
University of Southern Maine Portland ME 10820
University of Southern Indiana Evansville IN 9012
University of Southern California Los Angeles CA 29194
University of South Dakota Vermillion SD 7487
University of South Alabama Mobile AL 11673
University of Scranton Scranton PA 4615
University of Puget Sound Tacoma WA 2865
University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus Pittsburgh PA 26329
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City OK 2759
University of North Dakota Grand Forks ND 11031
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill NC 24892
University of New Mexico - Main Campus Albuquerque NM 23670
University of New Hampshire - Main Campus Durham NH 14689
University of New England Biddeford ME 2684
University of Missouri - Columbia Columbia MO 23309
University of Mississippi Medical Center Jackson MS 1674
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis MN 45481
University of Mary Bismarck ND 2343
University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe LA 9405
University of Kansas Medical Center Kansas City KS 2409
University of Indianapolis Indianapolis IN 3599
University of Illinois at Chicago Chicago IL 24942
University of Hartford West Hartford CT 6895
University of Florida Gainesville FL 45114
University of Central Arkansas Conway AR 8481
University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham AL 14951
Tuskegee University Tuskegee AL 2826
Tulsa Community College Tulsa OK 16270
Tufts University Medford MA 9106
Towson University Towson MD 16729
Touro College New York NY 8092
Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia PA 2256
The University of Texas Medical Branch - Galveston Galveston TX 1927
The University of Texas Health Science - San Antonio San Antonio TX 2543
The University of Texas at El Paso El Paso TX 15224
The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis TN 2069
The University of Findlay Findlay OH 4510
The Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk MD 18168
The College of Saint Scholastica Duluth MN 2054
Texas Womans University Denton TX 8404
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Lubbock TX 1719
Tennessee State University Nashville TN 8640
Temple University Philadelphia PA 28355
Suny Health Science Center at Brooklyn Brooklyn NY 1470
Suny at Buffalo Buffalo NY 24830
Stony Brook University Stony Brook NY 19924
Springfield College Springfield MA 4722
Spalding University Louisville KY 1632
Southern Nazarene University Bethany OK 2064
Shenandoah University Winchester VA 2428
Shawnee State University Portsmouth OH 3280
Seton Hall University South Orange NJ 9920
Schoolcraft College Livonia MI 9016
Santa Ana College Santa Ana CA 27571
San Jose State University San Jose CA 26698
Samuel Merritt College Oakland CA 693
Saint Marys University of Minnesota Winona MN 5010
Saint Mary S University of Minnesota Minneapolis MN 3200
Saint Louis University - Main Campus Saint Louis MO 13847
Saint Francis University Loretto PA 2129
Saint Ambrose University Davenport IA 3011
Saginaw Valley State University University Center MI 8622
Sage College of Albany Albany NY 2407
Sacramento City College Sacramento CA 20878
Russell Sage College Troy NY 819
Rush University Chicago IL 1282
Rockhurst University Kansas City MO 2727
Quinsigamond Community College Worcester MA 5617
Quinnipiac University Hamden CT 6477
Philadelphia University Philadelphia PA 3316
Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Worthington Scranton Dunmore PA 1716
Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Shenango Sharon PA 1032
Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Mont Alto Mont Alto PA 1307
Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Dubois Dubois PA 1012
Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Berks Reading PA 2197
Pasadena City College Pasadena CA 22948
Pacific University Forest Grove OR 1979
Oklahoma City Community College Oklahoma City OK 9358
Ohio State University - Main Campus Columbus OH 47952
Oakwood College Huntsville AL 1767
Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale FL 18587
Northeast Mississippi Community College Booneville MS 2796
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