Occupational therapy is a health and rehabilitation profession that helps people regain, develop, and build skills that are important for independent functioning, health, well-being, security, and happiness (American Occupational Therapy Association). Occupational therapy practitioners work with people of all ages who, because of illness, injury, or developmental or psychological impairment, need specialized assistance in learning skills to enable them to lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives.
Occupational therapy can prevent injury or the worsening of existing conditions or disabilities and promote independent functioning in individuals who may otherwise require institutionalization or other long-term care. Because of this, occupational therapy keeps health care costs down and maximizes the quality of life for the individual, their family, and other caregivers.
You can practice Occupational therapy as a licensed Occupational therapists(Master’s degree) or an Occupational therapist Assistant (two-year associates degree).
The major types of work are: clinical work (direct patient care), research, teaching, administration, and consultation. The employment settings include: schools (K-12), hospitals (emergency, acute, and inpatient rehabilitation), outpatient rehabilitation facilities, community clinics, residential and custodial or long-term care facilities, early intervention programs, home health programs, hospice programs, university clinics, private practice, and community outreach programs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor lists occupational therapy in the top 20 professions for projected job growth. The uniqueness of occupational therapy, its focus, habilitation and rehabilitation, its contribution to wellness and its ability to serve a wide variety of clients/patients in multiple settings, all bring a variety of employment opportunities to graduates. The Department of Labor expects occupational therapy to grow much faster than average, which means a projected growth rate of over 23% between 2006-2016.
More than 100,000 occupational therapy practitioners are licensed in the U.S. today. The median salary for an occupational therapist is $66,780 (range $42,000 to >$98,000), depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location and practice setting. A survey of recent graduates occupational therapy graduates indicates that the average starting salary is $55,600/year (range $50,000 to $65,000).
Preparing for Graduate School
As a college student preparing for graduate work in occupational therapy, you should be aware of several steps necessary for admission into an accredited physical therapy program:
- Contact OT education programs to learn what prerequisites are required (see the list below)
- Volunteer in a department of occupational therapy for a minimum of 60 observation hours
- Find an occupational therapist mentor to meet members of the field
- Complete the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) before your senior year
Learn about the profession and what degrees are offered (Associates degree , Master’s or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy) and discover why you would be a strong candidate for the profession so that you may properly promote yourself in your application essays.
Prerequisite Courses for OT graduate school
Since the exact prerequisite courses vary slightly for some graduate schools it is important for the student to examine the graduate schools they are interested in attending during their sophomore or junior year to allow time to complete these courses. The list below contains the most common prerequisite courses:
8 credits - Biological Sciences
- 4 credits of Human Anatomy and 4 credits of Human Physiology
- Or, 8 credits of A&P I and A&P II
- Exercise physiology is not an acceptable course for these 12 credits.
6 credits – English
- 6 credits of English. English Composition and/or writing intensive courses
3 credits – Statistics
15 credits – Social Sciences
- Developmental Psychology or Life Span Development course(s)
- Abnormal psychology
- Other Psychology, Sociology, or Anthropology courses
A medical terminology course is recommended, but not required.
William and Mary courses that fulfill these requirements include:
KINE 303, Human Anatomy
KINE 314 or 315, Human Anatomy Laboratory
KINE 304, Human Physiology
KINE 305, Human Physiology Laboratory
PSYC 202, Introduction to Psychology as a social science
PSYC 310, Developmental Psychology
PSYC 318, Abnormal Psychology
KINE 394, Statistics and Evaluation, or
PSYC 301 and 302, Elementary Statistics and Experimental Methods, or
MATH 106, Elementary Probability and Statistics
Freshman seminars and writing courses in your major will satisfy a writing intensive courses
Graduate schools have accepted substitute courses for many of the prerequisite courses so it may a good idea to talk directly with the admissions personnel about satisfying the prerequisite courses.
American Occupational Therapy Association - Nationally recognized professional association for occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, and students of occupational therapy.
Virginia Occupational Therapy Association (http://www.vaota.org)
Occupational Therapy Schools in Virginia
James Madison University, http://www.healthsci.jmu.edu/occupationaltherapy/
Jefferson College of Health Sciences, http://www.jchs.edu/degree/master-science-occupational-therapy
Radford University, http://www.radford.edu/content/wchs/home/occupational-therapy.html
Shenandoah University, http://www.occupational-therapy.su.edu/
Tidewater Community College of Virginia Beach, http://www.tcc.edu/academics/divisions/healthprofessions/ota/
Virginia Commonwealth University, http://www.sahp.vcu.edu/departments/occu/
If you have questions please contact the College of William and Mary Pre-OT advisor, Dr. Ray McCoy, at [[rwmcco]] or (757) 221-2783.