Students interested in becoming occupational therapists have numerous obligations including the development of a strong science foundation and involvement in diverse extracurricular activities. It can be a bit daunting, but it is possible to do everything you need to do by starting now and working consistently throughout your undergraduate years.
Please read the basic information we have provided while recognizing that the majority of support the Pre-health Advising Office provides students is through face-to-face advising appointments. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss any questions you may have as you navigate your journey to becoming a occupational therapist.
Occupational therapy programs do not require or favor ANY specific major. We encourage you to consider a major that interests you and one that will provide you an alternative pathway if your career goals regarding Occupational Therapy change. There are many facets to occupational therapy and ideally your undergraduate degree will prove functional with whatever career you pursue. No matter what you choose to major in, you will be most prepared if you counsel with both your major academic advisor and your pre-health advisor on a regular basis.Find a Degree Major Exploration
Many students ask, “What classes do I need to take to prepare to apply for occupational therapy programs?” This question is complicated to answer because each school varies slightly in their academic requirements. Below is a table of the most commonly required prerequisites over all OT programs. Please note: this table is NOT all encompassing and there is large variation in additional requirements. We would strongly encourage you to thoroughly investigate schools you are interested in and make a spreadsheet (like this one(Example)) of their specific prerequisites.
A common misconception students have about OT school is that good grades and a high GRE score all that is required for admission. While these metrics are certainly an important aspect of your aplication, they are not enough on their own to earn you a place in OT school. Your extracurricular preparation is a vitally important aspect of your application, and we strongly encourage you not to overlook it. To help you best prepare, we have broken down extracurricular activities into the areas listed below.
What is involved in the typical day of an OT? Can you handle the sights/sounds/smells associated with working as an occupational therapist? What can you do to help patients who are unmotivated and discouraged about their recovery? If you’ve wondered about these questions, observing an occupational therapist will help you answer them!
OT observation hours are required by most programs. The schools you are interested in need to see that you have an honest understanding of what it takes to be an occupational therapist and that you are ready for the career ahead of you. Don’t wait until you are ready to apply to earn these hours- start early! Many schools recommend you have exposure to many different occupational therapists who work in a variety of settings.
Oh no- the “R” word! Typically, OT schools don’t require research experience for admission. However, we feel that research is a great way to distinguish yourself because it demonstrates that you have an intimate understanding of the scientific method. Being involved in research will help you develop critical thinking skills and will allow you to be an informed consumer of new research studies that will be presented to you as a OT. Plus, there’s no better way to solidify concepts you learn in class than actively applying them in the lab. (And it’s fun, too!)
Becoming a successful OT includes developing a service-oriented outlook. Because of this, OT schools are looking for how you have developed this character trait through various activities. Many occupational therapists will tell you that service plays a key role in their influence on the community and their ability to help their patients.
Your service and volunteer repertoire need not be limited to medically relevant exposure; rather, find things that you are passionate about and be mindful of volunteer and service opportunities that arise.
All health professionals are leaders to some degree and OT schools appreciate students with these skills. There is no one way to gain leadership experience, but some common ways are getting involved in a club and participating in club administration, student government, working as a tutor, TA, SI, etc. Remember, demonstrating leadership doesn’t always come with a “title”! You can demonstrate leadership many different ways and through many different activities.