Find Your Perfect School
Occupational Therapy focuses on a holistic approach to healthcare, addressing people’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. They work with various healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care. This allows occupational therapists to treat patients with unique challenges and needs.
One of the main roles of occupational therapists is to work with individuals with cognitive, developmental, emotional, or physical challenges. They help people develop or regain essential abilities to participate in activities and enhance the quality of their lives. They make a difference in people’s lives by helping them overcome challenges and achieve various goals related to their health. Seeing their patients progress and succeed can bring a lot of satisfaction to occupational therapists.
The job outlook for occupational therapists may rise by about 12% from 2022 to 2032, leading to about 16,100 vacancies for occupational therapists annually within the said period, the Labor Statistics Bureau has disclosed.
Aside from enjoying job security, graduates with a Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy are also paid competitive salaries, with a median annual rate of $93,180. The annual base salary can go as high as $97,617.
To get started in their successful journey as occupational therapists, interested individuals can pursue an online Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy from one of the top schools in the United States. By studying Occupational Therapy, students will develop a comprehensive understanding of the practices, principles, and theories of Occupational Therapy.
A Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy will teach students about various therapeutic activities and techniques to help patients regain or achieve independence and improve their quality of life. Such a degree program will delve into the psychological and emotional factors influencing patients’ engagement in therapeutic activities designed for them. Furthermore, it will instill the necessary knowledge to address patients’ mental health challenges and promote overall well-being.
There are several factors that those interested in pursuing a Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy must consider to ensure that they will be able to make the most of their chosen degree. To give readers more options, we feature one Pre-Occupational Therapy degree program and two on-campus programs in this article.
The following are some of the most important criteria to look into when deciding on the best school to enroll in a Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy degree:
- Choose a program that has proper accreditation from known accrediting agencies, such as the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), to ensure that it meets specific educational standards and equip students with the knowledge and skills needed for entry-level practice.
- The curriculum must cover a range of essential subjects to help students understand human anatomy, rehabilitation techniques, patient care, and psychology, including Foundations of Occupational Therapy, Medical Conditions and Interventions, Ethics in Healthcare, and Therapeutic Techniques.
- Coursework must provide students with hands-on experiences through virtual simulations and require them to complete a specific number of clinical hours within their local communities or affiliated healthcare facilities under the supervision of licensed occupational therapists.
- Classes are conducted on-campus and through virtual platforms to allow adult students to fit their degrees into their schedules conveniently.
- Offers affordable tuition rates and a wide selection of financial assistance, such as federal grants, loans, and scholarships from government agencies and private and nonprofit organizations, to lower the total education cost that students need to pay.
- Has exceptionally skilled professors who are licensed occupational therapists with years of clinical and teaching experience.
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5 Best Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy
University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati offers its Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences – Pre-Occupational Therapy online degree. It is ideal for those passionate about helping others lead happier, healthier, and more functional lives through Occupational Therapy.
This Pre-Occupational Therapy program features a curriculum that balances the foundational subjects and the in-depth study of anatomy, biomechanics, nutrition, and pharmacology. Its coursework allows students to earn a minor in psychology simultaneously through a partnership with the College of Arts and Sciences. At the end of the program, graduates will have earned the knowledge and tools necessary to advance in their careers as certified Occupational Therapy assistants or enter any graduate school in the country.
The University of Cincinnati’s Health Sciences degree programs are well-known for their academic excellence and for preparing students well for graduate studies, which are often quite competitive. This means that graduates with a Pre-Occupational Therapy degree will have a competitive edge and be more than qualified to qualify for any graduate school across the United States.
Aside from that, Pre-Occupational Therapy students learn from nationally renowned faculty who are attentive, supportive, inspiring, and connected, ensuring that they will be taught by some of the best teachers in the nation.
The following are some of the course requirements for the University of Cincinnati’s Pre-Occupational Therapy degree program:
- Health Care Ethics
- Medical Terminology
- Motor Learning and Movement Control
- Pharmacology for Health Sciences
- Personal Nutrition
UC’s Pre-Occupational Therapy program is designed for licensed Occupational Therapy Assistants who wish to earn their bachelor’s degree, whether for graduate school or career advancement. Graduates with this degree would also be eligible for the NBCOT or National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam after they complete a master’s or doctorate.
Other students who complete the program pursue a Master’s degree in Education, School Psychology, or Public Health instead of Occupational Therapy. As for those interested in pursuing a doctorate at UC, the Pre-Occupational Therapy program does not guarantee admission into the OTD program.
The University of Cincinnati offers financial aid to all students. The Higher Learning Commission accredits the university and its regional campuses. It has been recognized as one of the best colleges in America.
Santa Ana College
Santa Ana College’s online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Studies degree is an Occupational Therapy Assistant program that requires students to complete 126 semester units, including 51 semester units of general education courses that are aligned with the California State University – General Education breadth requirements and 75 units of Occupational Therapy Assistant-specific coursework.
This Occupational Therapy Assistant degree takes two years to complete and is only available to students who previously earned an Occupational Therapy Assistant degree from an accredited school. To ensure that this program can cater to working students, it offers classes online and on-campus on evenings and Saturdays.
Those who want to enroll in Santa Ana College’s Occupational Studies program will enter the program as 5th-semester juniors. They will be required to meet the same lower-division General Education courses required by 4-year universities. Some students may be asked to enroll in additional GE courses. Also, students must have their transcripts evaluated by a SAC career technical education counselor before taking additional General Education courses.
Students admitted to the Occupational Studies program will enter and move through the program using a cohort model, which guarantees them to get into all required courses.
Some of the courses that Occupational Studies students must enroll in include:
- Therapeutic Approaches to the Older Adult
- Movement Theory & Analysis
- Introduction to Sociology
- Advanced Practice Areas in OT
- Advanced Pediatric Practice for the OTA
Webber International University
Webber International University’s Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant is an entry-level, 120-credit-hour degree program that trains and prepares students to excel in Occupational Therapy. This is Florida’s first program to obtain Candidacy status from the ACOTE-Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, meaning it is now seeking pre-accreditation status.
This BS in OTA program is the only one in the United States that offers a minor in Health Services Administration (HSA). It admits two cohorts each year: one in the fall and one in the spring. Students must decide on the cohort that best fits their academic goals and timelines as they complete foundational courses.
The core courses required for students enrolled in this BS in OTA program include:
- Human Anatomy & Physiology
- Introduction to Psychology
- Foundations of Occupational Therapy Practice
- Ethics in Healthcare
- Research Methods in Healthcare
To graduate with a BS in OTA with a minor in Health Services Administration, students should meet all the didactic requirements, equivalent to 106 credits and 14 credits of fieldwork components, within five years. They need to get a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5. As for the fieldwork, coursework, and baccalaureate projects, students need to complete them within 18 months of completing all core course requirements.
Another crucial requirement for students to earn this degree is demonstrating professional behavior as deemed acceptable by faculty and coursework supervisors. After graduation, BS in OTA graduates will be eligible for the National Board Certification in Occupational Therapy’s National Certification Examination for the Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) to obtain licensure.
University of Missouri
The University of Missouri offers an online Bachelor of Health Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree program that prepares students for roles that involve supporting occupational therapists and patients by providing Occupational Therapy treatment services.
As the demand for highly skilled OT assistants rises, the American Occupational Therapy Association voted to support entry-level education for OTAs at the bachelor’s level. The University of Missouri’s BHS in Occupational Therapy Assistant degree is the first program at a public institution in the state and one of only a handful in the country. With its affordable, evidence-based, and high-quality OTA education, graduates with this degree can easily find employment in the professional healthcare field.
BHS in Occupational Therapy Assistant students must complete 74 credit hours in a full-time on-campus cohort model coursework over two years.
The curriculum for this OTA program includes the following courses:
- Practice Fundamentals
- Medical & Psychosocial Conditions in OT
- Psychosocial Practice
- Ethics in OT
- OTA Practice with Older Adults
At the University of Missouri, students may customize their program of study by creating a unique combination of fieldwork and baccalaureate projects. They will also be required to take the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy or NBCOT exam to obtain licensure and qualify for the profession.
OTAs who wish to advance in their careers should pursue a Bachelor of Health Science degree that will expand their skills through relevant content and hands-on learning. This fully online program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
University of Buffalo
The University of Buffalo offers a Bachelor of Science/Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, the only five-year BS/MS program within the State University of New York (SUNY) system that allows students to complete their entry-level Occupational Therapy degree within five years after high school graduation.
This accelerated program allows students to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Science and a Master’s in Occupational Therapy. The goal of this program is to provide adult students with the flexibility they need to meet their interests and needs while ensuring that they are completely prepared to sit for the national certification exam and state licensure requirements.
One of the benefits of enrolling at the University of Buffalo is that this institution is research-intensive, giving the students plenty of opportunities to work with faculty who do active research and other scholarly work.
Students work with their peers to complete a full research project, including data collection, data analysis, human subjects approval, presentation, and research proposal. They also complete team projects that address the needs and challenges experienced by underserved citizens and create new opportunities for Occupational Therapy interventions.
This Occupational Therapy program features courses that provide a robust foundation for OT practice, which includes full courses in assistive technology, gross anatomy, neuroscience, and orthotics.
Students engage in Interprofessional Education (IPE) simulation experiences with standardized Behling Simulation Center patients. They also engage in IPE forums within the university with more than 700 students, participate in a micro-credential IPE program, and use opportunities for various IPE enrichment activities.
UB’s BS/MS in OT program is Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)-accredited—and has been since 1954.
The following are some of the courses included in the BS/MS in Occupational Therapy program:
- Introduction to Psychology
- Introduction to Occupational Therapy
- Historical and Contemporary Public Health Problems
- Sociology of Diversity
- Development Psychology
Upon graduation, graduates become eligible for the National Certification Examination.
Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy: What Makes Them Similar and Different?
While Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) are integral to each other, they share similarities and differences in patient interactions, objectives, and nuanced distinctions that often underscore their unique methodologies.
The following are some of the notable differences between OT and PT. Students need to look into their distinctions to understand their roles within the rehabilitation realm to help them decide which degree to pursue.
Scope of practice
Primarily, Occupational Therapy addresses the patient’s daily activities and uses a holistic approach to improve people’s physical functioning. It analyzes the components to adapt and modify them according to the patient’s needs. And it provides support in emotional, social, and work-related situations.
On the other hand, physical therapy focuses on rectifying impairments in endurance, mobility, and strength. It also provides specialized exercise routines that enhance people’s capacities.
Occupational and physical therapy is designed to help in physical and psychological rehabilitation. OT’s main focus is re-establishing a patient’s ability to engage in daily activities as independently and conveniently as possible. In contrast, PT optimizes a patient’s musculoskeletal function and movement patterns.
Occupational therapists work across various settings, including schools, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, and hospitals. Their interventions are guided by the patient’s specific goals and contextual circumstances.
On the other hand, physical therapy operates within orthopedic clinics, sports facilities, and clinical environments. This discipline concentrates on correcting physical impairments to improve people’s mobility and functional capacity.
Typically, occupational therapists work with a wide range of patients, which includes those with physical disabilities, mental health challenges, and developmental disorders. Meanwhile, physical therapists attend to patients with orthopedic and musculoskeletal conditions, neurological disorders, and sports injuries.
Different Tasks that Occupational Therapists Perform in a Typical Workday
Occupational therapists stand as pillars of transformation and empowerment, guiding patients to regain their independence and enhance their quality of life.
On a typical workday, an occupational therapist plays a multifaceted role that contributes to the healing and recovery of patients. At the workplace, they have a symphony of various tasks where adaptability, compassion, and expertise intersect to facilitate growth and healing.
Conduct initial assessment and evaluation.
This is a crucial step to ensure that the occupational therapist can diagnose the patient and provide the most suitable action plan.
An OT must thoroughly analyze the patient’s emotional, cognitive, physical, and environmental factors to determine the potential and limitations. Students will develop a strong foundation for designing personalized intervention plans through proper assessments.
Plan personalized interventions for patients.
After thoroughly assessing the patient, OTs must craft individualized intervention plans to address a patient’s specific goals and challenges. These can include relearning basic self-care skills and honing people’s complex motor skills. Plus, they will be responsible for creating intervention plans based on the patient’s unique requirements for traveling.
Provide direct client interventions.
OTs need to interact directly with their patients to facilitate growth and progress. These include cognitive training, emotional support, adaptive techniques, physical exercises, and sensory integration activities. All of this can form a bedrock for Occupational Therapy.
Prescribe adaptive equipment and devices.
Occupational therapists are responsible for prescribing and training patients on properly using adaptive equipment and devices, including assistive technology, ergonomic tools, prosthetics, and wheelchairs. These devices must meet every patient’s needs and ensure optimal comfort and functionality in day-to-day tasks.
Educate caregivers and family members.
Caregivers and family members need to be educated about the patient’s condition, the intervention strategies and the necessary home modifications. Moreover, they empower support systems to help ensure patients’ progress and well-being.
Monitor and document progress.
OTs must keep detailed records to track every patient’s progress, milestones, challenges, and interventions effectively. Documentation is also necessary for ensuring that interventions have been made and assessing whether or not they have been effective.
Collaborate with interdisciplinary teams.
OTs are expected to collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, including physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, and other healthcare professionals, to ensure that the multifaceted needs of the patients are addressed and provide holistic care.
Plan discharge and setting of goals.
OTs are involved in a patient’s discharge planning, including setting realistic goals to help patients transition conveniently and seamlessly back into their homes, communities, and workplaces with the confidence and skills to get around different environments appropriately.
Continuous professional development.
Occupational therapists must be up-to-date with the latest techniques, research, and innovations. This ensures that the interventions remain evidence-based and aligned with the ever-changing healthcare landscape.
How to Become a Licensed Occupational Therapist
To be a licensed occupational therapist, one must first earn a four-year Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy and take the NBCOT exam. Once a graduate passes the exam, they can work as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA).
Students who want to be registered occupational therapists can then apply for a full-time entry-level Master’s or Doctorate, which they can do immediately after graduation or later in their career. Those who wish to pursue a Master’s or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy can enroll in a weekend program that allows students to work full-time and attend school simultaneously.
Certifications for Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy Graduates
This is offered by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. It recognizes competence in analyzing the needs of those with disabilities to assist them in selecting the best assistive technology. Those with only a bachelor’s degree must have a work experience of 1,500 hours in 6 years. Those with a master’s degree must have work experience of at least 1,000 hours in 6 years.
This certification proves a professional’s competence in seating and mobility assessment, outcome assessment and follow-up, implementation of intervention, and funding resources. This is intended for clinicians, engineers, and suppliers involved in providing seating and mobility services.
The CAPS certification teaches professionals about business management, customer service, and technical skills necessary for competing in modifying homes for the aging-in-place population. This is for builders, remodelers, contractors, and occupational therapists.
Acquiring the CBIS credential ensures professionals that they remain well-informed and valuable in the field of brain injury services. To be eligible for this certification, applicants must have 500 hours of direct contact experience with a patient who has had brain surgery.
The CSRS is the only stroke certification for both physical and occupational therapists. It features a course that introduces students to foundational concepts crucial to participating in live labs and discussions.
Earning a certificate in CKTP means professionals can show their commitment to the highest standards of patient care. Moreover, it ensures they have undergone the necessary training to integrate Kinesio Taping into their practice.
A certified Health Coach is licensed, skilled, and trained to engage patients in having healthier behavior changes to correct chronic conditions, diseases, and risks. This is conducted by the National Society of Health Coaches (NSHC).
Frequently Asked Questions
What does an Occupational Therapy undergraduate online program typically cover?
An Occupational Therapy degree will teach students about physical rehabilitation. They will delve into the historical development of the profession. They will explore key concepts, models, and theories shaping the discipline. They will develop a solid foundation for the role of OT in promoting health and well-being through different activities.
Students also establish a profound understanding of the structure and function of the human body, including the musculoskeletal, nervous, and sensory systems, among others.
A Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy degree will explore various common medical conditions and disabilities that affect a patient’s ability to function independently. They will be taught assessment techniques, intervention strategies, and treatment planning to address the different challenges that their patients face.
Moreover, students will learn about various therapeutic techniques to help patients regain or develop crucial daily living skills. These include adaptive devices, exercises, and sensory integration strategies to improve people’s functional abilities.
What are the minimum standards students need to meet to be certified to practice Occupational Therapy in the future?
Anyone who wants to succeed in earning a Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy degree should have the following crucial skills:
- Observation skills – OTs must be able to use various senses, including vision, hearing, and somatic sensations, to observe audio/visual materials, participate in discussions and laboratory experiences, and observe demonstrations.
- Communication skills – Occupational Therapy requires students or graduates to communicate effectively and sensitively, elicit information about mood and activities, and perceive non-verbal messages. More importantly, they must be able to complete forms promptly.
- Psychomotor skills – Students must have psychomotor skills to obtain information through assessment and intervention. They must be able to execute movements to provide therapeutic care to patients.
- Conceptual integrative and quantitative analysis skills – OT students must be able to incorporate new information to formulate evidence-based treatment plans and interventions. They must also be able to explain the therapy needed thoroughly.
- Behavioral/social attributes and professionalism – Students enrolled in an OT program must demonstrate integrity, empathy, and concern for others. They must also have emotional well-being to use their intellectual abilities.
Where do Occupational Therapy practitioners work?
Generally, Occupational Therapy graduates work in hospitals, mental health centers, home health agencies, physician practices, nursing homes, and public schools. They can also work in offices of physical, occupational, state, local, and private educational services and speech therapists.
What are the best jobs for graduates with a Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy?
While the most obvious career paths for OT graduates are practicing occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants, Occupational Therapy degrees can lead to many other job opportunities:
- Orientation & Mobility Specialists – $64,778
- Nursing Home Administrators – $128,014
- Caregivers – $42,969
- Gerontologists – $218,783
- Social and Community Service Managers – $74,240
- Health Education Specialists – $55,977
- Health Coaches – $69,711
- Exercise Physiologists – $62,554
- Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians – $57,380
- Recreational Therapists – $62,328
- Exercise Trainers and Group Fitness Instructors – $50,170
- Community Health Workers – $59,579
While bachelor’s programs in OT can lead to these jobs, graduates can reach the leadership levels by completing an Occupational Therapy doctoral program.
Key Points to Ponder
- Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy programs lead to rewarding careers that make a difference in other people’s lives by helping them develop or regain essential life skills.
- An academically superior online undergraduate program at Occupational Therapy schools prepares students for an Occupational Therapy doctorate and master’s programs that make career advancements possible.
- Online Occupational Therapy programs are your first step toward becoming licensed occupational therapists, following the completion of a master’s degree program and upon passing the licensure examination.