Becoming an occupational therapist requires a master’s degree. Fortunately, many schools are making it much easier to find a program with the right balance of quality, cost, and convenience. To help you narrow down the options for a master’s in occupational therapy online, we’re profiling a number of “Best in Class” programs, where we look at important factors such as academic quality, course offerings, and affordability. See which schools are making a difference in OT in 2019.
Finding the Online Occupational Therapy Master’s for You
What’s the best program for you? That depends on many factors. An ideal program for one student may not be ideal for another. This is particularly true for those who have specialization in mind, as a particular specialization might be offered only in a particular format, or through a particular school.
There are also curriculum flexibility concerns to consider. Someone who has a full-time job or family obligations may place greater emphasis on a master’s occupational therapy program that is mostly online. But a more traditional student who enjoys interacting with classmates and has fewer obligations may want to attend a program that’s only partially online.
Learning style matters, as well. Some are quite comfortable with working alone and have the discipline to complete assignments without prompting. Others prefer the guidance of a professor in a classroom setting when completing their assignments. Let’s take a look at the options.
How Much Flexibility Do You Want?
3 Types of Occupational Therapy Master’s Online
Besides program type, you will need to consider other factors, such as class size, cost of attendance, flexibility in coursework, alumni network, quality of faculty and overall program length. These factors not only relate to the overall financial and personal cost of attendance, but can also help graduates become fully licensed occupational therapists working at the healthcare facility of their choice.
In Detail: the OT Master’s Curriculum
Each occupational therapy curriculum is unique; however, there are certain points that each one hits to ensure students are fully prepared for the expectations of the career. Broad subjects include anatomy, neuroscience, health and wellness and assistive technology. This covers a wide range of theory and practice in patient care, all of which will come in quite handy when it’s time to use those knowledge and skills in the clinical setting. Let’s take a look at some courses you’re likely to encounter while pursuing your master’s degree.
How Long Does It Take to Graduate?
The amount of time it takes to complete an occupational therapy master’s program depends on several factors, such as number of credits required to graduate, course load (full-time versus part-time) and program format. Most students in an online program can expect to take about three years to graduate. The timeline below provides a rough outline to help visualize the process of earning an online master’s degree in occupational therapy.
Year 1, Fall Semester: Introductory topics relating to occupational therapy will be covered during the first semester. Courses will cover topics such as an overview of the profession and basic theories of practice.
Year 1, Spring Semester: More advanced occupational therapy professional topics are addressed now, including foundational concepts relating to the human body, research methodologies and providing patient care.
First Summer: Students will take only one or two courses during the summer period.
Year 2, Fall Semester: Now courses get into the more substantial subject matter that will actually apply to occupational therapy practice. Introductions to research methods and techniques are usually used extensively during the final year.
Year 2, Spring Semester: The shift to advanced coursework continues and will include other related, advanced subjects such as clinical research, advanced treatment and evaluation techniques.
Second Summer: Students will continue their academic training through hands-on and real world instruction.
Year 3, Fall Semester: The third year consists of advanced level courses and hands-on instruction. There is a strong emphasis on fieldwork and clinical experience.
Year 3, Spring Semester: Depending on the program, there may not be a second semester during the third year. If there is, students can expect to continue their hands-on training and may have to complete a capstone project.
Admissions & Required Materials
When you take medical assisting courses, the knowledge you obtain is often applied directly to the job. That’s why each course in a program is vitally important. Since medical assistants are expected to hit the ground running when they start a new job, it’s critical to garner the knowledge and skills necessary through each course. Here are a few of the courses you can expect to take and why they matter so much.
Most occupational therapy programs evaluate prospective students based on their prior academic performance and what they can offer to the school in terms of student body enrichment. This means good grades are very important, although their overall importance will depend on the prestige and rigor of the program. Some programs look for certain types of students and thus may have additional admissions requirements, such as a certain amount of experience working as an occupational therapist aide or assistant. Let’s take a closer look at the core admissions and application requirements for these advanced educational programs:
- Master’s program application
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
- A minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA, often a 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
- Completion of the following prerequisite courses with a minimum grade (C+ or B-, depending on the school and course) in:
- Human anatomy and physiology I (with lab)
- Human anatomy and physiology II (with lab)
- Introduction to psychology
- Introduction to sociology or introduction to anthropology
- Two or more letters of recommendation, with at least one coming from a licensed occupational therapist
- Personal interview
- Personal essay
- Copies of undergraduate transcripts
Some schools may also require:
- At least one year of experience working as a full-time and fully credentialed occupational therapist aide or assistant.
- Completion of additional prerequisites with a minimum grade (C+ or B, depending on the school and course) in:
- Abnormal psychology
- Scientific writing
- Human growth and development.
Licensing & Certification
No matter where you practice in the United States as an occupational therapist, you will need to be licensed. Each state will have its own licensing requirements, including requirements concerning work with specific types of patients or needing a particular specialization or certification. You can read more about licensing on our page dedicated to online programs in occupational therapy.
Is an Online Master’s in Occupational Therapy Worth It?
Is an online master’s degree in occupational therapy worth it? Whether you should opt for the online version of this educational pursuit depends on what kind of experience you want. Those who wish to become an occupational therapist with the most amount of flexibility during schooling will probably prefer an online program. Those who can commit to full-time study at a traditional campus may prefer a partially-online program with mostly classroom-focused instruction.
What’s clear is that no matter how you get there, the occupational therapy profession offers a number of benefits, such as those discussed below.
Career Next Step?
Obtaining a master’s degree is quite an academic feat. But once the degree is in hand, that doesn’t mean the learning ends. Like those in many other high level jobs, occupational therapists understand that their work will include a lifetime of professional learning. Much of this learning will come from on-the-job experience, but there will be several opportunities for more formal learning. Here are three great ways to keep learning and growing as an OT: