Occupational therapists work with patients suffering from injuries and disabilities that prevent them from performing daily living and personal care tasks. To get into this career field, a person must have a master's or doctorate degree in occupational therapy from a college or university. The first step in earning their degree is to get accepted into occupational therapist school.
Learn the admission requirements. Each school has their own requirements for getting accepted into occupational therapist school, so it's important to learn what these requirements are. Meet with a faculty member or academic advisor for the program to learn about the admission process.
Take prerequisite courses. Before starting occupational therapy school, a student needs a background in basic human functioning. This is why many schools have prerequisite courses that must be completed with a grade of C or better. Common prerequisites include human anatomy and physiology, developmental psychology and statistics.
Earn a bachelor's degree. Along with specific prerequisites, students also need to have a bachelor's degree. This generally takes four years, but students may take longer if they take fewer classes to earn a higher grade point average. Many occupational therapist schools have a specific GPA requirement, so it could be beneficial for a student to spread out their classes over more semesters and take additional time obtaining their undergraduate degree.
Find good character references. When submitting an application for admission to an occupational therapy program, students must provide recommendation letters from academic and work references. These letters attest to the student's character and their ability to do well as a student in occupational therapist school.
Perform observation hours. Washington University is one of the occupational therapist schools that require students to observe an occupational therapist on the job before they can be accepted. Thirty hours is the requirement for students at Washington University, and these hours must be documented.
Take the GRE. The graduate record exam (GRE) is available to any graduate student regardless of the degree or program of study they choose. This exam measures reading and comprehension skills, math aptitudes and reasoning abilities. It's computer-based and can be taken at a variety of testing centers across the U.S., with a student's score forwarded to the schools where they are applying for admission. Not all occupational therapist schools require GRE scores, which is why it's important to find out the admission requirements in advance. For those required to take it, there are a number of study guides available to help you improve your GRE score. Doing well on the exam can increase the chance of being accepted as a student in an occupational therapy school.
Write a personal statement or essay. Along with the application for admission, submit a personal statement or essay following the guidelines of the school. These often request students to explain their desire for a career in the occupational therapy field as well as what they are able to contribute to the profession with their knowledge and personal characteristics.
Apply for admission. Once you have written and gathered all the materials needed to get accepted to occupational therapist school, you can apply for admission. Each school has a deadline for applying for admission, which you must meet. For example, New York University requires students applying to the occupational therapy program to have their application and supporting documents submitted by February 1 for students who want to start school in the fall.
- A list of occupational therapist schools is available from the American Occupational Therapy Association website.