Occupational Therapy (OT) is a health and rehabilitation profession. OTs work with people of all ages from infants to elderly to help them lead independent and productive lives due to physical, emotional or social problems. They help people use their work, self-care, and leisure activities to increase independence, enhance development, and prevent disability. They are very different from physical therapists that focus on restoring physical function to the body. Students interested in OT as career typically major in psychology, anthropology, biology or other majors as long as the prerequisites for entry into an OT program are met. Licensed practicing OT’s must have a master’s degree. For more information on Occupational Therapy visit the websites of The American Occupational Therapy Association and the Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service.
Applying to OT School
Students interested in a career in OT are encouraged to visit individual program websites to review the admissions criteria for each school they are considering and to familiarize themselves with the application process and deadlines since these vary from program to program. Most Occupational Therapy programs use the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) for the application process. Additionally, some OT programs require observation hours with licensed OTs. Complete application materials, GRE results, and letters of recommendation are typically due by October of the senior year.
Be sure to check specific program website to know what prerequisites are required. The following is a good starting list for a first-year pre-OT student:
- Introductory Psychology (SW250-PS)
- Lifespan Developmental Psychology (PS320)
- Abnormal Psychology (PS441)
- Introductory Sociology (SW200-SO) or Introductory Anthropology (SW215-AN)
- Statistics (MA162)
- General Chemistry (CH105 and CH106)—needed only as a prerequisite for Human A&P
- General Biology (BI220)—needed only as a prerequisite for Human A&P
- Human Anatomy and Physiology with lab (BSHS 334 and BSHS 335)
- [Medical Terminology (BSHS215) at most schools]
Many, but not all, Occupational Therapy masters programs require an applicant to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test. This exam is usually taken during the spring semester of the junior year.
As a person desiring a healthcare professions career you should be aware of current issues in healthcare news, take opportunities to volunteer, shadow and learn more about the area you are interested in, you should reflect on why you want to enter a career in healthcare, and you should explore a variety of healthcare fields. Health care programs like well rounded professions. So seek opportunities that can demonstrate you have broad experiences such as study abroad, research experience, leadership experience in a club, etc. Additionally, some OT programs require observation hours with a licensed OT. Students are advised not to become over-involved in too many activities. Instead, they should select a few to which they are particularly committed during their four years at Butler University.
Students will require submission of individual letters of recommendation from professors. Each school has specific numbers of letters that they will accept and has rules about how many must be from science, social science, or humanities faculty, versus professional OT’s. Check with the specific school’s website to determine which letters need to be sent to which school.
- Identify professors that might be willing to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. These professors should know you well (had for more than just one course, you stood out among your peers, they had extensive contact with you outside of the classroom, etc.).
- Schedule a meeting with the professors to directly ask them to write the letters. Don’t just drop in as the request might get shuffled off and forgotten. Be intentional about asking.
- Bring a list or short narrative of the work you completed in the classes taken under the professor. Professors see many students over the years and don’t always remember specific course assignments or course experiences like you will. Remind them of these experiences.
- Provide an estimated date for submission of their letters. Give your professors enough time to write a thoughtful letter.
- Understand that no professor is required to write a letter of recommendation for you. If they do not feel that they know you well enough (or in some cases maybe know you too well?) or do not feel that they can provide you with a strong endorsement relative to your peers, then it is best for all parties involved if they decline. Refusing to write a letter of recommendation because you refuse to waive your right to see the letter, thus making the letter non-confidential, is within the professor’s rights.
- When you submit your application materials to the online application service, you will need to fill in the professor’s information and email. Be sure you get the correct email address! The application service will send the professor instructions on how to upload the letter. We suggest you waive your right to see the letter of recommendation. Check with the professor by email or by appointment to ensure that they received the request from the application service. Don’t be pushy, but be firm…this is important!
- You can check on the status of your application and the submission status of the letters at any time (though you cannot read the letters – they are supposed to be entirely confidential) by following the instructions on the application service website.