Pre-OT Coursework & Experience
Your first step in becoming certified to practice Occupational Therapy is to get your Bachelor’s degree. There are a few different choices for majors that will assist in becoming a certified occupational therapist. Some of these choices include anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
In general, the following coursework satisfies the required and recommended courses for admission to a school of occupational therapy. Note this represents general guidelines and requirements vary from one school to the next.
Prerequisites for grad schools in Washington:
The American Occupational Therapy Association also provides a list of accredited OT programs available in the United States.
Natural Sciences Courses
The following courses are required by most programs:
- BIOL 205: Human Anatomy and Physiology I
- BIOL 206: Human Anatomy and Physiology II
Additional courses in the sciences are recommended, including chemistry, physiology, physics, and biology.
Many OT programs do not require math courses as part of their prerequisite courses, however, statistics courses are required for most programs. We recommend at least one math course be taken along with your statistics course. Math requirements vary by program, please refer to the specific program you have chosen to be sure your Math requirements are fulfilled.
Social and Behavioral Science Courses
Most schools require one or more social and behavioral courses.
We recommend you take the following courses since these offerings are typically required by OT schools:
- PSYC 101: Introduction to Psychology
- SOCI 101: Introduction to Sociology
- PSYC 320: Development Across the Lifespan
- PSYC 415: Abnormal Psychology
General education courses are also recommended to demonstrate competency in English composition, oral communication, problem-solving behavior, logic, and ethical theories.
In order to be a competitive applicant for OT programs, you must have significant experience in the field through volunteer or paid opportunities working with practicing certified occupational therapists. Admissions committees encourage applicants to seek out observation experiences in diverse settings to provide an understanding of inpatient and outpatient populations. Examples of OT settings may include, but are not limited to: hospitals, clinics (pediatrics, dementia/geriatrics care, physical rehab, hand therapy) private offices, home health, or adult group homes.
Occupational therapy programs that require field experience are usually specific regarding the length of time and types of experiences they are looking for in applicants. It is best to know the kinds of previous healthcare experience a program requires before you apply. For example, Eastern Washington University requires applicants to complete a minimum of 30 documented hours of work/volunteer experience with persons with disabilities and 10 hours shadowing an occupational therapist in at least two practice settings (e.g., physical rehabilitation, mental health, geriatrics, pediatrics) and with different age groups. Many applicants complete much more – some in the range of 100 to 200 hours. All hours, whether they’re volunteer, paid, shadow or observation hours, are weighted equally in the admissions process.