Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational Therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Occupational therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to the fullest by helping promote health, prevent or live better with injury, illness, or disability. Occupational therapists work in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, long term, and skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, home health care, community, and mental health. 

Occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers. Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.

Occupational therapy—a vibrant, growing profession—makes it possible for people to achieve independence and to enjoy life to its fullest. By choosing a career in occupational therapy, you will make a difference! Per the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of occupational therapy practitioners is projected to grow 18% between now and 2028. In 2019, the median annual wage was $84,950.

Things to Consider When Searching for a Occupational Therapy School:

Occupational Therapy (OT) Program Search:​​

  • Degree Options Offered:

    • To become an occupational therapist, you must first receive a Master’s (MOT) or Doctoral degree (OTD) from an accredited program. If money or time is a constraint, consider getting an associate’s degree and become an occupational therapy assistant (OTA). 

  • Entry Requirements:

    • Most MOT and OTD programs require the GRE (Graduate Record Examination). If you struggle with taking standardized exams consider only applying to schools that don’t require this of their applicants. Universities abroad mostly do not require this exam for entry into the program, visit the Occupational Therapy Program Search Abroad section for more information.

  • Accreditation:

    • Accreditation is a system for recognizing educational institutions and professional programs affiliated with those institutions for a level of performance and quality which entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and the public they serve. If your Master’s (MOT), Doctoral degree (OTD), occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program is not accredited you will not be eligible to sit for the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam and obtain your license to practice post-graduation.  

  • OTCAS:

    • The Occupational Therapy and Occupational Therapy Assistant Centralized Application Service (OTCAS & OTACAS) is a program of the American Occupational Therapy Association. This online system allows prospective students to use one application to apply to multiple participating OT and OTA programs through a single application process. Many programs utilize OTCAS, however, some schools do not so do your research beforehand. 

  • Diversity & Inclusion:

    • Although numerous programs will emphasize diversity and inclusion, it is important to understand what that means. During your search of OT programs, don’t be afraid to ask “what does diversity look like within this program?”, “what efforts has this program made in the last 5 years to show their commitment to a diversified student body and administration?”, “what resources are in place to maintain a diverse academic environment, both inside and outside of the classroom (workshops/lectures on diversity-related topics, community outreach, clinical rotations, inter- and intra-disciplinary collaborations, etc.)?” OT is a rigorous program, so make sure that you are selecting a program that is committed to your success, supports you, and provides you with the resources and tools you need for retention. 

  • Cost:

    • Significant factors to consider in regards to cost include expected tuition increase based on the yearly budget, scholarship opportunities, as well as living expenses and cost of living. Some institutions offer merit scholarships as well as need-based scholarships that will cover some portion of tuition, inquire about this with the school's Office of Registrar. 

  • Facilities:

    • You should look for the facilities provided by the OT school, the different labs (for example - Biomechanics labs, anatomy lab, smart simulation lab, assistive technology lab, and an activities-of-daily-living area containing a real kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and laundry space.)

    • Does the OT program offer a wide range of interprofessional academic and clinical experiences, including an on-campus OT clinic, clinical outreach activities, and fieldwork opportunities?

  • Other Factors:

    • It is also important to explore the structure of the curriculum, national ranking, accreditation, and class-size. In addition to the program overview, the program’s website may also have a student ambassador-run blog addressing various topics for prospective students. Questions to consider in evaluating program curriculum:

      • Does the curriculum seem innovative and/or progressive? When was the last time there was a change in curriculum?

        • Do you prefer traditional lectures, online learning, break-out workshops, case studies, or another method? Does this curriculum offer a learning style that works for you? (Keep in mind that your learning style may change throughout pharmacy school, as this is a rigorous program.)

          • Do you prefer to work/study independently or to work with classmates on projects? (Programs aim to distribute learning evenly among both methods, but ultimately utilize one more than the other at various stages in the curriculum.)

      • Weekend/hybrid or part-time option

        • Some OT schools offer part-time, weekend classes, or hybrid classes (campus + online teaching). These are great options for those who need to be able to work while in graduate school.  

 

Tips for Prospective Students

 
  • Being a Strong Applicant: 

    • GRE Prep: Prep early for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Research ways to fund your test prep and test (remember if the score is not what you hoped for, try again. your score does not reflect your capability to do the job.) While there are numerous prep materials, Princeton Review and Prep Scholar are great study tools. Some of the practice questions can also be found on Quizlet. Learn your study habits now, as school does not get any easier.

    • While GRE scores and GPA are important factors, being a well-rounded applicant plays a more significant role (community involvement, extracurricular activities, work, and life experiences, in addition to academics). Being a well-rounded student works in your favor a little more than the student that is socially introverted but has a 4.0 GPA.

    • Letters of Recommendation (LORs): Having STRONG LORs is important—the content of your LOR is just as important, if not more than the title of your reference. Be sure that your references can advocate for you strongly and positively speak to your experiences. Tips for OT School ABROAD: 

Occupational Therapy Program Search Abroad

Masters of Occupational Therapy Program Search Abroad:

  • Accreditation:

    • Many schools will offer MSc OT programs, but not all of these programs are accredited. It is imperative that you select a program that allows you to practice the profession after you have received your degree. Currently, there is one university outside of the United States of America (Brunel University London) that is fully accredited and allows one to sit for the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam following the completion of a Master's course. Without passing the certification exam, it is not possible to be a practicing Occupational Therapist in the United States.

  • Cost:

    • It is necessary to consider many factors related to cost when choosing to study abroad, such as tuition, housing, food, course fees, emergency flights, and miscellaneous cost. When interacting with universities abroad they will send you a cost of attendance sheet. This sheet predicts how much a year of studying at the selected university will cost and includes all the categories listed above, similar to the budget worksheets received at your undergraduate institution. Keep in mind, international students occasionally have additional fees based on the program. Therefore, one should communicate with the university to become aware of these when calculating the final cost.

  • Financial Aid and Scholarships:

    • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is accepted at several universities worldwide. Below in Additional Resources, there is a link that lists all of the universities abroad that allow students to use US government funding. In addition to financial aid, universities offer several scholarships to international students. It is best to visit the different universities' websites to explore the scholarships offered. In addition to exploring the website, you should inquire if the university allows the combining of scholarships as some universities allow only the highest awarded scholarship to be applied.

  • Location:

    • Researching the country you intend on spending the next two years living in should be a huge part of your search for a Master's program. Being a Black woman from the US makes the location of your university greatly important. Discovering the diversity of the area, history, and the locals' outlook on black women will be helpful in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, not every location is welcoming and it is better to realize that before moving across the world.

  • Entry Requirements:

    • Typically, the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) standardized test is required to apply for Masters programs in the US. Universities abroad mostly do not require this exam for entry into the program. The factors that determine the consideration of being offered a spot in the program are the grade point average from one’s undergraduate degree, the personal statement, and the interview process. While some experience is appreciated, it is not a monumental deciding factor. It is also beneficial to know current events surrounding the profession in the country the university is based. It will let interviewers know that you have done your research and you are genuinely interested in emerging into another culture. 

 

Tips for Prospective Students Abroad

 
  • Important Documents:

    • Passport:

      • Make sure that your passport is up-to-date and will not expire within six months of applying to programs. It is a good idea to look ahead to what the Tier 4 visa requires to ensure a smooth process. 

        • Some countries require you to pay a health surcharge fee along with the cost of obtaining a visa. 

    • Medical Records:

      • MSc Occupational Therapy programs require several clinical hours that take place in various healthcare settings. Having all of your immunizations will be a requirement, it is best if you get these as soon as possible to avoid any delays in your program matriculation.

    • Certifications:

      • Many programs will also require that you be CPR and First Aid certified as you will be working in healthcare settings.

  • General information

    • The teaching style used in countries other than the US may be different from what you are accustomed to. The programs include a lot of self-study and do not consist of ‘busy work’. Your final grades can be based solely on a final exam. 

      • If you need more structure to your learning, you should explore the curriculum to see if the learning style works for you.

      • The grading scale may be considerably different.

        • For example, in the United Kingdom, the grade ‘B’ is 60%-69%.

    • If pursuing a Master's degree abroad is something you want to do, start saving your money now. The initial process can be costly but not unattainable.

 

Additional Resources

  • American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA)

  • Brunel University London Occupational Therapy (Brunel OT)

    • Currently, the only MSc OT school fully accredited by the AOTA

  • Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD)

    • Minority Mentorship Program

  • International Schools That Participate in the Federal Student Loan Program (Updated List)

  • National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)

  • National Black Occupational Therapy Caucus (NBOTC)

  • OT & CHILL Podcast on Spotify 

  • Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT)

  • Study Across The Pond (ATP

    • This program pairs you with an advisor who helps you find an OT program based on your wants and needs. They also help you with the application and visa process for FREE!

    • They also offer scholarships for specific universities 

  • Tier 4 Student Visa (UK VISA)

  • United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS

Contributions by: Jaye Allen, MS and KeyAna Washington 

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