Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients improve their ability to perform tasks in living and working environments. They work with individuals who suffer from a mentally, physically, developmentally, or emotionally disabling condition. Occupational therapists use treatments to develop, recover, or maintain the daily living and work skills of their patients. The therapist helps clients not only to improve their basic motor functions and reasoning abilities, but also to compensate for permanent loss of function. The goal is to help clients have independent, productive, and satisfying lives. (bls.gov 2008-05-08)

Students interested in pursuing a degree in occupational therapy should:

  • Gain experience working or volunteering alongside a licensed occupational therapist. Many schools require that students have an understanding of what is involved and have shown the motivation to obtain some experience in the field. Any work experience (paid or unpaid) in an occupational therapy setting will help expose you to the field.
  • Consider who you will ask for letters of reference for your application. Most schools want representation from a professional OT as well as professors, instructors, or advisors who can speak to your potential in academics and your experience with hands-on practice.
  • Admission to a occupational therapy program is competitive, so take advantage of any coursework or experience that may give you an added advantage. Admission is based upon several factors including overall academic achievement (most requiring a 3.0 gpa minimum), and work experience in health-care situations. Requirements vary by school, so check with the admissions offices for several schools where you are interested in applying.
  • Take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) prior to starting the last year of your undergraduate work. Prepare for the GRE by getting a study guide or taking a preparation course. GPA and GRE scores are often the first items that a school uses to narrow the pool of applicants.
  • Most OT schools offer either a Master's degree, a combined Bachelor's and Master's degree, or Doctoral degree. For a combined Master's/Bachelor's program, general courses may be completed at UAF prior to transferring to the OT school. For entry into a Master's or Doctoral program, a bachelor's degree must be completed first.
  • Pursue an undergraduate curriculum that includes many of the courses in the chart below. Most OT schools do not require that students complete a specific major, however, all require students to complete specific prerequisites.

Courses required for admission by most schools**:

UAF Course(s)
Human anatomy and physiology8Biol 111X, 112X (some schools specify one semester of Anatomy and one of Physiology, completing both semesters will fulfill the requirement).
Introduction to psychology, and other psychology courses such as lifespan and abnormal psychology3-9Psy 101, 240, 345
Medical terminology3Hlth 100
English composition


Engl 111X, Engl 213X
Stat 200X or 300
Public speaking


Comm 131X or 141X

Courses RECOMMENDED (varies by school, many fit in to UAF general requirements):



Phys 103X
Comm 300X, Phil 322X, Phil 402, PS 300X
Sociology3Soc 100X, 201, 263, 308, 310, 320
Cultural diversity3Anth 100X, Psy 310, Soc 100X, Soc 308
Additional psychology courses12Psy 275, 310, 335, 337, 455, 460, 469
General biology with lab


Biol 115X, 116X
General chemistry with lab


Chem 105X, 106X
Mathematics, one course in addition to statistics
Math 107X, 108, 200X
Art appreciation and/or studio courses3Art 105, 163, 200X, 201, 211
Computer skills3Ais 101, Cios 150, CS 101
History, literature, humanities, social science


UAF core courses

**Admission requirements vary by school. This chart was compiled by researching a majority of physical therapy schools. However, it is important to check the admission requirements of the specific school that you are interested in to be sure that you will meet all of the prerequisites required by that school. A course listed as recommended here may be required by your school of choice.

For students attending UAF, bachelor's degrees in Psychology, Biological Sciences, a combination of these or a number of other degrees require many of the same courses (see the degree worksheets ). Students considering a career in occupational therapy should contact the Academic Advising Center or the department of their intended major.

Attending Health Care Programs Outside of Alaska

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