Let’s face the facts. Getting into graduate school, and especially occupational therapy school, isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to do. Because the field is so broad and still relatively new, the requirements for each occupational therapy program are all pretty different.
It can be overwhelming to make sense of all these different requirements as a prospective student! But no need to worry–we can figure it out together, prospective OT to prospective OT.
What Do You Mean “Prerequisites”?
First things first, although there are many different requirements for admission into an occupational therapy school program, here we will specifically be covering the topic of prerequisite courses. These are certain classes that are required to be completed before entering the occupational therapy program of your choice.
These classes are required to ensure that you are well prepared for the demands of graduate school and well equipped with the skills and basic knowledge necessary to make sense of everything you will learn in occupational therapy school. Think of it as the groundwork for becoming a successful OT–not just a bunch of classes to waste your time and money.
What Classes Are Required?
It seems that every occupational therapy school wants something a little bit different when it comes to prerequisite courses. Some occupational therapy schools want prerequisite courses in kinesiology, some physics, some anthropology or sociology. Although these prerequisite requirements can easily be all over the place between the schools you choose to apply to, there are a few courses that seem to remain consistent throughout.
Pretty much every occupational therapy program requires the following courses:
- Biology (sometimes I & II, but not always)
- Biology Lab (again, sometimes I & II, but not always)
- Anatomy and Physiology I & II
- Anatomy and Physiology I & II Labs
- Statistics (from a math or psychology department)
In addition to these required courses, there are typically a few other courses either required or strongly preferred by occupational therapy schools. These courses are typically:
- Anthropology or Sociology
- Abnormal Psychology
- Developmental Psychology or Life Span Development
Sometimes a school may also want you to take a course in medical terminology, whether through an accredited university or as a certification through a local hospital, or they may just have you take an exam to prove your medical terminology is up to par. There are also some schools that may require you to take a course in some other occupation such as art, cooking, or theatre so that you can learn to integrate these occupations into your future practice! While this is not required by all schools, it is a great idea to get involved in as many hobbies or occupations as possible to have as part of your OT tool belt in the future.
Ultimately, each school has its own requirements, so it’s best if you can narrow down your ideal occupational therapy schools list and then make sure you take all of the courses required for those specific programs.
But when in doubt, take the class! At the end of the day, the field of occupational therapy is about going above and beyond, not just doing the bare minimum! So maybe you take that physics class and end up going to a school that doesn’t require it…at least it helped you beat out some of your competition getting into OT school!
How Should I Complete These Prerequisites?
First of all, in order to apply to a graduate program in occupational therapy, you have to have completed either a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree at an accredited university. Your major doesn’t matter too much, although if you have not completed your BA or BS yet, it would be a good idea to study something along the lines of health sciences, exercise science, psychology, or even pre-occupational therapy if it’s available at your university.
While we’re on the subject, most graduate programs also require your GPA to be a minimum of 3.0 to apply, so be sure to keep those grades up–especially in your science and psychology classes!
If you are one of the lucky few who figured out that OT was your passion before you got into school and you chose to a bachelor’s degree in pre-occupational therapy, you are #blessed. Having your undergrad degree in pre-OT likely means that you have completed all the requirements necessary for admission into an occupational therapy graduate program.
For those of us, myself included, that did not get the memo about how amazing the field of occupational therapy is until partway through school or even long after completing your bachelor’s degree, or if you are still considering whether or not to pursue a career in OT, you and I both will have to meet these prerequisite course requirements in one of a few ways:
- Take the courses you need as electives (if you are still working towards your Bachelor’s)
- Take the prerequisite courses at your local community college
- Complete the required courses at your OT school after you’ve been accepted
Most OT programs will accept course credit from your local community college (although it would be wise to double check this first with your dream school). Many schools require that these courses be completed at the time of your application to the occupational therapy program, although some schools do allow you to complete a few courses after admission into the school. On the other hand, some programs will allow you to take the necessary prerequisite courses at that school before beginning the OT coursework.
Hang In There!
So in the end, you’ve got some research to do if you are hoping to get into occupational therapy school! My advice would be to:
- Create your list of dream OT schools
- Check out those schools’ prerequisite courses
- Make a plan to get those credits checked off your to-do list!
I’ll be here if you need me to guide you along the way.