Best Schools for Occupational Therapy

Best Schools for Occupational Therapy

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Choosing the right school for your occupational therapy degree is crucial in your career path. With numerous programs available, deciding which institution aligns best with your professional goals and personal preferences can be overwhelming. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the best schools for occupational therapy, considering their curriculum, faculty, facilities, and overall reputation in the field.

Whether you’re a prospective student or a seasoned professional looking to further your education, this guide will provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

Keep reading to find your dream occupational therapy school and secure some tips for applying to your OT program.

Why Choose Occupational Therapy?

occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is a fulfilling and dynamic field that focuses on helping individuals achieve independence and improve their quality of life at the same time through therapeutic interventions.

By choosing a career in occupational therapy, you are committing to positively impacting the lives of people of all ages, from children with developmental challenges to older adults recovering from injuries or coping with chronic conditions.

Occupational therapists work in various settings, including hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, and private practice, providing personalized care tailored to each individual’s needs.

The demand for skilled occupational therapists is consistently high, ensuring robust job security and numerous opportunities for career advancement.

With a blend of science, creativity, and compassion, a career in occupational therapy offers professional satisfaction and the joy of making a tangible difference in society.

How Long is Occupational Therapy School?

occupational therapy school

The duration of occupational therapy school varies based on the level of education and program requirements. To become a licensed occupational therapist, you need a master’s degree (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD). A bachelor’s degree in health sciences or another similar field is usually required before enrolling in a graduate program.

Master’s programs take about two to three years, including coursework and clinical fieldwork. Doctoral programs may take one to two additional years, involving advanced clinical training, research, and sometimes teaching. Because of this, OT school can be time-consuming for students.

For this reason, some institutions offer accelerated programs that shorten the duration by allowing quicker transitions from bachelor’s to graduate.

Fieldwork is crucial for students pursuing occupational therapy degrees, providing hands-on experience in various clinical settings. This practical training ensures graduates are well-prepared to meet client needs. Overall, expect to spend five to eight years in higher education before starting a career as a licensed occupational therapist.

How to Select the Right School

occupational therapy

Choosing the right occupational therapy school requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure it meets your goals as a prospective occupational therapist. Here are some key aspects to focus on:


Ensure the school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Accreditation is crucial because it ensures the program meets the educational standards for occupational therapy licensure and certification.

Curriculum and Specializations

Examine the curriculum to see if it offers courses and specializations that align with your interests and career aspirations. Some programs provide unique tracks or specialties in pediatrics, geriatrics, mental health, or sports rehabilitation.

Faculty and Research Opportunities

Consider the qualifications and experience of the faculty members. Faculty actively involved in research can provide mentorship and opportunities for student involvement in groundbreaking studies. Research opportunities can also enhance your learning experience and make you a more competitive candidate in the occupational therapy industry.

Clinical Fieldwork

Look for programs that offer diverse and comprehensive fieldwork opportunities. Clinical practice is an integral part of your training, and gaining experience in different settings will prepare you for various challenges in your future career as an occupational therapist.


State-of-the-art facilities, such as simulation labs, research centers, the newest assistive technology, and modern classrooms, can significantly enrich your educational experience. Check if the school invests in the latest technology and resources to support learning and development.

Support Systems

Robust academic and career support services, such as tutoring, mentoring, and job placement assistance, can help students succeed in their occupational therapy degrees and transition smoothly into the professional world.

Location and Cost

Finally, consider the location and associated costs. Decide where you want to live while pursuing your degree (i.e., small city, midsize city, large city). Proximity to healthcare facilities may provide better fieldwork opportunities, whereas the cost of tuition, living expenses, and available financial aid will affect your financial planning.

By thoroughly assessing these factors, you can select a school with a solid educational foundation that aligns with your professional ambitions and personal circumstances.

Best Colleges for Occupational Therapy

occupational therapy

Here is a list of some of the top occupational therapy schools renowned for their exceptional programs, faculty, and facilities:

  • University of Southern California (USC): Known for its distinguished faculty, the University of Southern California offers robust research opportunities and extensive fieldwork experiences.
  • Boston University (BU): Offers a comprehensive curriculum emphasizing hands-on clinical training and various specializations.
  • Washington University in St. Louis: Recognized for pioneering research, state-of-the-art facilities, and a holistic approach to occupational therapy education.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC): This university features innovative programs, diverse clinical fieldwork opportunities, and a commitment to community engagement.
  • University of Pittsburgh: Boasts an extensive network of clinical partnerships and a focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and advanced practice.
  • Colorado State University (CSU): Offers unique specializations, such as animal-assisted therapy, and strongly emphasizes evidence-based practice.
  • Thomas Jefferson University: Provides a robust curriculum with a blend of traditional and innovative therapeutic techniques, along with ample research opportunities.
  • New York University (NYU): Known for its dynamic urban setting, comprehensive fieldwork options, and access to cutting-edge research and technology.
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC): Features an inclusive curriculum, outstanding faculty, and a variety of clinical placements in different healthcare settings.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison: Distinguished for its rigorous educational programs, research excellence, and supportive academic environment.
  • The University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston: The University of Texas Medical Branch offers a comprehensive curriculum with a focus on cultural competence and social responsibility, along with diverse clinical experiences. Or attend the San Antonio branch for their renowned doctorate program.
  • Loma Linda University: Loma Linda University is known for its holistic approach, faith-based values, and extensive experiential learning opportunities in a variety of settings.
  • St. Louis University: St. Louis University offers a strong foundation in occupational therapy theory and practice, along with unique opportunities to work with diverse populations and interdisciplinary teams.
  • University of St. Augustine: Based in San Marcos, this college provides hands-on training and evidence-based education, focusing on manual therapy techniques.

Tips for Applying to Occupational Therapy Schools

Applying to occupational therapy (OT) programs can be competitive and rigorous, but you can strengthen your chances of acceptance with proper preparation and strategy. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Start Early and Research Thoroughly

Begin your research well in advance to understand each program’s specific requirements. Note application deadlines, prerequisite coursework, observation hours, and any other specific documentation needed.

Gain Relevant Experience

Shadowing occupational therapists, volunteering, or working in healthcare settings can provide valuable experience and insight into the profession. Many programs also require documented observation hours, so verify each program’s requirements.

Maintain a Strong Academic Record

Graduate programs in occupational therapy often have high GPA expectations. Focus on excelling in prerequisite courses, especially science-related subjects, as these are critical to your acceptance.

Prepare for the GRE

Many OT programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission. Invest time studying and taking practice tests to ensure a competitive score.

Obtain Strong Letters of Recommendation

Secure letters of recommendation from individuals who can attest to your academic abilities, work ethic, and suitability for a career in occupational therapy. These can include professors, work supervisors, and practicing occupational therapists.

Craft a Compelling Personal Statement

Your personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your passion for occupational therapy, relevant experiences, and career goals. Be sure to articulate clearly why you are drawn to the field and how you plan to contribute to it.

Stay Organized

Track each application’s requirements, deadlines, and progress. A checklist or spreadsheet can help you stay organized and ensure you complete all critical steps.

Be Persistent and Positive

Applying to multiple programs increases your chances of acceptance. Staying optimistic and persistent throughout the process can help you cope with any challenges or setbacks.

Following these tips and remaining diligent throughout the application process can enhance your chances of being admitted to a top-tier occupational therapy program.

Start Your OT Journey

Embarking on a journey to become an occupational therapist is challenging and immensely rewarding. By carefully selecting the right educational program, gaining relevant experience, and preparing diligently for the application process, you can set a solid foundation for your career.

The field of occupational therapy offers a unique opportunity to meaningfully impact the lives of individuals across varied settings. As you move forward, remain committed to your goals, stay informed, and embrace the learning opportunities.

When you’re ready to find a job, visit AlliedTravelCareers to browse thousands of travel occupational therapy jobs and permanent positions. Good luck on your OT journey!

Author: Carly Miller

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