Academic preparation for Occupational Therapy (OT) requires a Bachelor’s degree and completion of a set of prerequisite classes, which vary from school to school. For your degree, any major is appropriate. There is no preference in this regard, so study something you love!
Preparation for Occupational Therapy (OT) involves engaging in experiences that develop and demonstrate skills in communication, leadership, community service, and familiarity with the profession. What you do outside of class is as important as what you do in class so don’t neglect these activities. Keep in mind that activities complement your coursework, but will not compensate for low grades. Both are important!
- Make sure you have contact information for supervisors and physicians you work with or shadow in case you need a recommendation letter. Try to keep an open relationship with them after you discontinue activities.
- Keep a record of all hours of service and experiences. The Prehealth Planner Spread Sheet on our website can help with this.
- Writing reflections on each activity in a journal will be helpful when you write your personal statement.
You can choose from many different extracurricular activities outside of class. The specifics of the some of them are less important than what you learn and the qualities you are able to develop and demonstrate through these activities. Two very important qualities for OTs that you should seek to demonstrate are:
- Maturity & Professionalism
OTs work with clients from a variety of backgrounds. It is important to demonstrate you can maturely interact with all clients with good interpersonal and communication skills. Demonstration of strong work ethic through various activities will show your professionalism as a future healthcare professional.
- Creativity & Flexible Thinking
One of the OT’s roles is to come up with a solution for clients who have lost the ability to do things they used to do. It is important to have flexible thinking and come up with creative solutions. Try new activities and challenge yourself to demonstrate this ability.
This should be one of your first experiences as a PreOccupational Therapy student. Observing Licensed Occupational Therapists in action, working in different environments, will help you understand the profession. Shadowing will also help you get to know Occupational Therapists. This is important, as many programs require at least one recommendation letter from an Occupational Therapist. Many students find shadowing opportunities through volunteer experiences at medical facilities (UUOT suggests students shadow a minimum of 50 hours at least at two different settings). Observe at least one OT long enough to get a strong recommendation letter. For UUOT, students taking OCTH 3000 (Intro to OT) at the U of U with a B grade or better will be able to waive 25 of the 50 observation hours, and will only be required to have contact with one setting other than the class.
Physicians depend on medical literature to remain current in their field throughout their careers. Most medical schools highly recommend participation in research. The UUSOM requires a research experience that tests a hypothesis. Your research experience can be from many different areas. It does not have to be medically related or in a lab. Competitive applicants complete at least 1 experience under a supervision of a faculty lasting 6 months to a year.
Because you are preparing for a humanitarian profession, it is important to have volunteer experiences that demonstrate a commitment to serving others in your community. It is suggested that this be ongoing throughout your college years prior to application for admission.
As an OT, you will be a leader and team member in many ways – with your patients, your staff, your colleagues, and in your community. Examples include offices held in organizations, committee work; leadership in church activities; coordinating a project; managing, training, supervising at work or in other activities; teaching experience of any kind; coaching; peer counseling or mentoring, etc.
Occupational therapy programs are interested in well-rounded students who know how to balance work with recreation. Recreation activities, including hobbies, athletics, and other pastimes, will help you relieve stress and return refreshed to your studies, and later work. Creative, hands on, hobbies are also an excellent way to demonstrate your creativity, which is an important quality in an OT.
PreOccupational Therapy Coursework
This guide is designed for applying to a range of occupational therapy programs. It is not a comprehensive list. Requirements may vary by school so applicants should look closely at what is required at the schools at which they are applying. The following list indicates the most commonly classes required or recommended by occupational therapy programs in the west and the top ten schools that University of Utah graduates attend. See a Preprofessional advisor for more information.
AP & IB CREDIT
Occupational Therapy programs vary in their acceptance of Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) credits earned in high school towards their prerequisites, so students with AP or IB credits in these areas should check with programs of interest to make sure they accept them. If not, students can take an introductory course or a higher level course.
The University of Utah Occupational Therapy Program (UUOT) does not accept AP or IB credit for prerequisites.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE CREDITS
Occupational therapy programs vary on their view of prerequisite classes taken at community colleges. Most will accept them. However, while some occupational therapy programs readily accept them, others will accept them but look on them less favorably. Students should be aware of this when planning their education, and check with programs of interest early on. If a prerequisite has already been taken at a community college, taking a higher level class at university can improve your application for those schools that prefer classes at a 4 year school.
- CLEP Credit & Correspondence Study—You are required to report all of the courses and credit hours that you earned through CLEP exams or Correspondence/Independent Study courses. However, those credits may not be accepted as completed prerequisite coursework. Check each program’s requirements online.
- Online Courses— Depends on program. Ask programs you are considering applying to directly.
- Withdrawals— W’s should be used only for non-academic emergencies, though W’s will not affect GPA.
- GPA—Most OT programs require minimum overall AND prerequisite GPA of 3.0. Competitive
applicants for most programs have higher GPA in both the overall and prerequisite
- UUOT’s minimum GPA is 3.0 for both cumulative and prerequisite (science and non-science) GPA. The average prerequisite GPA for students accepted to the UUOT program is 3.5.
- Minimum Individual Grade Requirement—Most programs set a minimum grade requirement for prerequisite courses of C or higher
- Grade Expiration—Many programs require certain prerequisite courses to be completed within 5 to 7 years
of entering an OT program. Check each program’s requirements for more information.
- At UUOT your anatomy course must be less than 5 years old.
- Repeated Courses— The central application service, OTCAS, will include all grades, even if repeated.
(This is different from the U of U’s policy to only count the most recent attempt.)
However, individual OT programs vary in their policies regarding repeats.
- UUOT will use the best grade. However, like many programs, they will consider your performance in each class and the frequency of repeats, so it is best to take each class once and do well.
REQUIRED BY MOST SCHOOLS
BIOL 1210, Principles of Biology (3 credits) Even if not required, this is the prerequisite for most Biology classes
(BIOL 1610/1615 at SLCC)
BIOL 2325, Human Anatomy (4 credits) Lab is included, Prerequisite BIOL 1210
Required by UUOT
BIOL 2420 Human Physiology (4 credits) Lab 2425 (1 credit) Prerequisites BIOL 1210 and CHEM 1210
Required by UUOT
In order to take the proper math class, you must have ACT, SAT or math placement test scores, or successfully pass a prerequisite math course. Some students will need MATH 0980 or MATH 1010 before starting the Preoccupational therapy math sequence.
REQUIRED BY MOST SCHOOLS
MATH 1050 College Algebra (4 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1010 or placement
MATH 1060 Trigonometry (4 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1050 or placement
Math 1070 Statistics (3 credits) Prerequisite MATH 1010 or placement. Other Statistics classes can be accepted (for example, PSY 3000, FCS 3210 or SOC 3112). Check with Major advisor.
Required by UUOT
REQUIRED OR RECOMMENDED BY UUOT AND MOST SCHOOLS
One of the following
PHYS 2010 General Physics 1 (4 credits) Lab PHYS 2015 (1 credit) Prerequisite MATH 1060
KINES 3092 Kinesiology (3 credits) Prerequisite BIOL 2325
KINES 3093 Biomechanics (3 credits) Prerequisite BIOL 2325 and MATH 1050
REQUIRED BY MOST SCHOOLS
2 semesters of English Composition courses
WRTG 1010 (3 credits)
WRTG 2010 (3 credits) Prerequisite WRTG 1010
CW course (3-4 credits) If no course in your major, choose something from either Writing or English department
REQURIED BY UUOT AND MOST OTHER SCHOOLS
PSY 3400 Abnormal Behavior (3 credits) Prerequisite PSY 1010
(PSY 2300 at SLCC)
FCS 1500 or NURS 2100 or KINES 3551 or PSY 3215 & 3220 & 3230
(FHS 1500 or PSY 1100 at SLCC)
H EDU 3030
(MA 1100 at SLCC)
ANTH 1010 or other Cultural Anthropology or FCS 3370 (IR) or NUTR 3620 (IR)
(ANTH 1010 or 2011 at SLCC)
REQUIRED BY UUOT AND SOME OTHER SCHOOLS
Must be a hands on art class creating a physical product. Art History, Music, Theatre, Dance, Photography or survey classes will not count.
One class in Sociology, Health Education or Gerontology
Any Sociology class
Any H EDU class numbered 3000 or higher
Any GERON, or ETHNC class
SPED 3010 or FCS 3380 or GNDR 1100 or PSY 3460
(At SLCC: Any Sociology class or HLTH 1110 or EDUC 1400)
OPTIONAL PREPARATORY COURSES FOR MATH, CHEMISTRY AND PHYSICS
- MATH 10 (non credit) Math Boot Camp for Intermediate Algebra, 1 week workshop offered the week before fall and spring semesters begin
- MATH 15 (non credit) Math Boot Camp for Precalculus, 1 week review workshop offered the week before fall and spring semesters begin
- PHYS 1500 (3 credits) Preparation for College Physics, Offered once a year. Check class schedule for more information
OPTIONAL COURSES FOR EXPLORING THE MEDICAL FIELD
- OC TH 3000 Introduction to Occupational Therapy (3 credits) Waives 25-50 Observation hours for UUOT
- LEAP 1100 & 1101 (3 credits each) College of Health LEAP
- HEDU 2010 (3 credits) Introduction to Health Professions
Prepare for Letters of Recommendation
Requirements for letters vary between schools, so research schools early and know what you need. Plan ahead! Get to know people from these categories so they can write excellent letters for you. Almost all OT programs require a letter from an OT. In addition, some schools require a letter from a professor or any supervisor of your choice, or both. UUOT’s requirements are as follows:
- Occupational Therapists you shadowed or worked
- Professor (usually a science professor) OR Any Supervisor of your choice (employment, volunteer, etc.)
- Tell professors at the beginning of the semester that you would like them to keep an eye on your performance in class. It will give them a longer observational window.
- Visit their offices regularly
- At the end of the semester, if you do well, ask them if they would be willing to write you an excellent letter of recommendation when you are ready to apply.
- A key to a good letter is the establishment of a relationship between student and
professor based on shared academic interests.
- Ask thoughtful questions
- Delve deeper into concepts presented in lectures
- Share your academic and career goals
- Ask for recommendations for additional reading
- Inquire about their areas of interest and research
- After you have gotten to know professors, ask about further opportunities, e.g. teaching assistantships, individual research projects, etc.
- The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) https://www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Considering-OT-Career.aspx
- UUOT Program: https://health.utah.edu/occupational-recreational-therapies/
- UUOT Information Sessions: College of Health Calendar, http://healthsciences.utah.edu/calendar, type “Information Session” in the SEARCH box