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Degree Overview: Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Occupational Therapy

Majors Overview March 16, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs in occupational therapy and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Occupational Therapy

Most states require aspiring occupational therapists who want to practice their profession to hold both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in occupational therapy. Accordingly, several schools offer combination occupational therapy programs, wherein graduates gain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Occupational Therapy degree after they complete the first half of the program. Typically, four-year colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degree programs in occupational therapy through their physical therapy or health sciences departments.

Graduates prepare for licensure and certification as occupational therapists during the first half of the program. They gain a strong grasp of the rudiments of therapy treatments, medical procedures, and patient assessment. The bachelor’s degree program in occupational therapy involves a combination of classroom lectures on human anatomy and disabling conditions and practical and clinical experience. While a bachelor’s degree may prove inadequate by itself in helping a student earn occupational therapy licensure, enrolled students within the program can gain a solid background in the industry and prepare for continuing education via a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria to the highly competitive occupational therapy programs typically require incoming students to boast a minimum high school grade point average of 2.8. Prerequisite courses in abnormal psychology, general psychology, human anatomy, and biology are also required to be taken by sophomores and college freshmen before they can gain admission to an occupational therapy major.


Coursework within a bachelor’s degree program in occupational therapy is devised to impart a strong grasp of basic principles in health care, in addition to a strong foundation in occupational therapy sciences. Core coursework may include topic areas such as the following:

•Disabling conditions
•Occupational therapy processes
•Health services practice management
•Occupational analysis
•Biomedical ethics
•Human development and functioning
•Functional anatomy
•Occupational practical
•Functioning assessment
•Applied neurology

Job and Wage Outlook

Occupational therapists are expected to see an above-average job growth rate of 29% over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $75,400; the highest wages were paid to professionals employed with home health care services. In 2012, as many as 113,200 individuals were employed as occupational therapists in the United States in nursing care facilities, hospitals, and healthcare services.

Continuing Education Choices

Licensure is mandatory in every U.S. state for occupational therapists seeking to practice their profession. Passage of a national licensure examination can qualify them to receive the credit of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR). Prior to taking the national exam, students are required to complete a master’s degree program in the field. The National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy, among other individual boards, offers voluntary certification options to enable these professionals to enhance their career prospects.

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