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Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist (OT) is a rehabilitation health care professional with either a Master’s or Doctoral degree in occupational therapy. An OT works with individuals who need assistance in learning skills to enable them to lead independent lives.  Therapists can help patients in various aspects of daily life including dressing, cooking, using a computer and driving.  This can include creating customized treatment programs, teaching patients to use adaptive equipment, conducting home and job site evaluations to recommend adaptations and treatment and aiding family members and other caregivers.

Many students have difficulty determining the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy.  Although both are types of rehabilitation medicine, they differ in many ways.  Occupational therapists are focused more on teaching patients to work within their limitations and how to manage their health.  Physical therapists work more with treating an injury and restoring function.  In addition, OTs are more likely to work in rehabilitation centers with patients who have permanent disabilities while PTs are more likely to work in hospitals and clinics with patients who have more recent injuries.  Although these are the general differences, there are areas of overlap between the two fields and they often work together in the interest of the patient.  Below are links to a variety of different sources of information for students interested in pursuing a Master’s of Doctoral degree in Occupational Therapy. 

  • Prerequisite Coursework

    There is no set list of courses that are required by all occupational therapy schools, as each school has its own specific list of prerequisites.  However, there is a core of courses that are required by most programs as well as some commonly recommended coursework.   Is important that you consider the schools to which you want to apply and be sure you take all of their required courses.  We recommend that you contact occupational therapy schools during your freshman year to begin planning your coursework.


    • One semester of General Biology:  BIO 110
    • One semester of Anatomy with a lab: BIO 341
    • One semester of Physiology with a lab: BIO 350 Note – some programs will accept BIO 245 and BIO 246 instead of BIO 341 and BIO 350.  Please be sure to check with each individual school for details.
    • Chemistry: programs vary greatly in their requirements for chemistry, many require two semesters of General Chemistry (CHEM 111 and CHEM 112), some also require one semester of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 331), while yet other programs have no specific chemistry requirements.
    • Two semesters of English: ENG 122 and SCI 291 or similar
    • Two semesters of Psychology: some programs will accept any two courses with a PSY prefix, but others explicitly state that they require Developmental Psychology (PSY 230) and Abnormal Psychology (PSY 255).  If the program you are interested in requires Abnormal Psychology, you will also need to take PSY 120 (Principles of Psychology) which is a prerequisite for PSY 255.
    • One semester of Statistics: STAT 150
  • Timeline

    Freshman Year

    • Focus on coursework
    • Learn to be a successful student
    • Learn how to study
    • Earn a strong GPA
    • Begin working on prerequisite courses, especially BIO 110 and 111 and CHEM 111 and 112
    • Begin community service
    • Shadow an occupational therapist
    • Research various medical careers

    Sophomore Year

    • Continue to focus on doing well in your courses
    • Maintain a strong GPA
    • Continue taking prerequisite courses
    • Continue community service
    • Look for leadership opportunities
    • Start or continue clinical experience
    • Meet with the prehealth advisors
    • Look for research opportunities
    • Consider who to ask for letters of recommendation

    Junior Year

    • Maintain a strong GPA
    • Finish your science prerequisites
    • Continue community service
    • Continue clinical experience
    • Continue leadership activities
    • Conduct research in your major
    • Study for the GRE
    • Take the GRE
    • Obtain letters of recommendation
    • Work on your personal essay
    • Meet with the prehealth advisors
    • Fill out OTCAS which opens in mid July 
    • Submit OTCAS in August
    • Submit letters of recommendation

    Senior Year

    • Maintain a strong GPA
    • Prepare for interviews
    • Continue community service, leadership activities and clinical experience
    • Continue research experience
    • Meet with the prehealth advisors
    • Go to occupational therapy school interviews
  • How to Apply

    The process of applying to occupational therapy school starts by filling out one application that will then be sent to the schools of your choice.  For occupational therapy programs, you will fill out the OTCAS application, which includes a space for your personal essay, your coursework history, your list of activities, your GRE score, and the names of your recommenders.  This application will open in May so that you can begin to fill it out and then you can submit the application in early June.  For more information on filling out the application go to "link to tutorial".

    Once the schools receive your application, some of them may send you secondary applications which require more information and ask a series of short answer/essay questions. You will need to fill these out and then send them to each school.

    After reviewing your secondary application and letters of recommendation, the schools will then invite students for interviews. This process typically begins and September and can last through February.  For more information on how to prepare for you interview go to our informational website and view our tutorial.

    After the interview process, students will either be accepted, denied or placed on a waitlist at each school.  From here each student then must decide where he or she will attend.

  • Statistics of Successful Applicants
    Data for 2016-2017 Cycle for Colorado State Occupational Therapy Program  
    Average Overall GPA of Accepted Students 3.7
    Average GRE of Accepted Students 309 
  • Other Resources