Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy is a science-driven, evidence-based profession that enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent —or live better with —illness, injury or disability.

The Office of Professional School Advising offers a variety of tools to help you become a competitive occupational therapy school applicant. As you explore the OT field, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with our pre-OT advisor to discuss your goals and review your professional resume.

Feel free to attend any of our workshops and to look around our website. 
 
To join the Pre-OT-Aggies listserv and be able to view all past and present emails, please click here.

 

Thinking about Occupational Therapy School?

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT) is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). OT practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability. 
 
Common OT interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes. OT services typically include:
 
  • an individualized evaluation, during which the patient/family and OT determine the patient’s goals,
  • customized interventions to improve the patient’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
  • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan. 
 
OT practitioners have a holistic perspective. Their focus is on adapting the environment and/or task to fit the patient, and the patient is an integral part of the therapy team. It is an evidence-based practice deeply rooted in science.
 
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has divided OT practice into the following six categories:
  • Children & Youth
  • Health & Wellness
  • Mental Health
  • Productive Aging
  • Rehab & Disability
  • Work & Industry
 

OT job outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of OTs is projected to grow 24% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average growth for all occupations.  The need for OTs is expected to increase as the large baby-boom generation ages and people remain active later in life.  The median annual salary for an OT was $83,200 in May 2017, with 90% of OTs earning more than $54,560.

OT job ranking

Occupational Therapists (OT) rank #9 in Best Health Care Jobs for 2017 and #11 in The 100 Best Jobs in 2017, according to the U.S. News & World Report, January 2017.

What should I major in?

Since OT program do not prefer one major over another and Texas A&M doesn’t have a designated pre-OT major, students may choose from over 200 major fields of study. Most students select majors which include the prerequisites and provide an alternate career choice. We have Aggies applying to OT school who have majored in different areas of business, education, engineering, liberal arts, and more.

Research Occupational Therapy Schools

Find an OT Program

Texas Schools

Abilene Christian University http://www.acu.edu/academics/graduate/college-of-education-and-human-services/occupational-therapy-department/occupational-therapy.html
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center http://www.ttuhsc.edu/health-professions/master-occupational-therapy/
Texas Woman’s University www.twu.edu/occupational-therapy/
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences www.usa.edu/academics/college-of-rehabilitative-sciences/
University of Texas at El Paso www.utep.edu/chs/ot/
University of Texas Medical Branch shp.utmb.edu/OccupationalTherapy/
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley www.utrgv.edu/ot/
UT Health San Antonio www.uthscsa.edu/academics/health-professions/departments/occupational-therapy

Visit Schools

  1. Check OT school websites, the OPSA pre-OT listserv, and OTS website for opportunities to visit OT schools.
  2. Speak with school representatives when they are on campus for:
    • Graduate and Professional School Day in the fall
    • OPSA’s annual Health Symposium each spring
    • OTS meetings
  3. Attend school webinars
  4. Attend the Occupational Therapy Virtual Fair hosted by AOTA annually

Prepare to Apply

Prerequisites

Students must complete all required prerequisite courses prior to beginning an OT program. Some schools require all prerequisite courses be completed prior to applying, so it is important for you to review the admissions requirements on each school’s website.
 
We have a prerequisite chart on the OT handout as a guide to assist you. Prerequisites can change, so it is ultimately the applicant’s responsibility to check with each OT school on a regular basis.  Applicants must get any course exceptions approved by individual OT schools.
 
While prerequisites vary between schools, OT prerequisites usually include at least the following:
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology (BIOL 319 & 320)
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Statistics
  • Lifespan Human Development
  • Physics
 
Most TX OT schools have additional prerequisites, so be sure to check the OT handout and OT websites for specifics.

OT Observation Hours

A realistic understanding of OT including the diversity within the field is imperative. With the ever increasing competitiveness of getting into OT school, you want diverse shadow experiences which can lead to better articulated and dynamic personal statements as well as more opportunities for positive letters of recommendation.

Most TX OT schools require 20-80 hours of documented volunteer, observation, or paid work experience with a licensed OT. Schools prefer applicants to have experience in more than one OT setting. Some schools have a form they require applicants fill out, so it is important for you to review each school’s website for more information.

Letters from evaluators

Schools have different requirements, so it is important to review each school’s website.  Be prepared to ask a professor and at least one OT.  You are encouraged to start building relationships with your professors and the OTs you observe. You want to stay in touch with all the OTs you observed because you may need them to officially verify the time you spent with them when it is time to apply.

Experiences

Employment, extracurricular activities, healthcare experience, internships and clinical experiences, research, teaching experience, volunteer, and leadership experience are all hours you can include on your OTCAS application. You are encouraged to keep a spreadsheet of all experiences, dates, hours worked, etc., so you do not forget important information and you can copy and paste the information when it is time for you to apply.

Were you originally interested in a different healthcare area when you came to college, and have hours in that area? Those hours will count, not as OT hours but it's something you can list on your application as healthcare experience.

Visit https://help.liaisonedu.com/OTCAS_Applicant_Help_Center/Filling_Out_Your_OTCAS_Application/Supporting_Information/03_Experiences for more information on the different types of experiences you can include on your application.

Community Service

A non-medical related type of community service is recommended, (soup kitchen, Habitat). PT programs want to know that you care about your community and have leadership skills.

The GRE

What is the GRE?

The GRE consists of 3 sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing, and is required for admission to most TX OT schools. Most students take this exam in the spring or early summer of the year in which they apply. The exam can be taken on weekday mornings or afternoons, is computer-delivered, and your score is given to you at the conclusion. You can take the exam more than once, yet you must wait 30 days in between testing. The GRE® General Test features question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you’ll do — and the skills you need to succeed — in today's demanding graduate and business school programs. This exam is similar to the SAT or ACT and many students get a study guide to refresh memories, and then take the exam.  Visit the following link for more information on what each content area of the test measures, a quick view of question types, and sample questions.

When should I take it and how should I prepare?

You can start taking your first practice GRE as soon as you know you are interested in OT. Kaplan offers a free practice exam online. After taking the practice exam, you should be able to determine whether you will take a commercial prep course (in-person or on-line), or prepare yourself. You may even choose to take the GRE summer after sophomore year because the score is reportable for five years.  Check with your intended OT school to see what their GRE requirements are, when deciding on a date to take the exam. It is strongly suggested to prepare and take the GRE in the spring prior to applying for OT school, at the latest.  Then, if you decided to re-take the test, you should have plenty of time before applications are due.
 
You may also bring your practice exam scores to the pre-OT advisor, so she may compare them to the ranges the TX OT schools have shared with her from previous application cycles. This may also help you decide how you’d like to prepare. While each program has different requirements, earning a 150 on the verbal and quantitative sections and at least a 3.5 on the analytical writing portion is competitive for most TX schools.
 
Registration for the exam is on-line at: http://www.ets.org/gre.

What is a competitive score?

While each program has different requirements, earning a 150 on the verbal and quantitative sections and at least a 3.5 on the analytical writing portion is competitive for a lot of TX schools. Keep in mind competitive scores differ by school and application cycle.

The Application Process

How to prepare

  • Meet with your OT advisor as soon as you know you are interested in OT
  • Keep your overall and prerequisite GPAs up
  • Remember grades from all college level institutions are factored into your overall and prerequisite GPAs in OTCAS
  • Research OT programs
    • Do the schools you are interested in have a required shadow experience form? If so, be sure to print it and take it with you to your shadowing experiences.
    • Review prerequisites on OT school websites and the OPSA OT handout
    • Where is the school located?
    • What type of program do they offer (e.g. MOT, MSOT, OTD)?
    • What was the passing rate for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)?
  • Speak with your professors and OTs
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities (e.g. join student organizations, gain community service hours, work, etc.)
  • Prepare for and take the GRE
  • Attend OPSA’s annual Health Symposium, Graduate and Professional School Day, etc. and speak with OT representatives
  • Shadow OTs-Be sure to create your own verification form, if a school you are interested in doesn’t have a form. If they do, don’t forget to take it with you to shadowing.
  • Decide who you would like to ask for letters of recommendation.
  • Aggies are encouraged to:
    • Attend an OPSA application workshop the spring prior to applying
    • Bring their personal statement/essays to the Health Profession Essay Review Session held each spring/summer
    • Attend a Health Professions Interview Workshop, held each summer/early fall semester.

OTCAS

The Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) simplifies the process of applying to occupational therapy programs by allowing you to submit one application that includes all necessary materials to apply to multiple participating programs. Most TX schools are now participating in OTCAS.

Application Timeline

The application process will start during the spring/summer semester, prior to your final undergraduate year.
 
Aggies are encouraged to:
  • Attend an OPSA application workshop the spring prior to applying
  • Bring their personal statement/essays to the Health Profession Essay Review Session held each spring/summer
  • Attend a Health Professions Interview Workshop, held each summer/early fall semester.
 
OTCAS opens in mid-July each year. Once received by OTCAS, your application and materials go through a verification process before being transmitted to all of your selected programs. The verification process can take up to six weeks. If a deadline is in October, students are encouraged to have all materials submitted prior to the beginning of the fall semester to give OTCAS time to verify the material and get it to the schools.
 
Continue shadowing OTs and your extracurricular activities.

 

Additional Resources

Student Group

Joining the Texas A&M Occupational Therapy Society (OTS) is a great way to get involved with likeminded students. You will have the opportunity to hear from OT school representatives, OTs, current OT students, your pre-OT advisor, and more. OTS also offers community service opportunities and can point you in the right direction when you are looking for shadowing in the Bryan/College Station area. Visit the OPSA calendar or OTS website for information on meeting dates.

Miscellaneous information

OT Handout
 
The OT profession celebrated its 100th birthday in 2017! You can celebrate and learn more about the past 100 years by visiting the OT Centennial website! Don’t forget to celebrate OT month each April!
 
Find out information from OTs Christie Kiley, MA, OTR/L and Abby Brayton-Chung, MS, OTR/L who wrote and e-book in 2015 The Most Important Things You Need to Know about Becoming an Occupational Therapy Practitioner: A Guide for Prospective Students
 
Visit AOTA Considering an OT Career? page and AOTA public forums to get your questions answered, review job outlook, learn about diversity in the career and hear stories from students on why they chose OT.

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