Occupational therapists are vital to treatment plans for senior citizens, as well as for people with disabilities and mobility issues, to help them maintain and increase the quality of daily life and general mobility.
Due to the large spike in America's rapidly aging population, employment in the field of occupational therapy is expected to rise by 21 percent through 2026, which is three times greater than the national average for all occupations, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Students interested in careers in occupation therapy must obtain a master's degree - it's the minimum educational obtainment for occupational therapy careers.
The list below was compiled to help students find the best campus-based and online occupational therapy degree programs from U.S. colleges and universities. Students who graduate from these programs are eligible to take the national certification examination and earn the Occupational Therapist, Registered designation, which is required for state licensure.
Read on to learn more about each college's occupational therapy program, as well as potential avenues to help pay for tuition, career outlooks for occupational therapy careers and common career paths.
Best Colleges for Occupational Therapy Degree Programs
Finding a great college can be difficult. We put together this ranking of the 10 top colleges for occupational therapy degree programs to help students narrow down their choices. This list was created using a unique methodology that blends a wide range of data points provided by the National Center for Education Statistics. Keep reading to learn more about the best universities for occupational therapy degree programs, or click the button below to learn more about how this list was created.
University of New Hampshire's main campus at Durham was founded in 1866 and has a total annual enrollment of more than 15,000 students. The university also has a second campus at Manchester.
UNH's B.S.-to-M.S. program in occupational therapy is a two-part degree path. Students spend their first three years of study completing pre-professional coursework and must hit certain academic targets to advance in the program - a 2.85 overall grade point average at the end of their sophomore year, and a 3.0 GPA after their junior year. Students who do not meet this criteria are excluded from the master's program but still can complete a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy. Students also must complete fieldwork experience to satisfy degree requirements. The university also offers a M.S. degree in occupational therapy, as well as a graduate-level certificate in assistive technologies.
UNH heads our ranking of best colleges for occupational therapy degree programs based on its 79 percent graduation rate, the leader among these 10 institutions, and its 78 percent admissions rate, which is second best.
This liberal arts and sciences university in Worcester, Mass. was founded in 1874 as a school for teachers and became a state university in 2010. At $8,857, Worcester State University had the second-lowest cost of in-state tuition of any college in these rankings, and the university admitted 68 percent of applicants in 2015.
The bachelor's degree requires 27 to 28 credits of prerequisite courses in human anatomy, neuroscience, kinesiology and related areas of study. Major coursework (53 credits) includes advanced study in these topics and other areas, such as occupational therapy theories, therapeutic approaches, and assistive technologies. Students interested in the master's degree program must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all undergraduate studies.
The No.3 institution in our rankings is a private liberal arts college located on the shores of Keuka Lake in New York's Finger Lakes region. The college scores favorably for its graduation and admissions rates, and the student-faculty ratio is an incredibly low 8:1. However, Keuka College has the second-highest cost of in-state tuition of any institution in these rankings.
Keuka College offers both bachelor's and master's degrees in occupation science. The B.S. degree requires a total of 120 credits to complete, and students must finish the program with an overall cumulative GPA of 3.0 to advance to the master's degree pathway. Students who enter the B.S. program are guaranteed spots in the master's program so long as they maintain the requisite grade point average. The M.S. program requires 32 credits to satisfy degree requirements. Overall graduation rate for the program was 89 percent from 2014 through 2016.
The university's online bachelor's-to-OTD (Occupational Therapy Doctorate) is for students who already have a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy from an accredited institution. The program requires 61 credits to complete. The Master's-to-OTD program is for students who have a B.S. degree and a master's in any field. Students must complete 40 credits to satisfy degree requirements.
On-campus programs include a B.S. in occupational science, and an M.S. in occupational therapy. Lastly, EKU has partnered with University of Kentucky to offer a doctoral degree in rehabilitation sciences. Eastern Kentucky University lands in the fourth spot in these rankings based on its low cost of tuition -- $8,150, best among these 10 featured colleges. Roughly 50 percent of students enrolled at EKU took some form of distance education coursework as well.
This small private college is an anchor institution in the small town of Orangeburg, N.Y., a quiet hamlet just 17 miles outside of the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Students interested in becoming occupational therapists can take one of two paths at Dominican College. They can complete a bachelor's degree and take all the prerequisites for admission to the college's Master of Science in Occupational therapy degree program, or they can complete an accelerated B.A. in social science that segues into an B.S./M.S. in occupational therapy. The benefit of this second option is that students can wrap up all occupational therapy prerequisites by the end of their junior year. Students in the second path must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA and must be no further along in their studies than the first semester of their sophomore year.
Classes for the master's degree program in occupation therapy are held for 18 consecutive weekends so students can work part time if they desire.
D'Youville College is a small private coeducational institution located in Buffalo's vibrant west side. About 3,000 students attend the college each year.
The college lands in the sixth spot in these rankings due in part to its low 9:1 student to teacher ratio, second best among our 10 featured colleges. D'Youville College also has a favorable admissions rate at 73 percent, and more than a third of students at the college take classes online.
Students can complete an occupational therapy degree in five years by enrolling in D'Youville's B.S. to M.S. combined program. The program requires 148 to 150 credits to complete. Students must have a combined SAT score of 1080 to be considered for acceptance. There's also a three-year M.S. program that requires 73 to 74 credits to complete. Students must have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in their undergraduate studies for admittance into the program.
The seventh institution in our rankings is a Catholic Franciscan liberal arts university located at Loretto, Penn. The university was founded in 1847.
Saint Francis University offers an on-campus Bachelor of Science in health science that leads to a Master of Science in occupational therapy. Curriculum combines three years of study in pre-professional coursework and two years of intensive professional occupational therapy study, as well as different avenues for research options. Students who enroll in the undergraduate program are automatically enrolled in a minor in psychology. The program requires five years to complete.
The university has a 74 percent admissions rate, but it admits only 40 new college freshman to the program each year. Lastly, in-state tuition cost at SFU is highest among any institution in these rankings.
Brenau University has its flagship campus at Gainesville, Ga., with additional campus locations in Augusta, Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla. More than half of all students at Brenau enjoy the flexibility of taking distance education classes, while their on-campus counterparts enjoy greater interaction with their professors due to the university's low 11:1 student to faculty ratio. The university also is the leader of these featured colleges for the number of occupational therapy degrees awarded to students in 2015.
Brenau University's school of occupational therapy offers several different pathways for graduate study in occupational therapy. Students can enroll in one of the following:
- A seven-semester weekday program at the Gainesville campus
- A nine-semester hybrid weekend program at the north Atlanta campus
- A seven-semester hybrid day program at the north Atlanta campus
Students enrolled in either hybrid program complete a significant number of coursework online, although students in the weekday program also complete some online coursework as well.
A public research university headquartered at Kalamazoo, WMU is home to more than 23,000 students each school year. The university has a second campus location at Grand Rapids.
Western Michigan University's Master of Science in occupational therapy program is for students who already hold a bachelor's degree. The 28-month program begins each fall. It includes 22 months of academic coursework and six months of field work for a total of 72 credit hours. The program is available at both campus locations. Students interested in the professional master's degree program must submit an application by Feb. 1 of each year. Students who apply beginning in February of 2018 also must take the Graduate Records Examination general test.
WMU also offers a low-vision graduate certificate for OT clinicians who desire to work in vision rehabilitation with clients suffering from low vision. The university lands in the ninth spot in these rankings based on its high 82 percent admissions rate, best among these 10 featured institutions.
Rounding out our top 10 best colleges for occupational therapy degree programs is this public university located in Baltimore County, Md. Towson, or TU, as it's called by locals, has the third-lowest cost of tuition and third-highest graduation rate among the featured colleges in our rankings.
TU offers both a Master of Science degree in occupational therapy, and a doctoral degree in occupational sciences. The M.S. program is for students whose undergraduate work centered on occupational therapy. Students must have a 3.25 cumulative GPA to be considered for admissions. The doctoral degree is for practicing occupational therapists with master's degrees, or students with M.S. degrees in a field related to social science. The Sc.D. occupational science program can be completed part time either onsite or online.
Occupational Therapy Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
Since a master's degree is required for all occupational therapy jobs, many colleges with occupational therapy degree programs have combined undergraduate studies with a master's degree. However, some positions require candidates to have a doctoral degree. All occupational therapy degree programs require a minimum of 24 weeks of supervised field work, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. All 50 states require therapists to be licensed and take continuing education courses to maintain their license.
Career Outlooks for Occupational Therapists
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for occupational therapists is expected to grow at three times the national average for all professions through 2026 based on the large number of aging Baby Boomers that will require therapy to help them navigate daily life and for treatment of age-related chronic conditions. Jobs will be most prevalent in managed care facilities, hospitals and other places where the elderly are treated. Specialists face even better job prospects, the BLS adds. Below we take a closer look at employment projections for occupational therapists and related professions.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||$60,410||42,660||33.1%|
|Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides||$50,130||191,870||27%|
|Occupational Therapy Aides||$32,580||7,700||18.9%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapy jobs require candidates to possess at least a master's degree, so students interested in careers in occupational therapy can expect to be in college for a minimum of five to six years. Students can seek federal financial aid to help with tuition costs, or they pursue an occupational therapy scholarship.
Reapplication required for renewal.
Renewable if recipient maintains a minimum 3.0 GPA, full-time enrollment, and satisfactory academic progress.