Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy: Program Summary
Earning a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy is the first step in the education path to become an occupational therapist. Find out about what the curriculum involves, as well as what's needed to be considered for admission. Read about certification requirements and employment information.
Aspiring occupational therapists must complete both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in the field before they can earn their license. For this reason, several universities offer combination occupational therapy programs, the first half of which will award graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy degree.
Bachelor's degree programs in occupational therapy are most commonly offered through the health sciences or physical therapy departments of 4-year universities and colleges. They typically act as the first half of an intensive program that prepares graduates for certification and licensure as occupational therapists. While enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in occupational therapy, students learn the basics of patient assessment, medical procedures and therapy treatments.
A bachelor's degree program in occupational therapy combines classroom lectures on disabling conditions and human anatomy with clinical and practical experience. Although a bachelor's degree is not enough education in itself to earn occupational therapy licensure, it does provide a solid background in the field and prepare students for a master's degree program in occupational therapy.
Many occupational therapy programs are highly competitive, and require that incoming students have a high school grade point average of at least 2.8. Before enrolling in an occupational therapy major, college freshmen and sophomores must also take prerequisite courses in biology, human anatomy, general psychology and abnormal psychology.
Many of the courses included in a bachelor's degree program in occupational therapy are designed to provide students with a broad background in the health care field as well as an in-depth background in occupational therapy sciences. Some examples include:
- Functional anatomy
- Human development and functioning
- Biomedical ethics
- Health services practice management
- Occupational therapy process
- Disabling conditions
- Applied neurology
- Functioning assessment
- Occupational practical
- Occupational analysis
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 108,800 occupational therapists holding down jobs in healthcare services, hospitals and nursing care facilities in 2010 (www.bls.gov). Employment of occupational therapists is predicted to rise by 33% between 2010 and 2020. In 2012, the median annual salary for occupational therapists was $75,400 (www.bls.gov). Professionals who worked for home health care services typically earned the highest salaries.
Continuing Education Options
All U.S. states require that occupational therapists gain licensure before they are legally allowed to practice. Professionals must pass a national licensure exam in order to gain the credit of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR). Before students can sit for the national exam, they must also complete earn a master's degree in the field. Individual boards such as the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy also offer voluntary certification options that can increase career opportunities.
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