There are many pieces to the occupational therapy program application, including your GPA, standardized test scores, personal statement, list of experiences, letters of recommendation, and biographical information. Use the navigation below to explore each aspect of preparing for occupational therapy school.
- What is an occupational therapist?
An occupational therapist (OT) is a health professional concerned with restoration and maintenance of function following disease or injury. Specifically, occupational therapists are concerned mainly with finer motor control and its functioning in daily at home activities.
An occupational therapist may work with a variety of patients such as stroke victims, amputees, spinal cord or head injury patients and developmentally disabled children. The goal of therapy is to reduce limitations, improve self-care skills, maintain function and prepare for employment.
Occupational therapists work in many settings such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, private practice, home health and psychiatric hospitals.
An occupational therapist must have many important personal qualifications including creativity, warmth, responsibility, determination and patience. A therapist must also be comfortable touching and treating the human body.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) is your go-to place when considering occupational therapy
- Becoming an Occupational Therapist
Obtain an undergraduate degree (4 years)
Earn a master's degree at an accredited OT program
Pass the NBCOT exam
Apply for licensure
As an option after your master's degree, you can earn a doctorate degree at an accredited OT program.
When you are ready to apply to Occupational Therapy programs, visit the Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service (OTCAS).
- Occupational Therapy Prerequisites
Occupational Therapy Prerequisites Courses to Take at UC Davis Most schools require: Human Anatomy with Lab EXB 106 & EXB 106L Human Physiology with Lab NPB 101/NPB 101L OR NPB 110C/NPB 101L Developmental/ Lifespan Psychology PSC 140 Introduction to Psychology PSC 1 Abnormal Psychology PSC 168 Statistics STA 13 OR STA 100 Medical Terminology *course not offered at UC Davis Additional Anthropology/Sociology Courses Any ANT/SOC course Some schools may also require: General Biology BIS 2ABC Physics PHY 7ABC 3-D Art (i.e. ceramics, pottery) ART 5 OR ART 8 English Composition/ Critical Thinking ENL, COM & UWP courses Public Speaking CMN 1 Neuroanatomy NPB 124**
* Check your major requirements before choosing classes.
** SJSU accepts PSC 121 or PSC 135 or COGS 107ABC (all three are required)
See the OT School Prerequisite Chart for a sample list of occupational therapy schools and their requirements.
See community college equivalents for HDE 100ABC.
Note: The above courses are only suggested, not absolute.
Pre-OT students should strive to earn at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA. The stronger you perform in your undergraduate prerequisite coursework, the more competitive you will be for graduate school. To learn more about the pre-requisite coursework for several OT programs, see our Prerequisite Sheet.
Complete all of your prerequisite courses for a letter grade - DO NOT take any of them P/NP.
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
Not all occupational therapy programs require the GRE. Check the admissions website of the schools you are applying to to see if they require GRE scores.
The GRE is available on a continuous basis throughout the year.
The exam includes three sections:
The exam cost $205 each time you take it. You can only take the GRE 21 days after your previous exam
The GRE is not a course-dependent test, meaning there are no specific UCD courses you need to take to prepare. The best way is to give yourself time to study the test by buying test prep books or taking a test prep course.
Whatever you do, do not take the test without preparing! Click here to register for the GRE.
- Pre-OT Experiences
Many schools require in-patient experience, since it is the most medically-placed setting and involves acute care to hospital patients. To explore this field and gain clinical experience, we recommend you start with an ICC Health Related Internship.
A minimum amount of volunteer/observation hours are required by most schools, with a minimum of 80 hours under the supervision of a licensed OT. Please check each school you plan to apply to for specific hour requirements.
Choose experiences that are meaningful to you and think outside the box!
Here are some good places to start looking for experiences at UC Davis:
Health Related Internships through the Internship and Career Center (ICC)
Global Health Internships through Study Abroad
Health Internships through the Washington Program
Volunteering for the UC Davis Pre-Health Conference
Completing community service using the ICC Community Service Database
Join or create a student organization
Volunteer at a Student Run Clinic
- Applying to OT Programs
The Centralized Application Service for Occupational Therapy (OTCAS) facilitates the OT admission process for programs and applicants and does not determine whether an applicant is eligible or has met program requirements. OTCAS will only consider an application complete for transcript verification once the following items are received:
Complete OTCAS application
Official transcripts from every accredited U.S. or Canadian college attended
OTCAS application fee
Sections of OTCAS include:
OT observation hours
List of reference providers
OT program selection
OTCAS is open from mid-July to mid-June of the following year as the application start date and deadline may vary between schools. Please check your individual schools for specific dates. Some may admit students on a rolling basis; if that is the case for your school of choice, be sure to submit your application early, but only when you are ready. Come see an advisor at Health Professions Advising to review your application.
For more detailed information concerning each section of OTCAS, check the OTCAS instructions page.
Your personal statement should address why you selected OT as a career and how an Occupational Therapy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you achieve your goals. The personal essay is an important part of your application for admission and provides you with an opportunity for you to clearly and effectively express your ideas. (OTCAS)
Some schools require an additional personal statement specific to their school along with the general OTCAS personal statement. Check each school to which you plan to apply.
Letters of Recommendation
OTCAS requires that applicants submit a minimum of three electronic references even if the program to which you are applying only requires two; OTCAS does not accept committee or composite letters. Note that while OTCAS accepts a maximum of five references, some schools may only accept some number of references; please check with individual schools.
Letters should be from professors, occupational therapists, and/or other professionals that can attest to your academic abilities, work performance, and personal attributes. Some schools may require that one of your references is a licensed OT who has supervised you as a paid or volunteer worker.
Eligible applicants will receive an invitation to schedule an interview provided that space is still available. Not all programs require an interview. Interview policies and practices vary by school.
Most schools will also require a supplemental application, including an additional essay. A supplemental fee is usually required and the cost will vary among schools. It is the responsibility of the applicant to check the requirements for each school to ensure all have been fulfilled. Failure to submit required materials by the each school's deadline may jeopardize the applicant's eligibility for admission consideration.
There are both master’s and doctoral programs in Occupational Therapy. Here is a list of all programs.
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More questions? Check out our FAQ page or schedule an appointment with an adviser!