Planning guide for new pre-occupational therapy students


This section provides information to assist in planning for admission to occupational therapy (OT) programs, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure you mention your intention to follow a pre-OT preparatory program. You will be subscribed to the Health Professions and Prelaw Center (HPPLC) mailing list, and receive information about important upcoming events, including the Pre-Occupational Therapy Orientation in the fall. Consult resources from University Division and or the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on planning for summer orientation.

Description of the profession #

Occupational therapists (OTs) help people with physical, cognitive, or psychosocial challenges maximize their ability to participate in life independently. With occupational therapy, children and adults facing such challenges can improve skills that help them perform daily tasks at home, school, work, and play. OTs develop individual treatment plans to fit the client's goals. This allows for an OT to have a customized intervention to improve the client's ability to perform daily activities to reach their goals. Occupational therapy does not simply treat medical conditions. It helps people stay engaged in activities that give them meaning and satisfaction. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills, patience, empathy, strong communication and social skills, and the ability to work with a team of caregivers in a variety of settings are skills important to this profession, as is the ability to work closely with people from a variety of backgrounds. OTs are service-oriented "people persons."

The degree path #

Everyone newly entering the field to practice as a licensed occupational therapist must earn a graduate degree from an accredited OT program. Before being admitted to an OT program, you must successfully complete certain prerequisite courses and other admission requirements. Prerequisites are not the same for all OT programs, but most do require all or nearly all of the prerequisites listed on this page.

Choosing your degree and major #

Almost any degree and major can be a good choice for pre-OT students. Most OT programs have no preference as to what major and degree you earn! There doesn’t even need to be an obvious connection between OT and your major. You can select any major IUB offers and combine it with the courses required for admission to OT programs. Choose a major that interests you, and in which you can excel. It is also perfectly fine to start out as exploratory and work with your academic advisor throughout the year to discover a major that is a good fit for you. The Explore Programs tool can help you discover your options!

Occupational therapy course admission requirements #

The courses required for admission vary from one occupational therapy program to another. There is, however, a fair degree of prerequisite overlap across programs. By choosing from the courses listed in the section below you can be confident that you will begin to lay a foundation that will enable you to apply to a variety of OT programs. You can learn more about additional admission requirements later during the year.

Your course load #

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful.

Planning your fall course options #

For your fall semester, you should begin with completing occupational therapy required coursework, but you’ll also need to complete other courses for your particular undergraduate degree and major. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on how to plan your fall course schedule.

Below is a partial list of program prerequisites for the IU OT programs at IUPUI and IU South Bend. Many of these are required by other OT programs, too. Plan to register for one or two pre-OT courses (3-8 credit hours) for the upcoming semester. We strongly advise that you not take more than one 5-credit course in the same semester. During your first semester at IUB, you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your pre-occupational therapy coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB.

The IU OT programs accept dual credit courses taken during high school and Advanced Placement (AP) credit as fulfilling prerequisites. Dual credit courses are acceptable if recorded on a college transcript with a grade. AP credit is acceptable with a score of 3 or higher. If you think you may have credit for one or more of the courses below, be sure to tell your Orientation advisor. For the most current policies, review the admission requirements at IUPUI and IU South Bend. Some OT programs may not accept AP credit. If you have placement credit, you will eventually need to check with programs to confirm their policies.

Introductory Psychology
PSY-P 101 or PSY-P 155 (3 credits). Either course fulfills prerequisite requirements for PSY-P 324, which is a required OT prerequisite. PSY-P 155 is an intensive course more appropriate for psychology majors or minors.

Introductory Sociology or Introductory Anthropology
SOC-S 100, ANTH-A 107, or ANTH-E 200 (3 credits).

Human Anatomy
ANAT-A 215 (5 credits). This course has limited seating and may not be available during your Orientation. If so, you can simply take it later.

Human Lifespan Development
SPH-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 315 (3 credits). PSY-P 315 Developmental Psychology may fulfill requirements for a greater number of OT programs.

Medical Terminology
CLAS-C 209 (2 credits).

Most OT programs accept almost any 300-level statistics course. You should consult with an academic advisor about whether you are ready to enroll in statistics during freshman year.

Other activities for pre-occupational therapy students #

Clinical observation (or job shadowing) is a requirement for admission to most OT programs. Clinical observation can also help you decide whether or not a career in OT is the best choice for you, or whether you need to explore other fields. Furthermore, extensive observation in a variety of settings can help you become a more competitive applicant to OT programs.  When possible in the future, arrange to shadow OT's, in both in-patient and out-patient settings. Log your shadowing hours and take some notes during your experiences.