"To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease."  —Andrew T. Still, MD, DO

"As a family physician, my job is listening to people's stories."
—Jon S. Hallberg, MD

Occupational Therapy

Career Info

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) states that Occupational Therapy is a health care profession aimed at helping, “people of all ages regain, develop, or master everyday skills in order to live independent, productive, and satisfying lives. Common occupational therapy 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.” Occupational therapy practitioners (OTs) are skilled professionals whose education includes the study of human growth and development with specific emphasis on the social, emotional, and physiological effects of illness and injury. OT’s assess, utilize, and adapt everyday activities to improve function, enhance performance, promote health, prevent illness, and increase independence in those persons to whom they provide services.

The AOTA also says that “many practitioners choose to help children thrive in the ‘occupations’ of childhood, which include learning, playing, and growing. Therapists work in schools with students who have learning disabilities or behavioral problems. Others work with premature newborns at pediatric hospitals or children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and other disabilities.  Occupational therapists also work with individuals in their homes, community centers, rehabilitation hospitals, businesses, and nursing homes. In these settings, occupational therapists help people with traumatic injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or mental health problems learn to live productive lives through the use of meaningful occupations. Those who join the field today may choose other areas of practice that are increasingly important. These new specialties include training workers to use proper ergonomics on the job, helping people with low vision maintain their independence, making buildings and homes more accessible, older driver evaluation and training, and promoting health and wellness.”

According to the AOTA, “Occupational Therapists work in a variety of job settings. Public schools, hospitals, mental health centers, nursing homes, physician practices, and home health agencies are all job settings that may employ occupational therapy practitioners. With career advancement, occupational therapists may move into management, specialization, teaching, research, or private practice positions.” In 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for occupational therapists was $93,180. The job outlook for Occupational Therapists is great, with a projected growth of 12% by 2032.

More Information

Outlook: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm

O*NET: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1122.00


Education & Training

To obtain a license, applicants must graduate from an accredited master’s degree program, and pass a national certification examination. Graduate programs typically require that applicants have a minimum 3.0 overall GPA, volunteer/observation experience (normally between 40-200 hours) under the supervision of an O.T. and scores submitted from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). There are currently nine schools in CA offering a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

Course Requirements (for CA schools)

Note:  Admission prerequisites vary by institution.  Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites.  Check requirements carefully!

See below for an example of admission course prerequisites that may be required at CA programs. Please research professional programs for the specific admission requirements. If you need guidance on how to search for schools, please see the Peer Advisors during drop-in hours. 

Biology: Bio 111 or 161

General Chemistry: Chem 110 or 124 or 127

Anatomy/Physiology: Bio 231, 232 (for all majors except Bio) or Bio 361, 406-409, & 426 
  • Note: Biology majors should see their advisors

Psychology: Psy 201 or 202 (E), 256, and/or 405

Sociology/Anthropology: Soc 110 (D2) or Ant 201 (D2)

Statistics: Stat 217 or 218 (B4)

English: 3 courses; proficiency in oral and written communication

Medical Terminology: Kine 297


Recommended classes

3 Dimensional Skills/Crafts: Ceramics, woodworking, painting, jewelry making, photography, weaving, etc.

Neuroanatomy: Kine 406

Physics:  Phys 104 or 121

Adult Development/Gerontology Courses: Kine 408; Psy 318

Child Development Courses: CD 304, 305, 306

CPR: Kine 181, Infant CPR course (not offered at Cal Poly)

Ethics: Phil 339 (Upper-Div C)

*Please come in to see us if you have any questions.

Last updated: 09/07/2022.

Professional Association Links

For more information, visit the American Occupational Therapy website at http://www.aota.org.

Cal Poly PT/OT Club

To get involved with the Cal Poly PT/OT club, please email pt-otclub@calpoly.edu or check out their social media pages:

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