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 2020, The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage of occupational therapists was $86,280. The job outlook for Occupational Therapists is great, with a projected growth of 17% by 2030.
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!
Biology: Bio 111 or 161
General Chemistry: Chem 110 or 124 or 127
Note: Biology majors should see their advisors
Psychology: Psy 201 or 202, 256, and/or 405
Sociology/Anthropology: Soc 110 or Ant 201
Statistics: Stat 217 or 218
English: 3 courses; proficiency in oral and written communication
Medical Terminology: Kine 297
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
*Please come in to see us if you have any questions.
Last updated: 01/12/2022.
CA Occupational Therapy Schools
Professional Association Links
For more information, visit the American Occupational Therapy website at http://www.aota.org.