Majors + Academics


Occupational Therapy

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy is a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the en- vironment to better support their occupational engagement (World Federation of Occupational Therapists, 2010). It is an applied field of study offering exciting employment oppor- tunities for students looking for graduate studies to enhance their undergraduate degree in psychology, biology, and health.

Addressing Health and Wellness

Occupational therapy is a health field in a rapidly changing health-care environment. Occupational therapists work with people of all ages who have health-care needs due to disability or chronic health conditions. U.S. News & World Report,, and Yahoo Finance rank occupational therapy among the top jobs in the industry.

A degree in occupational therapy can prepare you for a broad range of careers. As an occupational therapist, you can provide clinical services to persons of all ages and with a variety of social, psychological, developmental, and physical or mental disabilities; or you can decide to become an educator, researcher, consultant, administrator, or master clinician. Washington University Occupational Therapy graduates pursue careers that include the following:

  • Academic Instruction and Research
  • Community, Organization, and Population Health
  • Health Care Consulting, Management, and Administration
  • Home Health Agencies
  • Hospitals/Long-term Care Facilities
  • Industry-based Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Programs
  • Private Practice
  • Public and Private School-based Programs for Children

Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT)

The MSOT degree prepares generalist clinicians with the knowledge and skills to work as direct care providers, consultants, educators, managers, and advocates for clients. The MSOT program also includes the option for students to study with experienced clinicians, community agency administrators, or faculty scientists. Students have exposure to participation, public health, aging, work and industry, children and youth, mental health, and neurorehabilitation. An experiential portion of the curriculum — six months of full- time fieldwork supervised by experienced clinicians — follows the normal two years of academic coursework.

Students now have the opportunity to receive a joint MSOT/Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. The dual degree gives students a combination of skills and knowledge to benefit communities and populations and offers the training required to equip new practitioners with a paradigm-spanning skill set needed in today’s health-care landscape. Graduates will be prepared to work in a variety of settings, including community agencies, government institutions, and nonprofit organizations; as well as assume leadership roles in public policy, urban planning, and advocacy.

Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD)

Students who want to focus on a specialty area can continue for two additional semesters and an additional four months of mentored apprenticeship. Students will graduate with an OTD, a professional clinical doctorate degree. Students who choose the OTD may choose from multiple concentrations in clinical research, education, policy and advocacy, or clinical leadership and management. OTD graduates are building exciting careers in teaching, research, consultation, clinical services, and management and policy in their chosen area of expertise.

The 3-2 Program

The 3-2 program at Washington University allows students to finish their bachelor’s and master’s degrees within five years. During the first three years as an undergraduate, the student takes the requirements for his or her major and pre-requisites for the Program in Occupational Therapy. Accepted applicants are full-time occupational therapy students during their senior year. Upon successful completion of the first year of graduate courses in occupational therapy, you are awarded a bachelor’s degree and then continue on to complete a master’s degree during the following year.

A Chance to Pioneer New, Important Discoveries

You can become one of the pioneers who continue to build on 21st-century advancements in the field. As society recognizes the value of enabling health outcomes and wellness, occupational therapists provide the links between the biomedical and socio-cultural health systems to improve the performance of individuals with disability or chronic disease. Working with your faculty mentor, you could make vital discoveries that influence the direction of health care for years to come. You might be invited to co-author a paper to be published in a professional journal or present to interested scientists at a professional meeting.

Dedicated Faculty Who Care About Your Success

For a successful, productive, and creative career in occupational therapy, you will need an exceptional educational foundation. Our tradition of excellence, combined with a deep commitment to both classroom teaching and clinical research, can make a big difference in your future. You will find the individual instruction and personal attention from our faculty an important and stimulating part of your educational experience. The Program in Occupational Therapy has a highly personalized and effective advising program to help you better define your interests and abilities.

Our faculty regularly bring the excitement of discovery and the latest knowledge into the classroom. Professors here are part of a program that is recognized nationally and internationally for its teaching and research. Our professors are highly active in their professional roles, serving on committees and review panels for such federal agencies as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the World Health Organization, and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

The Program

Students of the program begin formal coursework in occu- pational therapy in the fall of their senior year if enrolled in the 3-2 program, or after completion of a bachelor’s degree. The prerequisite courses for admission, which are subject to revision, include the following:

  • Life Science (200 level or above) - 3 units
  • Physiology - 3 units
  • Abnormal Psychology - 3 units
  • Child or Developmental Psychology - 3 units
  • Social Science - 3 units
  • Statistics - 3 units

Learn by Doing

Participating in research in an area that sparks your interest can be the most engaging part of your graduate study. In addition to bringing classroom learning to life, doing clinical research is a great way to gain experience in methods to resolve problems. Hands-on laboratory research includes acquiring technical skills, reading and evaluating the scientific literature relevant to the project undertaken, gaining experience in designing and conducting experiments, learning to evaluate experimental data, and expanding skills in communicating results of research both orally and in writing.

Areas of Research

Program in Occupational Therapy faculty and students are currently conducting research in many areas, including:


  • The person, environment, and occupational issues that impact performance of persons with spinal cord injury, stroke, and head injury. Particular emphasis is placed on a description of the cognitive issues in this population
  • The effects of injury and disease on the performance of everyday activities such as self-care, instrumental tasks, work, community, mobility, leisure, and social interaction
  • Factors predictive of successful long-term integration of persons with disabilities into families and communities including the impact of parent-child or caregiver-person interactions

Children and Youth

  • The effects of the environment, medical conditions, and interventions on brain structure and functional outcomes of the developing infant, including premature infants born prior to 30 weeks gestation
  • Medical and functional outcomes of children with chronic disease, particularly sickle cell disease and children with brain tumors


  • The impact of mild stroke on a person’s ability to return to everyday life activities and, in particular, the individual’s ability to return to work after a mild stroke
  • The cognitive, emotional, psychosocial, and neurobiological bases of recovery

Older Adults

  • Everyday cognitive functioning in Parkinson disease and its relevance to occupational performance, participation, and quality of life
  • The effect of glaucoma and other vision disorders on visual function and daily activities in older adults
  • Participation of older adults with functional limitations through the provision of intensive, tailored home modification interventions designed to enhance performance of daily activities in the home

Gain Real Experience

You will attend medical rehabilitation rounds, discuss clinical experiences, and attend professional meetings. You will select fieldwork sites from health-care facilities and community agencies throughout the United States. Under the supervision of registered occupational therapists, you will participate in fieldwork experiences that include opportunities to practice both technical and problem solving skills in evaluation, treatment, and intervention for individuals, and engage in a variety of experiences relating to the practice environment.


The Program in Occupational Therapy is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449. ACOTE’s telephone number, c/o AOTA, is 301-652-AOTA and its address is

Professional Certification

Graduates of the Program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist, administered by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the graduate will be an occupational therapist, registered (OTR). In addition, most states require licensure to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT Certification Examination or attain state licensure.

Rehabilitation and Participation Science (RAPS) PhD Program

The Program also offers a PhD degree in Rehabilitation and Participation Science. For more information on this degree, please visit

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