Pacific University undergraduates who are interested in a career as an occupational therapist may choose to complete a pre-OT track along with their bachelor’s degree in preparation for graduate school. Pacific University offers a doctorate of occupational therapy program through its College of Health Professions. Pacific also offers several other pre-professional tracks.
About Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists, or OTs, are concerned with an individual's ability to occupy time in a healthy, satisfying and successful manner. The term occupation refers to those self-care, work/productive, leisure and play activities that organize time and impact one's ability to find purpose in life and maintain health.
Practitioners help clients, individually or in groups, master skills for achieving productive and satisfying lives. The occupational therapist seeks to evaluate what people do and assists in empowering them to take a more active role in caring for their own health through engagement in meaningful occupation.
OTs use self-care, work, play, and leisure occupations to help clients adapt to individual life circumstances in order to regain, sustain and maintain health. For example, an occupational therapist might work with a premature infant using age-appropriate daily activities to promote the development of his/her immature nervous system. Other examples may include working with an adult who has had a spinal cord injury to adapt the home and workplace to resume daily activities or providing an individual with emotional or psychiatric problems with coping strategies to deal with the stresses in daily life. Rather than treating symptoms or diseases, occupational therapy focuses on abilities.
Occupational therapists often work directly with individuals or systems who need their services, or they may evaluate clients, plan appropriate treatment and supervise someone else who implements the program. Additionally, they may act as consultants, managers, researchers and educators. Occupational therapists work in many different environments and with people of all ages. For example, they may work in public and/or private schools with children who are learning disabled, physically challenged, and/or developmentally delayed. Medical settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation clinics and skilled nursing facilities are traditional sites for OTs to work, usually with clients who have had their lives interrupted by acute and chronic illnesses and conditions. Less traditional but increasingly common settings are community environments, clients' homes, and business and industrial settings.
Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase by 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, in part due to an increasing elderly population. The median annual wage of occupational therapists was $75,400 in 2012.
Program and Requirements
Most occupational therapists enter the career with master’s degrees, though a small number of programs offer doctoral degrees in occupational therapy.
Admission to occupational therapy programs typically requires a bachelor’s degree and specific undergraduate coursework, including biology and physiology. Many programs also require applicants to have volunteered or worked in an occupational therapy setting.
Master’s programs typically take two years to complete, while doctoral programs may take longer. Both master’s and doctoral programs require several months of supervised fieldwork.
The Pacific University School of Occupational Therapy offers an entry-level occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) program for applicants who have completed a bachelor’s degree and prerequisites. It is a clinical doctorate program focused on advanced clinical development. The first two years of the program take place on campus, while Year 3 is offered in a distance-based learning environment. Fieldwork is integrated throughout the curriculum, and international fieldwork placements are available.
Natural Science (12 hours)
- General Biology | BIOL 200 and BIOL 201 OR BIOL 202 (prerequisite for BIO 224) | with lab
- Human Anatomy & Physiology | HBIO/BIOL 230 and HBIO/BIOL 231 OR BIO 224 and 240 | with lab
- Kinesiology is recommended
Social Sciences (12 hours)
- General Psychology
- Abnormal Psychology
- Developmental Psychology (preferably Across the Lifespan)
- Social science elective (outside of psychology)
Writing (4 hours)
- English | ENGW 201 or ENGW 202 (strongly recommended)
Statistics (2 hours)
- Psychology or Sociology | PSY 348 or SOC 300
- It is recommended that this be taken in a department of psychology or sociology, and includes a qualitative research component
Humanities (6 hours)
- Must include courses from two of the following areas: literature, religion, history, philosophy, ethics, and history or appreciation of art, music or theater. Upper division coursework recommended.
- Philosophy | PHIL 307 (strongly recommended)
Medical Terminology (Credit/No Credit)
- Obtainable through School of OT/Independent Study
Most schools also require or highly recommend paid or volunteer experience in the healthcare field. Pacific University recommends applicants observe in occupational therapy practice settings for at least 40 hours, preferably in more than one setting to foster a more complete understanding of the profession.