If you’re eyeing a master’s in occupational therapy, one of the highest paying master’s degrees, you may wonder what to expect from the admissions process. The process for getting into a graduate school program for occupational therapy isn’t much different from getting into other types of college degree programs, but there are things you should know. For most students, coming up with a shortlist of suitable programs is the first step, followed by identifying what steps are necessary to meet the schools’ admissions requirements. Then it’s a matter of submitting your application materials and, potentially, being prepared for an interview with the admissions team.
Find a School
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The first thing you need to do is choose what occupational therapy schools you want to apply to.
Different program formats accept students with different levels of education and award varying levels of degrees, according to the American Occupational Therapy Association. If you want to earn a master’s degree that will qualify you to practice occupational therapy, then you need to choose a type of program offered in the format of an entry-level master’s degree program. In other words, this two- to three-year program requires applicants to have a bachelor’s degree and equips them with the entry-level education – a master’s degree – required to work as an occupational therapist.
You should also make sure that any programs to which you apply have received accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
Meet Your Requirements
Every graduate school and occupational therapy program establishes its own requirements for admission. Once you decide to go back to school (or go on to graduate school) and find a program you like, you may have to do some more work before you start applying.
Look closely at the prerequisites for your graduate program. Most occupational therapy master’s degree programs require some amount of coursework in human anatomy and physiology, statistics, physics or kinesiology, sociology and developmental and abnormal psychology. A class in medical terminology may also be required or encouraged. If you’re missing some coursework here, you may need to put your plans for graduate school on hold while you take the required undergraduate courses for your program.
Another requirement for many master’s in occupational therapy programs is to have Graduate Record Examinations General Test scores to submit. If you haven’t yet taken the GRE, you should work on scheduling your exam right away – but you should leave yourself two to four months of study time before you actually sit for the standardized test, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Pay attention to other requirements, such as observation or volunteer experience in occupational therapy and minimum GPA requirements, as well. If you don’t yet have experience, start by contacting local hospitals or rehabilitation centers.
Submit Your Application Package
Once your sure that you meet all of the requirements for a master’s program in occupational therapy, you need to gather the materials that make up your application package. This will likely include the application itself, a copy of your college transcript, standardized test scores, documentation of any observation or experience hours, letters of recommendation and a personal essay or statement.
You should never wait until the last minute to submit your graduate school application, especially for a master’s degree in occupational therapy. Many of these programs use the Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) to process applications for graduate programs in occupational therapy. Getting your applications verified can take weeks, which means that you could miss your school’s application deadline if you don’t submit all of your application materials early.
Always follow the guidelines for requesting letters of recommendation and for the topic and expected word count of your essay. Different schools may have different requirements, so you may need to make a separate effort for each school to which you apply.
Prepare for a Potential Interview
Interviews are not necessarily part of the admissions process at most master’s in occupational therapy degree programs, but you should still be prepared. Some schools may use interviews more extensively than others. Even at schools where interviews are not a routine part of the application process, students may be asked to participate in an interview, especially if something in their background or application stands out as unconventional or unique.
What to expect from admissions interviews can also vary a great deal from one school to another. Some schools ask prospective occupational therapy students to engage in short video interviews that may consist of only a few questions and be completed from the student’s home. Other occupational therapy schools require students to visit the campus and take part in multiple rounds of interviews and projects or writing tests. Students should find out as much as possible about the interview process at the school to which they are applying so that they can prepare for the interview.
Once your application materials are all submitted and verified and you go for an interview, if required, there is likely nothing left for you to do but wait to be notified of the school’s decision.