University Requirements For Becoming an Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy is a health profession that assists people with physical or mental impairments to engage in their daily routines. An occupational therapist may work with families and individuals, to encourage activity. This is achieved by modifying the environment, learning or re-learning skills, adjusting the activity, or facilitating mental or physical rehabilitation.

Occupational therapists are accredited at the Masters level through university study. To be admitted to a Master of Occupational Therapy program, the student must hold an accredited Bachelors degree in any subject. However, there are prerequisites that should be fulfilled at the undergraduate level. These vary from school to school, but most require at least a B average at 300 and 400 level courses; three credits in Human Anatomy at the 300 level, with an emphasis on gross musculature; three credits in social sciences; three credits in behavioral sciences. Some also require a course in statistics. Seventy hours of volunteer or work experience with people who have cognitive, physical or emotional disabilities are also required before admission to some graduate programs in Occupational Therapy. Some programs also require courses in physiology, child development, and developmental psychology of adolescents and adults. A prospective student must also display competence in the English language.

The exceptions to these prerequisites is the School of Occupational Therapy at University of Western Ontario, School of Rehabilitative Therapy at Queen’s University, and School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University which require only the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree with a minimum B average in the last ten full courses.

The School of Rehabilitative Science at McMaster University requires only one course in biologic or life science, and one course in social science or humanities. School of Occupational Therapy at Dalhousie University requires six credits in human physiology, and three credits in human anatomy. The program at McGill incorporates a qualifying year, which ensures that all participants in the program have the same basis for continuing studies at the graduate level.

The Masters programs all cover a core of courses and clinical practicum to prepare the student for work in a variety of settings. These courses cover the theory of occupational therapy, health conditions and occupations, professional practice, human anatomy, assessment and analysis, wellness by design of technology, research methodology, social influences on occupational performance, neuroscience, pharmacology, and applied research.

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) is the body overseeing the certification of Occupational Therapists. Schools offering the program meet the criteria of CAOT for their students. CAOT is affiliated with the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, meaning that graduates who complete a program in Canada meet the criteria to be licensed in countries that recognize the WFOT guidelines. Upon completion of studies, the graduate will be certified by the CAOT after writing the Certification Examination. CAOT also offers continuing education courses to its members.