Pre-Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy provides a unique health and rehabilitation service. Its goal is to aid individuals with disabling conditions to become as independent as possible in carrying out their daily tasks. Occupational therapists may work with premature babies to develop the sucking and swallowing reflexes, children with cerebral palsy to reach and grasp an object, or adults who have suffered spinal cord damage in an automobile accident to re-learn the skills necessary to eat, bathe, and dress themselves. Occupational therapists may also work in industrial settings to promote injury prevention. Occupational therapists work in nearly equal proportions in skilled nursing, subacute clinics, hospitals, and school settings.

How can I become an occupational therapist?

There is current demand for occupational therapists, providing both career choices and job security. There are a variety of degrees available to the student interested in occupational therapy, and it is important that you take the time to understand the differences between the degrees and decide which one is best for your professional interests. The BS degree would be a second Bachelor's degree for Wittenberg students, and qualifies you to take the licensing exam and then become a practicing occupational therapist who might work in a hospital, physician's office, or home health care. This is not a particularly good option for Wittenberg students, as the rules will change in 2007, requiring a Master's or Doctoral degree for licensure.

The Master's or Doctorate degrees qualify you for a career as an occupational therapist to practice in a wide variety of medical and non-medical settings. These advanced degrees give you more autonomy and make it easier for you to open your open practice or move up quickly into a management position. The doctoral degree would also qualify you to teach in an occupational therapy school should you desire to do so.

Most Wittenberg students enter the Master's level occupational therapy programs after graduating from Wittenberg. The entry level Master's program is typically 2-3 years, and intended for college graduates who do not have a degree in occupational therapy. During the program, you will take the licensing examination to become a registered occupational therapist, and gain graduate level training.

Pre-Health Advisor

Matthew Collier, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
BDK Science Center 207
(937) 327-6395

Does Wittenberg have a cooperative program with a nationally ranked occupational therapy school, and how do I qualify?

Yes! Wittenberg has a 3-2 program in occupational therapy with Washington University in St. Louis (currently ranked first (tied) in the country). Students participating in this program spend their first three years at Wittenberg completing the general education program and a significant number of courses in the Biology major, including the prerequisite courses for admission to Washington University. Students then apply for admission to the Occupational Therapy program at Washington University. Upon acceptance, students begin work on a Master's degree after their third year at Wittenberg. During this year, students acquire knowledge in the basic and applied sciences, theory of occupational therapy, and assessment practices. Students also complete an several fieldwork experiences and work with Washington University faculty on research, teaching, or the practice of occupational therapy. After completing the first year at Washington University School of Medicine in the occupational therapy program, students receive the Bachelor of Arts degree from Wittenberg.

  • Click Here to learn about Wittenberg's cooperative 3-2 program with Washington University's School of Occupational Therapy.

During the second year at Washington University, the focus is placed on occupational therapy practice and the development of critical thinking and problem solving skills. Client-centered approaches include direct intervention strategies, skill training, assistive technology, environmental modification, and client education and consultation. After the second year, students receive the Master of Science in occupational therapy and can pursue board certification. Students also have the option of continuing in the program for a third year to pursue a doctoral degree in occupational therapy.

Wittenberg students are not guaranteed admission to Washington University, and the application process is selective and competitive. With one-on-one advising, students work closely with our faculty to select appropriate courses, arrange internships, and assess their strengths and weaknesses. Wittenberg offers all prerequisite courses required for admission to Washington University.

Prerequisite courses: At least 4 of the 6 pre-requisite courses must be successfully completed at the time of application. You must earn at least a "B" in each course. Pass/Fail is not accepted.

  • 1 Year of General Biology (BIOL 170/171 and BIOL 180/181)
  • 1 Upper Level Biology Course from: Neurobiology, Genetics, Molecular Neurobiology, Botany, or Ecology
  • 2 Semesters of Human Anatomy and Physiology (BIOL 325 and BIOL 326/327)
  • PSYC 230 Lifespan Development (3 credits)
  • PSYC 251 Abnormal Psychology (4 credits)
  • 1 Semester of Social Science from any of the following areas: Sociology, Anthropology, Economics, Political Science, Urban Studies, or other Psychology courses (Note: PSYC-101 is required to take PSYC 230 and PSYC 251)
  • 1 Semester of Statistics (DATA 227 or PSYC 201)


  • Medical Terminology. Most Wittenberg students complete this requirement via an independent study. Washington University recommends Medical Terminology, a Programmed Text by Smith et al. From Delmar Thomson Learning (1-800-347-7707)
  • Computer competency. You are expected to be computer literate (word processing, spread sheets, email) upon enrollment. Completed by past experience as documented or course in computer science.
  • CPR certification
  • General GRE

To contact Washington University regarding its 3-2 program with Wittenberg, you may contact:

Washington University School of Medicine
Program in Occupational Therapy
Campus Box 8505
4444 Forest Park Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108
Phone: 314-286-1653
Web site

What major should I pursue at Wittenberg if I am interested in occupational therapy?

You can choose any of Wittenberg's 20+ majors as long as you take the prerequisite courses required by the schools to which you apply. As far as the occupational therapy schools are concerned, they do not put much emphasis on whether you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree - that choice is yours. Look at the prerequisite requirements for the schools that you are interested in and the degree requirements for your major to determine which degree is the best match for you.

If you are applying to Wittenberg's cooperative program with Washington University, your choices are more limited because courses from your first year at Washington University are transferred back to Wittenberg to complete your major requirements. At this point, the only departments willing to accept courses from these programs are Biology and Psychology.

University requirements:

  • Must complete all general education requirements

Biology departmental requirements:

Area I: Foundational Courses in Biology

  • Biology 170/171 and 180/181
  • Biology 201 (Biological Literacy)
  • Biology 202 (Evolution)

Area II: Breadth of the Biological Experience

  • Group 1 (Cellular/Molecular/Developmental Biology) – 1 course
  • Group 2 (Physiology) – 1 course
  • Group 3 (Ecology/Evolution/Organismal Biology) – 1 course

Area V: Chemical Foundations

  • Chemistry 121 and 162

Area VI: Supporting Science – Bachelor of Arts

  • Must take a total of 8 supporting science credits (2 courses) from those listed on the Biology Major Graduation Checklist

Psychology departmental requirements:

*Note: At least 50% of the Psychology Major credits must be completed at Wittenberg.

Courses to be completed at Wittenberg:

  • PSYC 101B Introduction to Psychological Science (4 cr.)
  • PSYC 201 OR Data 227 Statistics (4 cr.)
  • PSYC 202 Experimental Design (5 cr.)
  • PSYC 230 Lifespan Development (4 cr.); prerequisite for Wash U 3-2 program
  • PSYC 251 Abnormal Psychology (4 cr.); prerequisite for Wash U 3-2 program
  • PSYC 321, 351 or 361 (5 cr.)

**Note: PSYC 311 is NOT to be taken at Wittenberg; students will get credit for it via a Wash U. course.

Courses to be completed at Wash U during the first year there that will count toward Psychology major:

  • M01 615 Fundamentals of Professional Communication (3 cr.); to transfer as PSYC 2XX
  • M01 612 Neuroscience Principles Supporting Occupational Performance (3 cr.); to transfer as PSYC 311
  • M01 623 Applied Learning Strategies in Practice and Teaching (3 cr.); to transfer as PSYC 3XX
  • M01 616 Professional Identity and Practice I (2 cr.); to transfer as PSYC 390
  • M01 614 Elements of Research Design and Use of Data (3 cr.); to transfer as PSYC 400
  • M01 624 Using Evidence to Inform Practice (3 cr.); to transfer as PSYC 400

Do I need to have medically related hours when applying to occupational therapy schools?

Yes. Most occupational therapy programs have specific minimum requirements for number of paid or volunteer hours spent with an occupational therapist. The required minimum number of hours varies greatly from school to school. The schools usually prefer that you spend time with an occupational therapist in at least 2 different settings (rehabilitation center, hospital, small occupational therapy clinic, etc.) to better get a feel for the breadth of the profession. Volunteering for 2-3 hours each week during the semester demonstrates to the schools your loyalty and commitment to the profession at a time when they know you are already busy.

Is it important that I participate in extracurricular activities while at Wittenberg?

Yes. While the schools do not require a specific number of extracurricular activities or leadership positions, they look for both in your application materials. They consider how many years you spent with each organization and how involved you appear to be with each one (e.g., leadership roles). The schools use your experiences in this area to better understand your ability to socially interact with others, your leadership potential, and your time management skills. They seek to recruit well-rounded individuals who can successfully balance a heavy academic load with medically related experience and extracurricular activities. If successful, they infer that you will rise to the challenge of their academic program when you have fewer non-academic commitments.

Start early. The occupational therapy schools have not agreed on one standard set of prerequisite requirements. Therefore, students should start looking at 8-10 schools of potential interest to them before registering for classes in the spring of their SOPHOMORE YEAR. The courses listed above are common to many occupational therapy schools, but there may be additional requirements for the schools you are interested in as prerequisites vary widely from one program to another.

Do research. Go to the schools' websites and make a table of courses required, average GPA of their incoming class, and number of hours in a medical setting (if any). These will give you some idea of where you need to be academically when you graduate from Wittenberg, and the courses you need to take inside your major and in the general education program to make you a good candidate for that particular set of occupational therapy schools. Schools consider both your science GPA and your cumulative GPA, so it is not wise to prioritize your grades in science courses over those taken for your general education requirements.

Summarize your findings. Create a sample table of school information assuming all want general biology and general chemistry. Add a column for each different course as you encounter them as prerequisites at your schools of interest.

 Human A&PMicroNeurobioPsychSociO Chem IAverage GPAMedical hours
School 1X XXX   
School 2XXXX X  
School 3XX XX   

Evaluate your findings. Match your cumulative GPA and GRE scores with the averages for the last incoming class at each school. Read all web pages for associated hospitals/medical centers that have a specialty that interests you. Look for data that report on the percentage of students that have passed the board exams.

Always apply to the school(s) in the state where your parents are living and paying taxes. You have the best chance to get into the public school in that state, and the tuition at your in-state school is much less than at a private or out-of-state public school. Apply to the public and/or private occupational therapy schools in your home state. Consider applying to between 2 and 5 occupational therapy schools.

How and when should I apply to occupational therapy schools?

  • If you intend to pursue Wittenberg's cooperative program, apply directly to Washington University by the end of October in your junior year. If you intend to go directly from Wittenberg to an entry level Master's or Doctoral program in occupational therapy, apply directly to the schools of your choice by the end of October of your senior year.
  • You should take the GRE prior to your application (see below).
  • Typically, they will require official transcripts and three letters of evaluation be sent on your behalf in addition to their application materials. It is best to have at least one faculty member and one occupational therapist send letters to the school, but be sure to follow the directions provided by each school.
  • Some occupational therapy schools do not require on campus interviews. It is in your best interest to arrange a visit with the schools that you are interested in, however, to better evaluate their faculty, facilities, and students in order to determine which schools are a good match for you.
  • Wait for the results of your application after the interview to find out if you have been accepted, wait listed, or rejected by that particular school.
  • You are at a disadvantage if you opt to take the GRE late or submit your materials late in the cycle - applications are often considered as they arrive, not after the deadline. Complete and send your materials in a timely manner.

Do I need to go through the Pre-Health Professions Committee when applying?

No. Occupational therapy schools do not require its applicants to have a composite letter of evaluation that is generated by Wittenberg's Pre-Health Professions committee. Instead, you will usually be required to have three letters of evaluation submitted directly to the schools on your behalf. When choosing your evaluators, consider asking at least one occupational therapist and one faculty member, but be sure to follow the specific directions for each school to which you apply.

Do I need to coordinate my applications through a service?

No. There is no central application service for applying to occupational therapy schools. You must request and fill out separate applications for each occupational therapy school to which you apply.

What is the General Record Exam (GRE)?

The General GRE is a test taken by students wishing to pursue a graduate degree in many professions including occupational therapy and is typically taken at the end of your junior year. It is not a test based on specific courses that you have taken in college, but rather is a test of general knowledge and aptitude. While it is not linked with specific courses, the General GRE is difficult, and you should consider studying for it well in advance. The verbal section is particularly difficult as they assume that you have continued to learn new vocabulary throughout your college career. It may be taken as many times as you like, but has a mandatory wait period before it may be retaken. The General GRE is a computerized test that can be taken year round at testing centers in Athens, Centerville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Stowe, and Toledo, Ohio.

The General GRE is approximately 3 hours in length and contains three sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Composed of analogies, antonyms, sentence completions, and reading comprehension, this section has students apply their knowledge of words, concepts, and sentence structure, and apply that knowledge to understanding complex passages.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Consisting of basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis, this section tests logical reasoning and basic mathematical skills. You are not allowed to use a calculator for this section of the test.
  • Analytical Writing: This section is designed to assess your ability to communicate complex ideas effectively in writing. In the "issue" task, students choose one of two provided opinions and then construct and defend their own view of the issue. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate sound thinking as you defend your position. In the "argument" task, students are given only one argument and critique the logic of that argument.

For more information on the GRE, visit the GRE Web site or call 1-800-GRE-CALL.

Which occupational therapy schools have Wittenberg students been accepted to in the last 10 years?

While most of our students participate in the 3-2 program with Washington University, some students have chosen to pursue other programs as well, and been accepted at:

  • Chatham College
  • Medical University (College) of Ohio
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of Indianapolis
  • University of Southern California
  • Xavier University
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