What Are Online Occupational Therapy Programs? Your Best Options!


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational therapy is a highly in demand field, which is expected to grow much faster than average at 16% between 2019-2029. If you have a desire to help people heal from injuries or live better with disabilities, then choosing to attend one of many online occupational therapy programs could provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to do so. 



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What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?


Occupational therapy is a form of rehabilitative medicine whereby interventions take place to help patients live with physical or cognitive conditions. With this type of treatment, the goal is that patients will be able to participate more in their “occupations” of daily life, including: work, leisure, play, social time, exercise and more. 


Occupational therapists (OTs) achieve this by performing some of the following tasks:


  • Developing routines for patients 
  • Educating caregivers on how to best assist patients 
  • Showing patients how to use assistive technology
  • Teaching patients new ways to perform tasks 
  • Creating customized treatment plans 


OTs may work with patients of varying ages with various types of disabilities, illnesses, injuries, or cognitive functioning. It’s the role of the occupational therapist to assess their patient’s status and devise a plan of action to help them. 



How To Become an Occupational Therapist


In order to work as an occupational therapist, you’ll need to earn both an undergraduate and graduate degree, as well as pass required licensure exams. 


Since undergraduate programs are typically four years long and graduate programs are about two or three, you can expect that your education will take six to seven years to complete. But, you can enroll in online occupational therapy programs so that you are able to learn at your own pace. 



Bachelor’s degree


The first step on your journey to becoming an OT will begin with a bachelor’s degree. You can earn your bachelor’s degree at a traditional on campus college, or alternatively, enroll in an online program like one from the University the People (which is tuition-free)! You’ll want to select a major like biology, psychology, or health science. 



Graduate degree


Once you have your undergraduate degree, you can apply to a graduate degree program at an accredited institution. You can either earn a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree. These degrees will include the necessary practical experience you’ll need to gain in order to take the licensure exam. We’ll share some online occupational therapy programs below. 





To practice as an OT in the United States, you must pass the National Board of Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. 




Online Occupational Therapy Programs 


If you’re interested in attending online occupational therapy programs or earning a master’s in occupational therapy online, here are some of your options:



University of Alabama at Birmingham 


The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers both entry-level and post-professional tracks of the OTD program. While the entry-level coursework must be taken online, licensed occupational therapists with experience in the field can further develop their skills and knowledge by enrolling in the online program.



Barry University


Barry University has a hybrid Master of Occupational Therapy degree that takes place in person and online. For two weekends each month, students will attend on-campus therapy courses. Additionally, students will be placed in a 12-week full-time fieldwork position to learn hands-on skills. In order to attend this program, students must have access to a webcam and the internet. According to  their website, the estimated total cost of the program is $78,000. 



New York University


New York University’s Department of Occupational Therapy provides students with the option of a master’s degree as well as post-professional degrees. With the [email protected] option, students can opt to study entirely online to obtain their Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. Although the entire program does take place online, there is an option to attend the commencement in person. In order to apply, you must already have a master’s degree in the field from an accredited university or have a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in another subject. 



Boston University


For practicing occupational therapists, Boston University has a program to further knowledge and skills, as well as the choice of an interdisciplinary doctoral program in rehabilitation sciences. U.s News and World Report’s 2021 report ranked Boston University’s Occupational Therapy to be the best accredited graduate program in the United States. 



The George Washington University 


Again, for students who wish to excel in their career and expand on their practice as occupational therapists, The George Washington University has a Post-Professional Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (pOTD) that takes 2.5 years to complete. It is intended for those who are already working in the field and have their master’s degree. 




Things to Know about Online Programs


If you choose to study at an online institution, it’s important to make note of a few considerations when choosing your school of choice. You’ll want to make sure you know about:

  • Accreditation: In order to sit for the NBCOT exam, you have earned a master’s degree from an accredited institution. The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) accredits master’s programs. 
  • Duration: Depending on the program you choose (entirely online, in-person, or hybrid), the length of the program may vary. Generally, the graduate program should take two to three years to complete. 
  • Financial aid: Even if you are attending an online program (which tends to be more cost effective than traditional on-campus programs), you still may be able to get financial aid, such as FAFSA, loans, grants, and assistantships. 
  • Class format: If you’re comparing various hybrid programs, take into account how much time will be spent on-campus versus online as it may affect your decision. 
  • Licensure exam: In most states, you’ll have to pass the NBCOT certification exam in order to practice as an OT.  



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The Bottom Line 


While there is a lot of education required in order to become an OT, the career path is both rewarding and well-paying. According to the BLS, occupational therapists can expect to earn an average of $86,820 per year. 


The benefits of attending an online program are many (i.e. lower tuition, self-paced, flexible, etc.), and so, researching online occupational therapy programs can pay off greatly!