Top 10 Occupational Therapy Graduate Schools

OT Student Training

An occupational therapist (OT) works with patients who are disabled, ill, or injured so that they can regain and manage everyday activities. Working with people of all ages, OT’s help their patients improve and recover their ability to carry out basic skills necessary in being able to work or function independently.

The average annual salary for somebody working with home health care services is $79,550 and the average annual salary for somebody working for themselves is $64,520. Job growth in this field is 33% higher than the national average and is expected to continue (1).

If you have a strong desire to help and interact with people on a one-on-one basis then occupational therapy may be an ideal career choice for you.


To help you in your research, here are the top 10 occupational therapy programs in the nation, according to the 2013 U.S. News & World Report rankings.

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)

For 70 years, the Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy program at USC has been going strong. This program is considered to be the premier occupational therapy program in the nation. USC’s OT program has set the bar high for other occupational therapy programs; they were the first university to offer a master’s in OT and also the first to offer a PhD in OT degree.

The program has a variety of options for students both already familiar with the field and those who are not. All programs include both academic and hands-on learning with state of the art equipment.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Minor in Occupational Science
  • Bachelor’s in Occupational Therapy (designed for students planning on going into a master’s OT program)
  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (1 year if you have a bachelor’s in OT, 2 years for those with a bachelor’s in another field)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)
  • PhD in Occupational Science

Boston University (Boston, MA)

Sargent College offers both an undergraduate program and several graduate programs for Occupational Therapy. Curricula include education in both academic and clinical settings. Also offered is a study abroad program that many students interested in travel therapy find appealing.

Boston University has state of the art programs for rehabilitation sciences including physical therapy and occupational therapy. With small class sizes, students will get the training that they need to succeed in this career. The faculty is comprised of actual practitioners, researchers, and scholars, which means that students will receive a quality education in one of the nation’s top ranked OT schools.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s of in Therapeutic Studies/Occupational Therapy (5.5 years)
  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (2 years)
  • Online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy
  • Doctor of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences

Washington University in St. Louis (St. Louis, MO)

Using their highly rated medical center, Washington University offers a variety of innovative degree options that include both sociocultural and biomedical approaches to occupational therapy in a small class setting.

With the school having a thriving rehabilitation research facility, the OT curriculum is always up-to date and applies the newest research into teaching and training. Clinical fieldwork is required in a variety of rehab settings to give students a well-rounded experience.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (28 months)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy (40 months)
  • Post-professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (72 credit hours of coursework + 16-week, full-time apprenticeship)
  • PhD in Rehabilitation and Participation Science

University of Illinois (Chicago, IL)

With a program dating back to 1943, the University of Illinois continues to be a leader in both research and education in the field of Occupational Therapy. This is the first university to offer a PhD program in the area of disabilities studies.

Combining world-class clinical training at the University of Illinois Medical Center and a solid curriculum of classroom learning, this program is one of the top in the nation and offers a variety of degree options, including several post-professional degrees. Research assistantships are also available and include mentorship for those interested.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (2 years)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy (can be taken full or part-time so program length varies)
  • PhD in Disability Studies

University of Kansas (Kansas City, KS)

Another leader when it comes to research and education in the field of Occupational Therapy, the University of Kansas Medical Center offers three programs for those wishing to obtain degrees in this field of rehabilitation.

Combining integrative learning and hands-on clinical approach students learn how to best help clients from all walks of life.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (3 years)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy
  • PhD in Therapeutic Science

Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO)

CSU’s top ranked OT program offers several graduate degree’s and the state of Colorado has even designated their program as a “Program of Excellence.” Known for both its excellent research and academic programs, this is a much sought after school for prospective students.

Small student to instructor ratios, integrated fieldwork placements, scholarships and research assistantships also contribute in making this an attractive OT program. Two types of master’s degrees are offered – the MS in Occupational Therapy for those interested in research/eventually pursuing a PhD and the Master’s of Occupational Therapy for those interested in entering clinical practice.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (2 years)
  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (2 years)
  • Post-professional Master of Science in OT (for students w/ a bachelor’s in OT)
  • PhD in Occupation and Rehabilitation Science

Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, PA)

Offering multiple degree options for students fresh from high school to those with a bachelor’s in a different field, Thomas Jefferson’s OT programs will suit the needs for a wide range of students.

TJU’s integrated clinical and academic program prepares student for a rewarding career as an occupational therapist. Faculty are highly trained and often involved in research projects, which means that students are kept up to date on the newest methods and with top-notch applied education.

One of the innovative programs at Jefferson is the PACE program designed for seniors in high school. Students enrolling in this program can complete their prerequisite coursework at one of Jefferson’s partner colleges and then transfer to the university to enter the combined BS/MS in OT program.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s in Occupational Therapy
  • Advanced Practice Certificates (12-16 months)
  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (2 years)
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy

Tufts University (Medford, MA)

The OT program at Tufts is known for their use of clinical reasoning, which is a highly innovative way to approach patient care. This learning model is based on finding out what works and what doesn’t to get the best possible patient outcome’s in an organized and methodical way.

Students in this program learn the theories behind occupational therapy and how to apply those ideas in a practical manner. Tufts offers degree programs and certificate programs for those already in the field and who are looking for specialized teaching in specific areas of OT.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Certificate of Advanced Study in Pain Topics
  • Certificate of Advanced Professional Study
  • Certificate in School-Based Practice
  • Certificate in Hand and Upper Extremity Rehabilitation
  • Master’s in Occupation Therapy (4 semesters w/ 6 months of clinical training)
  • Post-Professional Master’s in Occupational Therapy
  • Doctor of Occupational Therapy

University of Pittsburg (Pittsburg, PA)

The University of Pittsburg is in the top ten schools for Occupational Therapy because their program is a consistent provider of quality education and learning. Like all the programs described in this article, all students who graduate are well-prepared for the NBCOT exam.

Degrees Rewarded

  • Master’s in Occupational Therapy (2 years)
  • MS in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences w/ Occupational Therapy concentration

New York University (New York, NY)

NYU’s Master of Science in OT program is offered by their Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development whose graduates have an average NBCOT pass rate of 91% over the past 3 years. Located in the Big Apple, students have ample fieldwork opportunities with the academic curriculum taught by some of the nations leading OT educators.

Degrees Rewarded

  • MS in Occupational Therapy (2.5 years)
  • PhD in Occupational Therapy

References:

1. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm