A Day in the Life of an OT Student
Wondering what a day in the life is like as an OT student? We’re excited to feature a Day in the Life of an OT Student, written by Sarah Johnson, back when she was in OT school.
Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing your OT school experiences! To learn more about Sarah’s current role as an occupational therapist specializing in lymphedema, be sure to check out her current Day in the Life here!
For those who are interested in applying to an occupational therapy program you may be wondering what all happens in a typical day in the life as an OT student.
I know I always wondered this when I was beginning to think about continuing my education after getting my bachelor’s degree. Was I cut out for OT school? How much is time is spent in a classroom? How much time is spent on clinicals?
Now that I am a 2nd year occupational therapy student, I wanted to share what a typical day looks like as an OT student that is in their last semester of didactics!
8:00- 10:15 AM:
I arrive at school and take seat in a lecture hall or a large classroom. My school has a campus cohort as well as three different online cohorts completing the OT curriculum. My campus cohort has around 60 students in it, so we are a pretty large OT class. I take seat next to some of my friends and pull out my laptop. I take notes on a PowerPoint of the slides that my lecturer will go off of for their presentation.
My Monday morning class for my second semester in my spring semester is a physical rehabilitation course that features many physical disabilities and the best ways to evaluate and treat those patients.
10:30- 11:50 AM:
After a short ten-minute break, another lecture in a similar format will take place. This course may be a pediatric course, management course, or a policy course. Often times, we will have guest lecturers who are experts on a specific topic. Our instructor of the course will also lecture as they have lots of experience as well.
I made it to lunch! This time is very important during school as it is used for many group or campus meetings! In OT school, many assignments for courses are completed in groups such as research or big course projects or general group-based assignments. This time is very important for scheduling group meetings to complete work together while everyone is on campus.
This time is also used for campus groups such as occupational therapy student association groups that have monthly meetings. These groups usually have students that create and complete volunteer events together and have guest lecturers come in and talk about fun and new innovating topics in the field.
Lecture days are usually rounded out with one last lecture in the afternoon that takes a similar format as the morning classes. Lecture days are not as active but involve taking in lots of information, active listening, and lots of note taking! Lectures can also involve active learning groups to come up with an evaluation or treatment plan for a case study given to the class.
Instructors often times stay around after the lecture is completed in case students have questions about a specific part of the lecture or an upcoming assignment in the course.
Lab days are where you get to take all the information learned in lecture and apply that knowledge to practice hands on skills! Labs can be in a cadaver lab for anatomy or in a big open space usually with therapy mats or plinths in them, similar to how a therapy clinic would look. These labs usually are a physical rehabilitation, kinesiology, or neuro-rehabilitation course.
Labs may have stations where students go around together and practice using different therapy tools and materials on each other. The instructor may demonstrate skills such as manual muscle testing or myofascial release, then students will practice these skills with each other. Lab spaces are usually open in the evenings to allow students to continue to practice skills or use tools on their own time to prepare for practicums!
Once again, this crucial lunch hour is useful for eating and socializing with friends to relax and recharge after a very active morning in lab. This time can also be used for group scheduling or meeting with an academic or clinical education advisor if needed.
An afternoon lab may be a mental health lab, pediatric course lab, or splinting lab. These labs usually take place in a large room that has many tables and chairs. There also may be lots of counter space lining the classroom with sinks and cabinets for various tools and materials.
Pediatric labs may involve bringing in children from the community to practice skills and various interventions on. A pediatric lab can also have lots of sensory integration tools or items that would be used in school-based therapy. Labs are so fun because they are interactive and hands on!
Lecture and lab days will vary depending on what year and semester you are in during your OT didactic education. First year lectures and labs are more of the foundations of OT (such as anatomy, kinesiology and the general OT frameworks) and second year lectures and labs are courses that are more refined and target specific populations or types of rehabilitation.
Level II Fieldwork
As my didactic portion of my education is coming to an end, my days will soon look very different as my level II fieldwork will be 40 hours a week in an outpatient clinic or a skilled nursing facility (SNF) interacting with clients and patients with real life therapy needs.
With Level II fieldwork, OT students are done with classes and will be using all of that OT school knowledge working alongside an OT with these patients hands-on, for two full-time 12 week rotations.
I had so much fun during lectures and labs with all of my classmates, but I am very excited for hands-on experience to continue my learning! I hope aspiring or soon-to-be OT students find this information helpful!
Does your day in the life as an OT student look anything like Sarah’s? What is similar or different? Please share your experiences in the comments below!
Applying to OT school? Get a copy of the guide that covers everything you need to know!
Be sure to check out our full “Day in the Life” Series here:
This post was originally published on May 19, 2020 and updated on January 29, 2024.