Are There Online Occupational Therapy Schools? Yes and No
In the last few years, the world has had a major shift towards doing things fully online or remotely, so naturally, we often get the question from prospective OT students asking, “Are there fully online occupational therapy schools?”
Unfortunately, there is no entry-level occupational therapy program that is completely online, but there are hybrid occupational therapy programs that are partially online, and partially in-person. A caveat: There are fully online post-professional Occupational Therapy Doctorates, but these are only for practicing occupational therapists that already have a Bachelor’s or Master’s in OT.
All that being said, we’ll be sharing a list of several hybrid entry-level OT graduate programs and will also briefly cover what a hybrid occupational therapy program is, which hybrid occupational therapy schools are available in the US, the pros and cons of these schools and perhaps most importantly, why entry-level OT schools cannot be fully online.
What is a hybrid occupational therapy program?
A hybrid or blended occupational therapy program offers the best of both worlds. It is a combination of in-person, on-campus lectures or workshops to provide you with the hands-on practical skills you will need as an occupational therapist, as well as online lectures and coursework you can do in the comfort of your own home.
Hybrid programs often involve 2-3 days on campus during the week, or a weekend hybrid program might involve 2 in-person weekends a month. Hybrid OT programs can take 2-3 years to complete and are still generally considered full-time.
If you want to learn more about hybrid programs, be sure to check out our companion article, What Are Hybrid Occupational Therapy Programs? that explains them in even more detail. In the article I also share my personal experience completing my Master’s in OT through a hybrid program.
What to do before applying for an hybrid online occupational therapy program?
Anyone applying for an entry-level Master’s or Doctorate of Occupational Therapy will need to have:
- A Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. Some universities require a minimum GPA for consideration.
- Any prerequisite coursework that the university specifies is needed.
- An interview
- Some documents may need to be submitted, such as your school transcript, a resume, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and passing scores on the GRE (if required). The programs you apply to will outline everything they require to apply on their website.
A list of hybrid occupational therapy program options
This is not an exhaustive list of every online hybrid program that exists, so make sure to look at the state you want to study in for hybrid occupational therapy programs as well.
The below list is separated into Master’s of Occupational Therapy (MOT/MSOT) and Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD).
If you are unsure of whether you want to study a MOT or OTD, then our article The MOT vs. OTD: Which Degree Should You Pursue? is just for you.
6 Hybrid OT Master’s Programs
Grand Valley State University
Location: Allendale, Michigan
Structure: Classes are in person one weekend per month. More than 50% of each course is presented online.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Structure: Online and in-person classes.
Location: Winchester, Virginia
Structure: 50% of coursework is delivered online. Classes are on-campus one day per week, and fieldwork experiences are to be completed on non-campus days. They also have the option of a weekend Master’s, which is in-person one weekend per month.
University of Indianapolis
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Structure: 2 days on campus per week, with the remainder of the course content being online.
New England Institute of Technology
Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
Structure: Students are on campus for 5 weekends in each ten week academic term, and participate online during alternate weeks.
Location: Miami Shores, Florida
Structure: Students are on campus for 2 weekends a month, with other course content taught online.
6 Hybrid OT Doctorate Programs
NAU Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Location: Flagstaff, Arizona
Structure: 75% of the coursework is delivered online, and students come to campus on alternating weekends. There are six months of fieldwork rotations and a semester-long capstone experience.
The George Washington University
Location: Washington, DC
Structure: 5 on campus residency days per month, 2 fully remote weeks.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Structure: Three year full-time with both online coursework and on-campus coursework.
Location: Waco, Texas
Structure: 41% of the program is online, 12% is laboratory work with modelled clinical experiences, and 47% of the program is fieldwork and the doctoral capstone.
- Omaha Pathway
- Alaska Hybrid Pathway
- Regis Hybrid Pathway
- Phoenix Hybrid Pathway
Structure: Online and on-campus components
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Location: Dallas, Texas
Structure: Part online and part on campus twice a semester for 3-5 days for labs.
The pros and cons of hybrid online OT programs
- You’ll have a more flexible study schedule
- You will still have comradery with your cohort due to the part time in-person aspect
- You can simultaneously work during the week while studying occupational therapy evenings and on the weekends, allowing you to continue to pursue your personal and professional commitments.
- Learn at your own pace
- The ability to immediately practice certain knowledge or skills gained if your job is in healthcare
- Can be slightly more affordable
- Less commuting
- Integration of technology
- Limited face to face contact
- There is less structure, so you have to be very disciplined and motivated
- There are less networking and connecting with classmates and lecturers
- Difficulty focusing on screens
- Decreased hands-on experience
- Technical challenges
Why can’t OT programs be fully online?
Occupational therapists are very hands-on in their day to day work. Therefore, they need to receive practical in- person labs and workshops in order to learn these hands-on skills.
Furthermore, part of training to be an occupational therapist involves interacting with patients during two fulltime, twelve-week fieldwork rotations, in order to target the skills you need as an OT or OTA. I feel that I gained the most experience during my fieldwork rotations, and that’s what provided me with the confidence to interact with and treat my patients.
A lot of the OT theory can be taught online, but practical skills must be taught in person. Hybrid programs afford you the flexibility of learning online, but they will also ensure that you learn the practical and hands-on skills needed as an OT or OTA.
As you now can see, there are a variety of hybrid online occupational therapy programs that you can choose from, including a Master’s degree in OT or a Doctorate of OT. Combining online and in-person learning enables students to have a unique and flexible learning experience that blends theoretical knowledge with practical skills.
If you’re searching for a hybrid online occupational therapy school that is ideal for your life circumstances, we wish you the best of luck! And if you have any other questions about hybrid occupational therapy programs, please ask away in the comments below.
This article was co-written by Alexia Stavrou, BScOT and Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L.