If you’re in the process of applying to occupational therapy graduate schools, you may be wondering the answer to this question:
What on Earth are hybrid occupational therapy programs?
Since I myself went to a hybrid program, I want to share my experience and tell you the most important things to know about these types of programs.
As an applicant, you have a lot of options to choose from ranging from hybrid day programs to full time programs and weekend-hybrid programs.
According to AOTA’s distance learning article, “nearly 60% of master’s programs and 56% of occupational therapy assistant programs offer some distance education opportunities to students.” However, there are no fully-online OT programs at the time of this post.
So What Does This Mean?
This means that MOST programs offer some element of online learning.
A hybrid OT program differs because it will have classes on campus part of the time (two or three days a week). Because you are going to class fewer days, there is quite a bit more online work.
Theoretically this would sound like it could allow you some time to work and/or spend time with family. Based on my experience, however, you probably won’t feel like you have any extra time.
Typical Hybrid Program Schedule
My classmates and I were pretty much 100% eating, breathing, and sleeping OT even though we weren’t on campus every day.
On my “off” days, I would spend at least 8 hours a day studying, researching, or writing. This took SO much dedication to motivate myself as it involved so much self-study.
When I was in class, I was forced to focus for longer periods of time. Having some class time must have made for a better overall learning experience for me personally.
Will Hybrid Programs Prepare You for Fieldwork?
Several of my classmates and I agreed that we would have felt more prepared for fieldwork if we would have had class five days a week. There was experience we knew we got being in class that we didn’t get from the online component.
In-person labs and lectures gave us the best hands-on experience. In our hybrid program, we practiced transfer training literally three times during the entire curriculum.
That being said, being in class eight hours a day only three times a week was still SO exhausting and draining. I definitely did prefer being home or at a coffee shop doing my reading and studying.
I felt a lot less “stuck” on those off-campus days and can’t imagine doing it five days a week.
Weekend Hybrid Programs
Weekend programs seem to be a much more common type of hybrid program.
Of the various weekend graduate programs I found, the format is generally two weekends a month in class and the rest online. This leaves the student 40 hours a week during the week to keep their day jobs as they attend OT school.
Weekend programs are longer in duration (generally at least three years) but are a good option for those of you with families that can’t afford to just stop working, take out $45,000 a year in student loans and “hope for the best.”
Do keep in mind that while the classwork is a mix of online and in class, no matter what program you choose, you will be full time for your Level II Fieldwork for (generally) two 12-week rotations. No getting around that, unfortunately.
I definitely learned more in my Level II’s than I learned in all of my coursework, whether it was in class or online.
Every accredited OT program will cover the basic knowledge and entry skill sets you’ll need before you start practicing – whether it is hybrid or full time.
Either way, when you get out you’ll feel like you hardly know anything and will learn the important things your first year of work (and fieldwork). Whatever choice you make, as long as it’s accredited, it’ll get you to your end goal of being an occupational therapist.
If you haven’t already found a list of hybrid programs, AOTA has a PDF of all programs that incorporate a percentage of their coursework online.
Do any of you have any info to add on your experience with hybrid programs or have any questions about them? If so, let me know in the comments below!