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7 Best Undergraduate Majors for Occupational Therapy

What are the best pre-occupational therapy undergraduate majors to choose from?

If you’re seriously considering occupational therapy as a career, there are many undergrad majors to choose from before you start grad school for occupational therapy.

Because of this, I wanted to lay out 7 best undergraduate options to choose from prior to getting your Master’s or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy.

These undergraduate degrees will help you on the path to becoming a successful and well-rounded occupational therapist.

Check out the Get Into OT School E-book – it’s the most comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know.

1. Psychology

Psychology was my undergraduate major and the same major as approximately 50% of my OT school cohort (no joke). Occupational therapy actually stemmed from mental health, and working with complex individuals with significant illness or disability no matter the setting requires knowledge of mental health concepts.

In fact, most occupational therapy  programs have one full semester covering mental health and OT so this major is really helpful for OT school as well.

2. Kinesiology/Exercise Science

Kinesiology and exercise science are also great majors for occupational therapists. These majors are often combined bachelor’s degrees but may also be separate degrees.

As an occupational therapist, you will need to know the fundamental concepts of human anatomy and movement as well as how the body responds and adapts to physical activity and exercise.

You will take kinesiology and gross anatomy in OT school as well, so kinesiology is one major that will be really helpful when you’re taking these challenging classes in grad school.

kinesiology-degree

3. Education

Providing occupational therapy services is almost all education in itself, believe it or not. You are providing education to your patients and clients every day, so an undergrad degree in education is a great fit.

If you already are a teacher and decide on making the shift into occupational therapy, you will have a great advantage with your experience.

4. Business

If you’re ever considering owning your own therapy clinic down the line, a business degree is a good asset to have. OT school doesn’t have a lot of business-related education, so having that background can help – not only in starting your own private practice/clinic – but creating any other therapy-related business.

5. Biology

Along with psychology and kinesiology, biology is another useful pre-occupational therapy major since biology is a big part of working in healthcare. This is especially the case if you’re interested in working in a hospital setting. A degree in biology is also a good primer for the research you will do in OT school and beyond.

ot-biology-degree

6. Sociology

Sociology is such an interesting and versatile field of study. It emphasizes “creativity, innovation, critical thinking, analytic problem-solving, communication, collaboration, multicultural and global understandings, and expressive and persuasive writing skills.  [Working with diverse populations] requires the ability to work cooperatively and effectively with people from different cultures, ethnicities and nationalities” (UC Davis, “Careers for Sociology Majors”).

These skills are crucial for working in occupational therapy, which is why if you’re thinking about sociology, the degree will be a good fit as an occupational therapist.

7. Whatever you’re interested in!

The great thing about occupational therapy programs is that they are graduate programs. If these degrees aren’t that interesting to you, major in whatever you’re passionate about! As long as you’ve completed the necessary pre-requisite courses and other application requirements, you can still be an OT!

Whatever you choose, if at the end of the day you know that you truly want to be an occupational therapist, OT schools really aren’t as concerned about what degree you chose. They care most about whether your application is strong and you are able to prove that you’re passionate about being an OT.

As an example, one of my good friends is an occupational therapist working in a level I trauma hospital who got her Bachelor’s in Journalism, which shows that it is possible to major in whatever you’re interested in.

What about the “Pre-Occupational Therapy” or “Occupational Sciences” option?

I decided against adding this as an option. If you haven’t already started this type of program, consider that it may limit students who do not end up going into OT after graduating.

Since getting into occupational therapy master’s programs is so competitive, I recommend a different Bachelor’s degree for other options that you can use for after you graduate (just in case).

If your program is a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s in Occupational Therapy, this is a different case as you will be guaranteed to become an OT with the Master’s included. If this is the case, then I would recommend such a program.

What are the prerequisites for getting my OT Master’s or Doctorate?

Every occupational therapy school has differing prerequisite requirements, so be sure to check out each school’s requirements before applying.

In general, the basic occupational therapy prerequisites are abnormal psychology, sociology, human anatomy and physiology (I and II), biology, medical terminology, statistics, and physics.

Many schools have more than just these courses, so again, be sure to check each program you’re interested in.

Check out the Get Into OT School E-book – it’s the most comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know.

I hope this list gave you some good pre-occupational therapy undergraduate major ideas. If you’re already an OT, what did you major in prior to becoming one? What majors would you add to this list?

 

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39 comments

  • Rachel August 13, 2018   Reply →

    Therapeutic Recreation is a great major option for future OT’s!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L August 13, 2018   Reply →

      Great suggestion! I actually work with two OTRs that majored in Therapeutic Recreation and they both really liked it. The two degrees really complement one another.

      • Khaliah Williams January 24, 2019   Reply →

        Omg! Thank you so much I’m definitely in a situation now to see if a hbcu would be great for me or an PWI. If you didn’t mind for us to be able to email eachother because I have many questions in my road to become a OT.

    • Ivan January 21, 2020   Reply →

      I would like to undertake a masters in occupational therapy,
      But I have a diploma in occupational therapy from Uganda and a bachelor’s in Management and administration,
      Am I eligible, thanks for your post.

      • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L January 28, 2020   Reply →

        Hi Ivan, that’s a great question! I think you would need to reach out to individual OT programs and they will be able to give you more information on the steps you would need to transfer to a Master’s in OT. Good luck!

  • T February 17, 2019   Reply →

    Would an associates in human services and a bachelors in social work be able to apply for an OT certification down the line? Say with completing extra courses in statistics, human anatomy and physiology (1&2), medical terminology, and physics? Also if working in the human services field for a some time, would that make the application desirable?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 18, 2019   Reply →

      You can apply to graduate occupational therapy programs with any degree, so social work would definitely work as long as you take all of the necessary pre-reqs that the OT school requires and show strong grades in those. You will also want to be sure you have a good variety of OT observation hours in multiple settings with a great personal statement and strong GRE score for schools that require it.

    • Jamie August 13, 2019   Reply →

      Is early childhood development a good bachelor before going for occupational?

      • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L August 13, 2019   Reply →

        Early childhood development is a great pre-OT option especially if you’re interested in working with pediatrics.

  • Juliette March 12, 2019   Reply →

    Hello, thanks for the article! I am heavily debating between a BS in psychobiology and a BA in psychology. I think the latter would give me more time to volunteer, gain experience in the field, and keep a higher GPA but I am worried that the former might be more appealing to OT schools since it is a unique pre-health major. Would you say that this difference in major is insignificant or that I should try to go for the BS over the BA? I have talked to many people about this but it is so difficult to know what the right decision is! Any advice is much appreciated.

  • Simone Mayberry April 18, 2019   Reply →

    I have a quick question! So would early childhood intervention be a good undergrad program for pediatric occupational therapy? I’ve been so stressed out about my undergrad program transferring to my masters . I was unsure if I could do it with my undergrad program

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L April 18, 2019   Reply →

      I think that would be a great undergrad major for pediatric OT! With most OT programs, you can have any major as long as you take the pre-reqs and fulfill the other requirements. For added piece of mind I recommend talking to advisers at your school and the OT programs you’re thinking of applying to as well.

  • Kisan July 5, 2019   Reply →

    I am indian physiotherapy …i graduate as a bachelor of physiotherapy …Am i eligible for study in master in occupation therapy in usa?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L July 5, 2019   Reply →

      That’s a great question! I’m not sure about how overseas Bachelor’s degrees transfer, but if you reach out to any US-based OT program’s academic adviser, they will be able to answer any questions you have about eligibility. Best of luck to you!

  • Elizabeth August 5, 2019   Reply →

    Help!!

    I am a business Administration degree with a focus in operational management. I recent have came across some personal events that have COMPLETELY inspired me to invest my education and career into becoming a occupational therapist. Does anyone know the process i would need to take to start down this path??

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L August 7, 2019   Reply →

      Hi Elizabeth, we actually just released an all-inclusive guide to everything you need to know about becoming an Occupational Therapist that you can check out here: How to Get Into OT School: Everything You Need to Know. I think it will be a super helpful resource for you while you’re planning your career change.

  • Maria mauceri September 4, 2019   Reply →

    Hi Sarah

    You have very good advice listed. My daughter is starting her second year in an OT program that is a BS/MS OT program. What minor can you suggest that would complement this degree? What do you think of Health Care Policy Management!? What are your thoughts?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L September 7, 2019   Reply →

      If she’s already enrolled in an occupational therapy program, she’ll be very loaded up with courses as it is, so I personally wouldn’t recommend adding an additional minor on, especially since OT employers don’t factor that into consideration when it comes to hiring (they really just look at clinicals and if the applicant is licensed). If she is really set on a minor, she could really do anything that she’s interested in, but due to the rigors of the OT school curriculum, I still personally wouldn’t suggest adding on a minor on top of OT school.

    • Jordany Kenneth Gabriel May 5, 2020   Reply →

      Hey I’m in my under grad and still doing my pre-reqs and the school I go to doesn’t have the family and child as a major. What associate degreee would be fine to move forward with to be a OT. Such as liberal arts and science or Mental and social health services and allied professions.

      • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L May 6, 2020   Reply →

        As long as you take the required pre-reqs for your desired OT program(s), you can choose any Bachelor’s degree prior to applying to a Master’s or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy 🙂

  • Nancy October 5, 2019   Reply →

    I would point out that Therapeutic Recreation/Recreation Therapy undergraduate degrees would be a great option. They require statistics, psychology, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, diagnostic groups, clinical assessment, management, program design (how to write goals and objectives), facilitation skills, a semester long internship, and much more that would complement an OT Masters degree.

  • Abigail Paige Adduci October 21, 2019   Reply →

    If I get a undergraduate in bachelors of science in nursing, would that be a good undergraduate for OT? I really love OT but I have already applied to colleges as a nursing major, should I change my major as nursing school is direct admit and the courses do not allow for me to take extra classes without being in school for over 4 years for my undergraduate.
    Thanks
    Abigail

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L October 22, 2019   Reply →

      I definitely wouldn’t recommend you go through the intense rigors of nursing school unless you want to actually be a nurse (nursing school is HARD). You could always transition to OT later, but if you’re definitely set on being an OT right away instead of a nurse, that would be a LOT of challenging work to not actually go through with a nursing career. Nursing school and OT school are both challenging and take a lot of dedication, so I would save yourself the stress and pick one and not do both. I hope that makes sense!

  • Ayanna November 9, 2019   Reply →

    Help!
    Im in my undergrad and still taking my pre-reqs but recently realized that I would like to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy. I changed my major to Family and Child Science from it recently being Athletic Training due to the rigorous course load of math that I despise. Is Family and Child Science a good major for potential OT school?
    Thanks in Advance, Ayanna

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L November 11, 2019   Reply →

      Hi Ayanna, Family and Child Science is definitely a fine major for pre-OT (as long as you complete all of your pre-reqs), but I do want to caution you that OT school does have some pretty challenging math/science courses such as Physics for a common pre-req, and kinesiology in the actual OT programs which has a math component. If you don’t love science, I also want to warn that there are some pretty tough science courses in OT school as well (gross anatomy and neuroscience being the toughest IMO). Just something to consider. Good luck with whichever path you choose!

  • Julissa January 18, 2020   Reply →

    Hi so question right now im getting my associates degree so im doing all the pre requites and such. But i am about to transfer to do my bachelors in a few months. If i did my bachelors in history would that not be a good idea for an ot masters program later on in my education. I have already taken most of the courses i need for the program but i just wanted to make sure this would be a good choice. Or would you recommend psychology over history?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L January 19, 2020   Reply →

      If you could choose between the two without taking too many more classes, I would recommend Psychology over History but as long as you have the required pre-reqs you can major in any subject for undergrad 🙂

  • Aparna kiran February 11, 2020   Reply →

    Hi there , I have a bachelors degree in health sciences and major in Wellness and Alternative medicine . Can I Pursue my career in occupational Therapy. If so what is the further education to continue.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 16, 2020   Reply →

      You can definitely go on to get a Master’s or Doctorate in OT with any degree. To find out what pre-reqs and other requirements you’ll need, each school will vary so just do a quick search on OT programs in your area and they’ll have a whole website dedicated to the requirements and application process. Good luck!

  • Jenifer Meischen February 23, 2020   Reply →

    Hi would a degree is public health or nutrition work towards a masters in Ot? I am currently a PTA and looking to move onto a masters in OT but need a bacholars first

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 24, 2020   Reply →

      You can apply to OT school with literally any Bachelor’s degree as long as you take the required pre-reqs and complete the grad program’s other requirements 🙂 Your PTA experience will definitely be helpful once you’re in the program and after you start practicing. Good luck!

  • Rebecca L March 14, 2020   Reply →

    Hi there,
    I’m applying to an OTA program at my community college and after becoming an OTA I hope to get a job in the field and go back to school, however I will have an associates in OTA, which I cant use my OTA degree to continue with a bachelors degree as many bachelors programs start with , psychology, biology or health science. What do you suggest? Thank you

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L March 14, 2020   Reply →

      Hi Rebecca,
      If you’re planning on working as an OTA and eventually want to become an OTR, there are several bridge programs you can do with your Associate’s that will bridge you into a Master’s level OT. You can do a quick google search to check out their curriculum but again with those you won’t need a Bachelor’s as long as you’ve completed the pre-reqs that the bridge programs require.

  • Raquel May 11, 2020   Reply →

    I am going to Community college first where I plan on completing all prerequisites for an OT Master’s program. I saw that you recommended choosing a bachelors degree in something that you can fall back on in case things don’t work out. You also encouraged someone else in the comments to go for a major with children if she planned on becoming a pediatric occupational therapist. I am wondering if this would make sense. I am also wondering about if OT Master’s programs can be taken fully online.

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L May 12, 2020   Reply →

      If you definitely want to go into pediatrics than a major related to that would be great! But again, you can really major in anything you want. And unfortunately there are no fully online OT grad programs, but some do have a hybrid format where you have some classes online, and some in person (such as weekend-option OT programs). Hope this helps!

  • Garima July 6, 2020   Reply →

    Hello there, I need your help actually right now I am pursuing bachelor of science in homescience honours or home economic under which I am studying human development and childhood studies, food and nutrition and dyanmic of humans communication and extention are these subjects make me eligible to do masters in occupational therapy in the canada? Or any other western countries?

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L July 6, 2020   Reply →

      Hi Garima, I’m not sure about Canada’s requirements since I’m based in the U.S. (I would reach out to any programs you’re interested in to make sure), but in the U.S. you can apply to a Master’s or Doctorate OT degree with any undergraduate major.

  • Garima July 7, 2020   Reply →

    Thanks a lot for replying me. I have a another favour to ask that what are some tips and trick to get the scholarship in college if I do masters in OT.

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