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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.

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.

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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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9 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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