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Pre-Occupational Therapy Guide for New Incoming Students


This section provides information to assist in planning for admission to occupational therapy programs, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure you mention your intention to follow a pre-occupational therapy preparatory program. You will be subscribed to the Health Professions and Prelaw Center (HPPLC) mailing list, and receive information about important upcoming events, such as pre-OT Fall information sessions.  Consult University Division resources for more information on planning for summer orientation.

Description of the Profession

Occupational therapists help people with physical, cognitive, or psychosocial challenges maximize their ability to participate in life independently. With occupational therapy (OT), children and adults facing such challenges can improve skills that help them perform daily tasks at home, school, work, and play. OTs develop individual treatment plans to fit the client's goals. This allows for an OT to have a customized intervention to improve the client's ability to perform daily activities to reach their goals. OT does not simply treat medical conditions. It helps people stay engaged in activities that give them meaning and satisfaction. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills, patience, empathy, strong communication and social skills, and the ability to work with a team of care givers in a variety of settings are skills important to this profession, as is the ability to work closely with people from a variety of backgrounds. Occupational therapists are service-oriented "people persons."


The Degree Path

Everyone newly entering the field to practice as a licensed occupational therapist must earn a graduate degree from an accredited OT training program. Before being admitted to an OT program, you must successfully complete certain prerequisite courses and other admission requirements. Prerequisites are not the same for all OT programs, but most do require all or nearly all of the prerequisites listed on this page.  Please note OT programs are transitioning to from MOT to OTD programs by 2025. By the time you apply it is likely that you will be applying to Doctor of Occupational Therapy Programs.



Choosing Your Degree and Major

Almost any degree and major can be a good choice for pre-OT students. Most OT programs have no preference as to what major and degree you earn! There doesn’t even need to be an obvious connection between OT and your major. Just choose a major that interests you, or you can start out as exploratory and work with your academic advisor throughout the year to discover a major that is a good fit for you. Consult University Division resources for exploring majors at IU.


Occupational Therapy Course Admission Requirements

The courses required for admission vary from one occupational therapy program to another. There is, however, a fair degree of prerequisite overlap across programs. By choosing from the courses listed in the section below you can be confident that you will begin to lay a foundation that will enable you to apply to a variety of OT programs. You can learn more about additional admission requirements later during the year.



Planning Your Fall Course Options

For your fall semester, you should begin with completing occupational therapy required coursework, but you’ll also need to complete other courses for your particular undergraduate degree and major.  Consult the University Division website on how to plan your fall course schedule for any of the majors you are considering.

Below is a partial list of IU OT program prerequisites, many of which are required by other OT programs, too. Try to register for 5-11 credits of these courses for the upcoming semester. We strongly advise that you not take more than one 5-credit course in the same semester. During your first semester at IUB, you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your pre-occupational therapy coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB.  


As of this writing, the IU OT program generally accepts Advanced Placement credit as fulfilling prerequisites as long as the course is recorded on a college transcript and you received an AP score of 3 or higher. If you think you may have AP credit or other credit for one or more of the courses below, be sure to tell your Orientation advisor. For the most current policy, visit IU OT Admission Requirements.


Introductory Sociology or Introductory Anthropology

SOC-S 100 or ANTH-A 107 or ANTH-E 200


Introductory Psychology
PSY-P 101 and PSY-P 102 (3 credits each) or PSY-P 155 (3 credits). Either path fulfills prerequisite requirements for PSY-P 324, which is a required OT prerequisite. (P 155 is an intensive course more appropriate for psychology majors or minors).


Human Lifespan Development
SPH-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 315 (each is 3 credits). (PSY-P 315 Developmental Psychology may fulfill requirements for a greater number of OT programs.) 


Medical Terminology (2 credits)
CLAS-C 209

Human Anatomy
ANAT-A 215. (This course has limited seating and may not be available during your Orientation. If so, you can simply take it later.) We urge you to follow the anatomy study tips.)

Human Physiology
PHSL-P 215 (5 credits). Note that PHSL-P 215 is most appropriate if you have previously taken some anatomy and/or physiology in high school or college. (This course has limited seating and may not be available during your Orientation. If so, you can simply take it later.)

Most OT programs accept almost any 300-level statistics course. You should consult with an academic advisor about whether you are ready to enrol in statistics during freshman year.



PHYS-P 201 or PHYS-P 221 (5 credits). Many OTD programs are requiring students to complete a minimum of one semester of Physics. Either path fulfills the prerequisite for programs requiring Physics.


Your Course Load

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful.


Other Activities for Pre-Occupational Therapy Students

Clinical observation (or job shadowing) is a requirement for admission to most OT programs. Clinical observation can also help you decide whether or not a career in OT is the best choice for you, or whether you need to explore other fields. Furthermore, extensive observation in a variety of settings can help you become a more competitive applicant to OT programs.


We strongly suggest you undertake some observation prior to beginning classes in the Fall, but then use your freshman year to acclimate yourself to college, and to the increased demands of IUB courses. After freshman year, continue with more clinical observation, both in-patient and out-patient. Log your shadowing hours and take some notes during your experiences. Refer to the OT Clinical Observation page for more detailed suggestions.