Occupational Therapy OT

| 6 June 2024

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12 Best Occupational Therapy Majors for Undergraduates | USAHS

12 Best Undergraduate Degrees for Occupational Therapy-usahs

If you aspire to make a difference in patient lives as a licensed occupational therapist (OT), lay the groundwork for your success now.

To become an occupational therapist, you must complete a graduate program from an accredited school and earn either a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree.1

Although it’s possible to enter an occupational therapy (OT) program with a bachelor’s degree in any field, specific majors for occupational therapy hold greater relevance to a career than others.

Let’s review the 12 best undergraduate degrees for occupational therapists and alternative routes to help you become a successful OT.

top undergraduate majors for OT school

1. Occupational Therapy or Pre-Occupational Therapy

If you are an undergraduate student who intends to pursue a career in occupational therapy, consider opting for an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy or related field following a pre-occupational therapy track.

These specialized programs equip students with the skills to excel in OT practice while adequately preparing them for the academic coursework associated with their master’s or doctoral journey.

2. Kinesiology

Kinesiology is the study of human movement and body mechanics, encompassing disciplines such as anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, exercise science and motor control.2 It’s among the valuable undergraduate degrees for occupational therapy due to its:

  • Strong foundation in human anatomy and physiology
  • Emphasis on movement analysis and biomechanics
  • Integration of exercise science and rehabilitation principles
  • Coursework in motor control, neuroscience and functional anatomy

A kinesiology degree provides aspiring OTs with comprehensive knowledge of human movement, biomechanics and exercise science. The foundation of this enhances your ability to assess movement, develop effective treatment plans and understand the impact of conditions on occupational performance.

3. Psychology

Psychology is the scientific study of brain function and behavior.3 If you are considering , psychology provides valuable insight into people’s thought processes and motivations, making it a beneficial path for occupational therapists.

Pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology offers value to occupational therapists due to its:

  • Foundation in understanding human behavior
  • Focus on mental health
  • Emphasis on effective communication skills
  • Exploration of cognitive processes and human development

As far as good majors for occupational therapy are concerned, a psychology degree helps prospective OTs comprehensively understand human behavior, communication, cognition and mental health, enhancing their ability to provide holistic care.

4. Biology or Biological Sciences

As occupational therapy necessitates a deep understanding of the human body, it’s no surprise that pursuing a biology or biological sciences degree is an excellent choice for those who hope to enter this field.

Biology is the scientific study of living organisms. It explores their structure, function, behavior and interactions at different levels—from cellular to ecological.4 Biology can be argued as one of the best undergraduate degree for occupational therapy because you’ll gain:

  • An understanding of human anatomy, physiology and rehabilitation
  • Knowledge of human development and growth
  • Awareness of the biological basis of health conditions
  • Skills for research and scientific inquiry

By pursuing undergraduate degrees for occupational therapy like biology or biological sciences, future occupational therapists can develop an understanding of human anatomy, physiology, development and the biological basis of health conditions. This education can enhance your ability to assess client needs, design appropriate interventions and contribute to evidence-based practice within occupational therapy.

5. Education

While an occupational therapy major like education may not come to mind if you plan to pursue a career in healthcare, it’s a valuable path to rehabilitative sciences roles in OT and speech-language pathology (SLP).

An education degree centers on the principles of teaching and learning, which aligns closely with the role of an occupational therapist.5 OTs educate patients, clients and their caregivers daily. With an occupational therapy undergraduate degree in education, you gain:

  • An understanding of learning and instructional strategies
  • Assessment and evaluation skills
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of child development and educational systems

As far as good majors for occupational therapy go, studying education can complement and enhance your preparation for occupational therapy school. It can facilitate your ability to work effectively with individuals across various settings and age groups.

6. Sociology

Sociology is the study of social life, social change and the social causes and consequences of human behavior.6 As far as degrees for occupational therapists are concerned, sociology  equips students with knowledge of communication, how different cultures function and problem-solving skills. You’ll often need these skills as an occupational therapist to provide a holistic perspective and patient-centered approach.

Sociology can be one of the best undergraduate degrees for occupational therapy school because you’ll learn about:

  • Different cultures
  • Understanding human behavior and social systems
  • The importance of diversity
  • Social interactions

A popular option among majors for occupational therapy school, a sociology degree will help to prepare you for what’s ahead. You’ll be prepared to provide client-centered care, advocate for social justice and collaborate effectively in diverse practice settings.

7. Health Science

A health science degree focuses on the study of health and healthcare delivery.7 This occupational therapy major encompasses various subjects, including anatomy, physiology, public health, healthcare management, epidemiology and health promotion.

Consider health science as an occupational therapy major to gain:

  • A thorough understanding of human anatomy and physiology
  • Exposure to various healthcare disciplines
  • Knowledge of public health and healthcare systems
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • A foundation in research principles

With a health science degree, gain key skills in advance of occupational therapy school. It’s a popular choice among the degrees for occupational therapists for those who want to provide holistic care, engage in evidence-based practice and contribute to the advancement of healthcare.

8. Exercise Science

Exercise science is a specialized area of kinesiology that centers on the body’s reaction and adjustment to physical activity. It delves into the fundamental processes that influence exercise and its effects on the human body.8

There are several reasons why exercise science is a popular option for an occupational therapy undergraduate degree. Through this degree path, you’ll gain:

  • A comprehensive understanding of human movement and biomechanics
  • Knowledge of exercise prescription and promotion of physical fitness
  • An understanding of the integration of physiology and exercise physiology principles
  • Complementary coursework in related areas of study

With an exercise science degree, you’ll learn about human movement, exercise physiology, biomechanics and related healthcare disciplines such as physical therapy and rehabilitation. This occupational therapy major helps to prepare you for OT school by training you to effectively evaluate movement, prescribe exercises, promote physical fitness and contribute to clients’ overall health and well-being.

9. Child Development

If you want to pursue a career in pediatric occupational therapy, consider an undergraduate degree in child development.

This degree focuses on children’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social development from infancy through adolescence.9 With child development as your occupational therapy major, you can gain:

  • An understanding of child development
  • Knowledge of developmental disorders
  • Effective communication skills with children and families
  • Assessment and intervention planning skills

By earning an occupational therapy undergraduate degree in child development, aspiring OTs gain a comprehensive understanding of child growth, developmental milestones and the impact of various factors on children’s well-being. This occupational therapy major can strengthen your ability to address the unique needs of children and their families, promote healthy development and provide holistic care in occupational therapy.

10. Recreational Therapy

A recreational therapy (RT) degree focuses on the therapeutic use of recreational activities to enhance individuals’ physical, emotional, cognitive and social well-being.10 Recreational therapists work with people with disabilities, illnesses or injuries to improve their functional abilities, independence and overall quality of life.

With an occupational therapy undergraduate degree in RT, you’ll learn about:

  • Therapeutic activity planning
  • Promoting functional abilities
  • Therapeutic rapport and communication
  • Integration of leisure and meaningful activities

The skills you can learn with this occupational therapy undergraduate degree can complement the field of OT. RT provides a unique perspective and enhances your ability to provide holistic and client-centered care.

11. Rehabilitation Science

Rehabilitation science focuses on studying rehabilitation techniques and principles, with a particular emphasis on enhancing individuals’ functional abilities and promoting their overall well-being.

This is one of the best occupational therapy undergraduate programs for prospective OT graduate students as it provides a foundation of knowledge and skills that align well with the field of occupational therapy, such as:

  • Understanding of rehabilitation principles
  • Knowledge of human anatomy and physiology
  • Focus on therapeutic interventions
  • Preparation for further education

A rehabilitation science degree can be a strong foundation for pursuing a graduate degree in occupational therapy. The coursework and experience gained in this occupational therapy major can give you a head start in understanding OT principles and practices.

12. Business

Although a degree in business may initially appear unconventional on our list of majors for occupational therapy, it can be an excellent choice if you plan to start a private practice.

A business degree can be a valuable undergraduate degree for occupational therapy because you’ll learn:

  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Financial management
  • Leadership and management skills
  • Interdisciplinary collaboration

By combining a business degree with occupational therapy training, therapists can establish a strong foundation for clinical practice and business management. This dual expertise can help you provide high-quality care and efficiently manage your practice’s finances and operations.

However, if you earn an undergraduate degree in business, ensure that you complete the necessary prerequisites to increase your chances of being accepted into a graduate program for occupational therapy.

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What to Do if You Earned a Non-Related Undergraduate Degree

Although pursuing one of the majors for occupational therapy outlined above offers clear advantages for those aspiring to become occupational therapists, it isn’t the sole path to a career in OT.

Many people pursue occupational therapy after earning an undergraduate degree in a non-related field and sometimes after spending considerable time in a different profession.

If this is relevant, follow the steps below to help you get into OT school without a related occupational therapy major.

how to get into ot school

Complete Prerequisite Courses

Conduct thorough research on the graduate program you intend to apply to, as specific prerequisites can vary depending on the occupational therapy school of your choice.


For example, the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) MOT admission requirements and prerequisites include:


  • Anatomy and Physiology with Lab
  • Human Growth and Development (Lifespan)
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Statistics
  • Medical Terminology
  • Sociology or Anthropology courses, such as:
    • Sociocultural Anthropology
    • Biological Anthropology

At USAHS, you must complete all prerequisite courses in the last five years with a 2.0 or higher GPA.

Gain Field Experience

Another way to help you get into occupational therapy school is to gain hands-on experience through observation hours or volunteering. Observation involves shadowing a practicing occupational therapist in a clinical setting.

While schools may not always require observation hours for admission into an occupational therapy undergraduate program, they can serve as a valuable asset to distinguish yourself from other applicants and showcase your familiarity with the profession.

The required observation hours for schools can vary. At USAHS, admission to our MOT program does not require observation hours, but we suggest that all applicants observe occupational therapy in at least two areas of practice. Some schools may require observations in multiple settings to provide a well-rounded experience.

Shadowing may not be mandatory for your chosen school, but it can be a good idea to do so in multiple settings to showcase your experience in the field. If the program requires observation hours, aim to get more than what they request to help you stand out from other applicants.

Know Why You Want to Become an OT

While having a solid educational background and a relevant occupational therapy major is beneficial when applying to OT schools, what truly sets you apart is your motivation and passion for pursuing a career in occupational therapy.

You may need to write an essay for admission during the application process. As part of your submission, you may encounter supplemental questions to provide admissions with deeper insights into your experience, knowledge and professional aspirations.

Some examples of supplemental questions for OT school that USAHS asks include:

  • What occupation do you enjoy engaging in, and what positive impact does this have on you?
  • List two attributes you consider crucial to being an effective occupational therapist.
  • Please share how you have participated in volunteerism to be a force for good in your community.

Launch a Career in OT at USAHS

When considering the best undergraduate degrees for occupational therapy, choose a program that aligns with your interests and goals.

Whether you choose to pursue a degree directly related to the field or transition from another discipline, what truly matters is your passion, dedication and commitment to positively impacting lives through holistic care.

With the right occupational therapy major and a strong desire to help others, you can embark on a rewarding journey toward becoming an occupational therapist. Are you interested in the rewarding profession of occupational therapy? Check out USAHS’ occupational therapy graduate programs and advance your education.

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) located at 7501 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 510E, Bethesda, MD 20814; telephone: 301-652-6611; email: www.acoteonline.org accredits the Master of Occupational Therapy and Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences on a campus-by-campus basis.

The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program at the Dallas, Texas, campus has applied for accreditation and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. The program must have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

Students must complete 24 weeks of Level II fieldwork within 24 months following completion of the didactic portion of the program.


  1. “Become an occupational therapy practitioner,” AOTA, https://www.aota.org/career/become-an-ot-ota
  2. “What Is Kinesiology?,” National Academy of Kinesiology, https://nationalacademyofkinesiology.org/what-is-kinesiology.
  3. “Science of Psychology,” APA, 2024, https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/science.
  4. Alan Lim and Scott Dutfield, “What is biology?”, Live Science, February 2, 2022, https://www.livescience.com/44549-what-is-biology.html.
  5. “What Is An Education Degree?”, The Best Schools, March 26, 2024, https://thebestschools.org/degrees/education-degrees.
  6. “What Is Sociology?”, ASA, https://www.asanet.org/about/what-is-sociology.
  7. “What Is Health Science?”, Learn.org, 2024, https://learn.org/articles/What_is_Health_Science.html.
  8. “Collection Development Guidelines of the National Library of Medicine,” National Library of Medicine, September 10, 2021, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK518824.
  9. Indeed Editorial Team, “FAQ: What Can You Do With Child Development Degree?”, Indeed, April 18, 2024, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/what-do-with-child-development-degree.
  10. “About Recreational Therapy,” NCTRC, https://www.nctrc.org/about-ncrtc/about-recreational-therapy/


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