Best Occupational Therapy Programs of 2022

Learn more about the best occupational therapy programs and how this degree can prepare graduates for further training and professional practice.

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by Doug Wintemute

Published July 7, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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Occupational therapists develop and run treatment plans for patients with injuries and disabilities. In a bachelor's in occupational therapy, students study the fundamentals of health sciences. They acquire entry-level skills while also preparing for master's-level training and research.

Graduates with a bachelor's in occupational therapy can pursue assistant roles, but they need a master's in occupational therapy to qualify for an occupational therapist license and profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 17% growth in the occupational therapy occupation between 2020 and 2030. These professionals made a median annual wage of $85,570 in May 2021.

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Many online schools run both physical therapy and occupational therapy programs, but these healthcare degrees and careers differ. For instance, the former helps patients with pain and motion, whereas the latter helps patients with completing daily tasks. Here, we explore the best occupational therapy programs, highlighting program details, true program costs, and postgraduate career options.

Our Top Pick

University of Southern California - Los Angeles, California

Why It's #1: USC comes in as our top-ranked program because of how well it supports students. Among all schools ranked, USC boasts the highest graduation rate at 92%. Despite paying the highest tuition, students in this school have some of the lowest percentages of student loans. This means the majority of their funding comes from scholarships, grants, and other financial aid programs. USC also runs the most online programs among these schools, which improves access and scheduling flexibility for students.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

2022 Best Accredited Bachelor's in Occupational Therapy Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

University of Southern California

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 92%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,763
Out-of-State | $1,763

Credits to Graduate
128

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No

Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

USC's bachelor's in occupational therapy features courses in kinesiology, clinical reasoning, and neuroscience of behavior. Students also complete two practice immersion courses in mental health, pediatrics, or adult physical rehabilitation. 

USC also offers a five-year bachelor’s-to-master’s program, which qualifies graduates for the National Board Certification in Occupational Therapy examination. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED.

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#2

Saint Louis University

School Information
Location Saint Louis, Missouri
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,680
Out-of-State | $1,680

Credits to Graduate
130 undergraduate + 30-36 professional

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

SLU's bachelor's in occupational science is part of a five-year bachelor's-to-master's program. Students complete core courses in human development, healthcare systems and health promotion, and interprofessional health outcomes. They also do two 12-week fieldwork experiences.

SLU also integrates a community service component into the program. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma with a minimum 3.2 GPA and at least one year of chemistry and biology.

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#3

Drake University

School Information
Location Des Moines, Iowa
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,321
Out-of-State | $1,321

Credits to Graduate
124

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

Drake's bachelor's in occupational science features three- and four-year tracks. The programs provide training in professionalism in healthcare, innovation in health services, and statistics. The school also offers an accelerated pre-professional track for students who want to continue their education. 

Students need to complete an extensive fieldwork component. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED.

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#4

Worcester State University

School Information
Location Worcester, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 58%
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 30% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $485
Out-of-State | $3,525

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

WSU's bachelor's in occupational therapy equips students with the skills to help people live independently and provides a path to a master's degree in the discipline. The program includes courses in the psychology of aging, psychological wellness, and assistive technology. Students also complete extensive fieldwork. 

Graduates qualify to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy examination. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or GED and strong SAT scores. 

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#5

McKendree University

School Information
Location Lebanon, Illinois
Admission Rate 63%
Graduation Rate 60%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,779
Out-of-State | $1,779

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

McK's bachelor's in occupational therapy is a five-year cooperative program with Washington University that qualifies graduates for bachelor's and master's degrees. Students complete courses in abnormal psychology, cellular and molecular biology, and chemistry. 

After three years at McK, students transfer to Washington University to complete their final undergraduate year and one year of master's training. For entry into the master's pathway program, applicants need GRE scores and a minimum of 30 hours of community service.

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#6

Keuka College

School Information
Location Keuka Park, New York
Admission Rate 72%
Graduation Rate 56%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $1,090
Out-of-State | $1,090

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

Keuka College's bachelor's in occupational therapy offers students a 4+1 path to a master's degree in the field. The undergraduate training includes courses in pediatric and adult medical conditions, clinical kinesiology, and mental health application. 

Degree-seekers also complete extensive practical training via internships, fieldwork placements, and practice sessions in the school's six health innovation center labs. For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or a GED. 

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#7

Western Michigan University

School Information
Location Kalamazoo, Michigan
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 57%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 28% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $577-$633
Out-of-State | $721-791

Credits to Graduate
122 (89 in the major)

Program Information
Degree Completion Program | No
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

WMU's bachelor's in occupational therapy equips students with administration, leadership, and clinical practice skills. Core courses include technology for function, pediatric practice, and the study of human movement. Degree-seekers can take the occupational therapy preparation concentration to prepare them for graduate study. 

In addition to the master's program, graduates qualify for the National Occupational Therapist Assistant exam. For school admission, prospective students need a high school diploma or GED. For entry into the major, learners need the appropriate prerequisites and a minimum 2.5 GPA.

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#8

Brenau University

School Information
Location Gainesville, Georgia
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 46%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 60% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On-Campus | Scheduled Classes 

Avg. Cost per Credit
In-State | $718
Out-of-State | $718

Credits to Graduate
120

Program Information
Degree Completion Program |
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education

Brenau's bachelor's in health science with a pre-occupational therapy concentration prepares students to enter the occupational therapy master's program. The core program includes health sciences, behavioral sciences, research, and critical thinking training. The concentration features courses in biomechanics, clinical medical communication, and anatomy and physiology labs. 

For admission, prospective students need a high school diploma with a minimum 2.75 GPA.

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Popular Online Occupational Therapy Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Bachelor's in Occupational Therapy ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 43 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Top Three Benefits of an Occupational Therapy Degree


Foundation for professional practice

Occupational therapists need a master's degree at minimum to qualify for the national licensing examination. While these programs accept students from various degrees, a bachelor's in occupational therapy provides the most targeted preparatory training.


Access to a fast-growing field

The BLS projects the addition of about 23,000 new occupational therapists between 2020 and 2030, plus over 10,000 annual openings each year. An aging population and a better understanding of the benefits of occupational therapy will drive this demand.


Pursue support positions in various fields

According to the BLS, occupational therapists provide client care in hospitals, specialty offices, nursing care facilities, schools, and healthcare service providers. This diversity of settings enables professionals to seek out environments that suit their personalities and interests best.

What Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Occupational Therapy Program?

In a bachelor's in occupational therapy, students learn about various disabilities and disorders and their effects on people. The training explores methods for developing support plans and other intervention strategies.

Typically, degree-seekers complete about 120 credits over four years, though master's pathway programs can offer different timelines. Students may encounter BA or BS degrees in the discipline. Both degree types tend to feature fieldwork experience, but BS programs may feature more clinical exercises.

Concentrations such as pre-occupational therapy, exercise science, or working with specific demographics may also be available.

Check Out The Student's Guide to College Planning

Program Snapshot
Average Bachelor's Degree Tuition Cost

Public Institution: $9,349

Private Institution: $32,769

Length 4 years
Credits 120
Program Tracks Bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BS)
Example Concentrations
  • Pre-occupational therapy
  • Exercise science
  • Pediatric therapy
  • Autism spectrum disorder
Example Courses
  • Biomechanics
  • Human development
  • Neuroscience
  • Kinesiology
  • Musculoskeletal anatomy

What Programs Are Similar to Occupational Therapy?

What Are the Admission Requirements?

While the admission requirements differ at every institution, prospective students typically need a minimum of a high school diploma or a GED. Competitive programs may also request minimum GPA and college entrance exam scores.

Most college applications also include letters of recommendation and college application essays. When choosing a college, prospective students should ensure they can meet the minimum requirements and spend the most time applying to schools for which they qualify.

Explore Our Undergraduate Application Guide

How Do I Pay for a Bachelor's Degree in Occupational Therapy?

What Can I Do With This Degree?

Graduates with a bachelor's in occupational therapy typically plan to continue their studies with a master's program. This qualifies them for occupational therapist jobs and the resulting occupational therapist salaries. The BLS projects a 17% growth in this field between 2020 and 2030, more than twice the projected growth rate for all occupations.

A bachelor's in occupational therapy can qualify graduates for occupational therapy assistant roles as well. The BLS projects a 34% growth in this field between 2020 and 2030, over four times the projected growth rate for all occupations. The median annual salary in this field was $61,730 in May 2021.

Graduates can also pursue other healthcare and community support positions in their job search.

Learn More About Occupational Therapy Careers

Popular Occupational Therapy Careers
Career Median Annual Salary
Occupational Therapist $85,570
Occupational Therapist Assistant $61,520
Recreational Therapist $47,940
Health Education Specialist $48,860
Medical and Health Services Manager $101,340

Occupational Therapy Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Occupational Therapy Licensing and Certification

While schools and industries often use the terms certificates, certifications, and licenses differently, the occupational therapy field requires students to pass a certification exam from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) to qualify for licensure.

Occupational therapists can also pursue board certification with the American Occupational Therapy Association. Professionals with certifications in pediatrics, gerontology, and physical rehabilitation can demonstrate specialized knowledge and expertise.

Should I Get a Bachelor's in Occupational Therapy Online?

Schools may offer an online bachelor's degree in occupational therapy, providing scheduling flexibility and reducing travel requirements. In addition to benefiting from the value of an online degree, online students can expand their search when choosing a college and consider both online or on-campus programs.

Online vs. On-Campus Degrees

On-Campus Pros

  • Access to on-campus resources and support services
  • In-person social interaction and networking
  • Hands-on learning
  • Classroom learning environment with fewer distractions
  • Extracurricular clubs and activities

On-Campus Cons

  • May be more expensive than online programs
  • Set class times with less flexibility
  • Time/money commuting

Online Pros

  • Flexibility to learn on your schedule
  • Learn from anywhere
  • Network with people around the world
  • Save time/money on commuting
  • May be more affordable than on-campus programs
  • Access to online tutoring and career services

Online Cons

  • Requires more self-discipline
  • Not all programs are available online
  • More technical requirements
  • Potential social isolation and loneliness

How to Choose an Online Degree Program

Frequently Asked Questions About Occupational Therapy Programs

Is a bachelor's in occupational therapy worth it?

Yes. A bachelor's in occupational therapy provides students with the field fundamentals necessary for those who wish to continue their training and access occupational therapist careers.

It also puts graduates in a position to help others, giving them knowledge of conditions and treatment options. Not only will this knowledge help with occupational therapist and assistant roles, but it can also prepare graduates for other healthcare careers.

What can I do with a bachelor's in occupational therapy?

Graduates with a bachelor's in occupational therapy can earn admission into a master's program, which grants them access to the occupational therapy certification exam and professional licensure. They can also pursue occupational therapist assistant roles.

Other career opportunities may include healthcare and community support positions. Depending on the organization and the individual's qualifications, graduates may pursue management or leadership positions in healthcare and community organizations.

What continuing education is available for occupational therapy graduates?

Continuing education is very common for graduates with a bachelor's in occupational therapy. Since a master's in occupational therapy is required for professional practice, graduates often continue in this direction. In fact, many schools offer pathway programs that combine bachelor's and master's degrees.

Other continuing education options include a doctorate in occupational therapy for teaching and research and development roles. Postgraduate certificates and professional certifications may be available to help occupational therapists develop specializations and demonstrate their expertise in the field.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in occupational therapy?

The amount of money available to a graduate with a bachelor's in occupational therapy depends on their chosen field. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for occupational therapist assistants was $61,960 in May 2021. The median annual salary for occupational therapist aides was $33,560 during that same period.

Wages vary significantly within the industry as well. For example, the top 10% of assistants earned over $80,210 in 2021, whereas those in-home healthcare services earned median annual wages of $75,070. Nursing care facilities paid $64,670, hospitals paid $61,570, and educational services paid $49,920.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in occupational therapy?

The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a bachelor's in occupational therapy are in medical and health services management. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for these professionals was $101,340 in May 2021. The top 10% here earned over $205,620.

The wages in this field depend largely on the employer and industry. For example, hospitals paid a median annual wage of $119,450, government organizations paid $117,000, and outpatient care centers $99,540.

Feature Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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