The University of Iowa

Pre-Occupational Therapy

 Pre-Occupational Therapy (OT) is not a degree-granting major, but rather a track for students who plan to attend occupational therapy school after their undergraduate studies.  Pre-OT students take a prescribed sequence of courses that prepare them for OT school, which is a two-four year professional program that awards the Masters of Occupational Therapy (MOT), or Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (DOT).  Pre-OT students can major in any field they choose as long as they have completed the prerequisite courses and have taken the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for OT schools that require it.  Pre-OT students work with a pre-OT advisor who helps with course sequencing and academic preparation for OT school.  The University of Iowa does not have an Occupational Therapy professional program.


Courses for admission to many OT programs (Courses can vary.  Be sure to consult with your advisor):

  • English:  composition, rhetoric, speech courses required for bachelor's degree
  • Anatomy: One semester.  Some schools require a lab.
  • Physiology: One semester.  Some schools require a lab.
  • Statistics: One semester.
  • Psychology: Three psychology courses.  Many schools require abnormal psychology and lifespan psychology/development.
  • Ethics
  • Biology course with a lab

 Recommended or other required courses for some schools

  • Physics
  • Electives in social sciences and humanities
  • Medical technical terminology
  • Sociology
  • All prerequisite courses must be completed by time of matriculation.  Most OT programs use rolling admissions and deadlines vary between fall and spring.  Check individual OT schools and consult with your OT advisor on admission deadlines. 
  • Some OT schools require the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE.  Information on registering for the GRE and reporting scores to schools can be found here:
  • Some OT schools are combined baccalaureate/professional programs; however most applicants complete a bachelor’s degree.
  • Applicants must provide at least three letters of reference submitted through OTCAS (for the majority of OT schools).
  • Competitive applicants will be invited for a personal interview.
  • All applicants must submit consent for a criminal background check.
  1. OT programs evaluate prospective students on grades, experiences and attributes.  Given the service-oriented work that OTs perform, consideration is given to how open each prospective student is to working with people with diverse backgrounds and diverse abilities. 
  2.  The competitive candidate will have:
  • OT shadowing, ideally with multiple OTs in multiple settings
  • Demonstrated success in academics, particularly in anatomy, physiology and social sciences
  • Strong letters of reference from an OT, college professor, research mentor, academic advisor or volunteer coordinator.
  • Commitment to serving others.  Students can demonstrate this in many ways such as volunteering with human service organizations, medical facilities and student organizations
  • Leadership experience

​​​​​Remember, it’s not about what “looks good” but rather, doing what sparks an interest in OT.  Occupational therapy schools seek engaged, intellectually well-rounded students who have an interest in human services, are invested in helping others, and open to working with diverse groups of people.

  1. Some things to consider when considering OT school:
  • Am I committed to serving others, and do I have a record of service?
  • Do I have a strong interest in working with others who may have disabilities or challenges to independent living?
  • Do I enjoy working with health professionals in a team setting?
  • Do I enjoy working with my hands and problem-solving?
  • Can I think quickly and make modifications as I go?
  • Have I shadowed an OT?  Am I interested in the work that OTs do?
  • Am I committed to the time, money and effort involved in a professional education?
  • Do I have empathy?  Can I see myself working with people who may have multiple disabilities and communication barriers?
  1. How to get started
    1. Meet with your pre-OT advisor
    2. Attend UI Pre-OT activities:
    3. Check out the American Occupational Therapy Association’s website for more information on applying to OT school: