Program-Specific Info / Q's What would be the best path to become an OT?

Jan 1, 2014
3
0
Hey friendly people of the internet. I am a Graphic Designer that has realized this is not the career path I wanted. I have finally gather the courage to go back to school and I have decided to become an Occupational Therapist. I have been doing research on the field and it seems to be a rewarding career path.

My question is whether I should try to take my prereqs and try to apply to variate of different OT schools or should I apply and become a KOTA. I really don't have the best GPA (3.0) and I was told that becoming a KOTA gives you a better chance to later get into OT school. I was also told certain companies will pay for you to go back to school to become an OT.

If anybody has any helpful information please respond back. Thanks!!!
 
May 31, 2013
113
29
Status
DPT / OTD
Hi GD-OT, I majored in Graphic Design as my undergraduate major and found myself in a similar situation. As of right now, I have just been accepted into an OT program starting 2014. I decided to take my prereqs at a community college and then applied straight to OT school as opposed to becoming an OTA first. I didn't even really look into becoming a OTA, so I really can't speak to that path. Maybe others can provide you more information about that process. Here is a little bit about my path that you might find helpful:

Coming from a design background, I have not have any trouble being accepted into OT programs. For me, the hardest part about getting accepted into OT school has been completing the necessary prerequisites to be eligible to apply to schools. My design degree did not require me to complete many of the science and psychology courses needed by OT schools. I think it took me about 1 1/2 to 2 years to complete the necessary prerequisites. For me, this was because at my community college, biology had to be taken before anatomy. Then, Anatomy had to be taken before Physiology. This is not the case for all colleges, so you might look into colleges where you can maybe take Anatomy and Physiology concurrently to save time. As you can see, however, it can easily become three semesters worth of just science classes before you are even eligible to apply. This does not include any psychology courses or other courses you might need to apply. Also keep in mind, from the impression I've gotten, there is an advantage to having all prerequisites completed before applying to schools.

I think my biggest advice looking back, is that I wish I would have narrowed down my list of OT schools earlier. When you know what schools you want to go to, you can find out what prerequisite classes are required and can map out how you want to take your courses. It also saves you from taking courses you don't need. I didn't look into specific schools until I had finished most of the common requirements for most schools, and I remember looking at some OT schools and deciding I wasn't going to apply because they had one requirement I had not looked at and I did not want to spend more time taking classes to complete that requirement. It was disappointing to have worked so hard to fulfill requirements only to cross some schools of my list because they had a requirement I still did not meet.

I don't know if this helps you any, but if you have more questions, feel free to message me privately and I can answer any questions you have.
 
Dec 31, 2013
27
6
Status
DPT / OTD
I was in a similar boat and agree with RedHeadOT that the toughest part was getting pre-reqs out of the way. I ultimately wound up deciding to quit my job and live with my parents for a year so I could focus on getting those pre-reqs as well as my volunteer hours and the GRE out of the way. It's definitely been a tough year and I know this isn't even an option for most people, but I was just accepted to USC so I feel like it was a worthwhile move!

The CC I am taking combines anatomy & physiology into one year long course, which is sort of frustrating because I have no choice but to spend a whole year in school. The only other pre-reqs I needed were medical terminology and two psych classes, so I might have tried to power through and it all done in one term if I could have taken anatomy & physio simultaneously.

I think the first and most important step you need to take is figuring out what is required of the schools you are interested in applying to, since it can vary quite a bit. Some want physics, chem, bio, art classes, etc., it can really vary a lot. If you have already taken any of the pre-reqs, most schools I looked into weigh your GPA in those courses as another factor separate from your overall GPA, so if you've gotten all As in those classes, you may be in better shape than you thought. On the other hand, if you have below a B average in those classes, you may want to look into retaking them as well as the untaken classes.

Good luck with the process, I am also happy to answer any questions and hope we both find our way into more rewarding career paths!
 
Dec 31, 2013
27
6
Status
DPT / OTD
Hey friendly people of the internet. I am a Graphic Designer that has realized this is not the career path I wanted. I have finally gather the courage to go back to school and I have decided to become an Occupational Therapist. I have been doing research on the field and it seems to be a rewarding career path.

My question is whether I should try to take my prereqs and try to apply to variate of different OT schools or should I apply and become a KOTA. I really don't have the best GPA (3.0) and I was told that becoming a KOTA gives you a better chance to later get into OT school. I was also told certain companies will pay for you to go back to school to become an OT.

If anybody has any helpful information please respond back. Thanks!!!
Also, I forgot to add that I am unfamiliar with the term KOTA, but am assuming you mean an occupational therapy assistant (OTA). I've heard that the general consensus is that, if you already have a bachelor's degree, you might as well go for becoming an OT rather than an OTA. Either way you are looking at roughly two years of school and while the schools offering master's degrees are often pricier than those where you become an OTA, you'll start out with a significantly higher salary and able to take on much more responsibility. The thought of becoming an OTA crossed my mind momentarily, but I realized that it just didn't make sense for me and I also don't know that I could live on the average salaries they tend to receive. It does seem like a rewarding option and they do tend to do very similar work to OTs.
 
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May 31, 2013
113
29
Status
DPT / OTD
One other thing I would recommend is calling up a few locations where OTs work and setting up some time to shadow them. This will get you direct access to people in the field who can answer any questions for you about what OT work would look like. You will get to see real patients and real therapy sessions. Another plus is that if you keep a record of your hours, you can use this time on your applications.
 
OP
G
Jan 1, 2014
3
0
Wow, you guys have really been a big help. I really do appreciate the advice. Does an OT program really look at whether you got your prereqs at a community college or a state college. Also, when it comes to getting volunteer hours, can you start getting them even before taking your prereqs?
 
May 18, 2012
92
34
Status
If your ultimate goal is to become an OT, don't waste your time/money getting the OTA first just to improve your chances. You're much better off using that time improving your GPA with whatever prereq's you still have to take and doing some volunteer work to make yourself a stronger candidate. OT schools have become more competitive in recent years, but there are still plenty of schools out there that will accept someone with a GPA in the low 3.0's; and you should be able to bump it up a little more if you really buckle down on those prereq's.

I've heard some schools prefer (and some even require) prereq's to be taken at 4-year colleges as opposed to community colleges. You'll just have to check with the programs you intend to apply to. Good luck.
 
May 31, 2013
113
29
Status
DPT / OTD
None of the schools I applied to required the classes to be completed at a four-year college. That being said, it doesn't hurt to call up some schools that you might be interested in and see if they prefer 4-year colleges... but I would guess it is just a waste of money. The only thing I saw that you have to be careful about is that some schools require the anatomy lab to have a cadaver. This is not available at all community colleges.

You can start your volunteer hours whenever. I know for me, I was working, taking classes and observing, so I needed to start early to get my hours in. Hours of observation don't add up as quickly as you might like when you can only do a few hours a week. haha!
 
Dec 31, 2013
27
6
Status
DPT / OTD
Wow, you guys have really been a big help. I really do appreciate the advice. Does an OT program really look at whether you got your prereqs at a community college or a state college. Also, when it comes to getting volunteer hours, can you start getting them even before taking your prereqs?
I can't say for sure, but I don't think it weighs hugely. I had only taken one of my pre-req classes at my four year undergrad university and the remainder were through community colleges, and USC still let me in. When I was researching where to take pre-reqs, it seemed like the only four years that would let non-degree seeking students take classes were smaller, less prestigious schools or extensions of top universities that I can't imagine would look that much better to OT programs than a CC. Like others have said, it couldn't hurt to email and ask though!

I haven't seen any schools that had any requirements regarding when you can get your volunteer hours in. For me, it took quitting my 50+ hour a week job to be able to volunteer or start working on unfulfilled pre-reqs, so I worked on them pretty much simultaneously, but that just had to do with my own scheduling needs.
 
Last edited:
OP
G
Jan 1, 2014
3
0
I was thinking about going part time at first because I can concentrate more on the core classes. I'm a full time designer and I still have a ton of bills to pay off. Or do you people think I should go full time and try to get my prereqs done as soon as possible? Also when it comes to GRE scores, what point total are most schools looking for? Again, thanks for all the help!
 
May 31, 2013
113
29
Status
DPT / OTD
Keeping your GPA in mind, you probably want to aim for getting as many A's in prereqs as you can to boost your GPA and make you more competitive. Whether you should work and go to school at the same time really depends on what you think you can handle. If you think you can do both successfully, then I would say for financial reasons you should try to at least work part time. If you find it is too much, you can back off on work or lessen your course load.
 
Dec 31, 2013
27
6
Status
DPT / OTD
I was thinking about going part time at first because I can concentrate more on the core classes. I'm a full time designer and I still have a ton of bills to pay off. Or do you people think I should go full time and try to get my prereqs done as soon as possible? Also when it comes to GRE scores, what point total are most schools looking for? Again, thanks for all the help!
I think that whatever it takes for you to get As in the classes is probably the best route to take. I personally decided to get all of my pre-reqs done as quickly as possible and to leave my old job because I was miserable in it and so ready for a fresh start. My old job was so demanding that there also wasn't a way I could have stayed there and done my best in school or that they would have accommodated me having to leave work early one day to get to an anatomy lab, etc., but I don't think programs necessarily prefer that. If anything, I worried my situation would seem a little odd to them!

I think you generally want to at least break into the 150s to have a fair shot at more competitive OT programs. I was admitted to USC with a 151 quantitative, 157 verbal and 4.5 analytic writing score. They require a minimum of 144/153/3.5 to apply and their averages for last year were 150 quantitative and 160 verbal, I believe. I also looked into Boston University and University of Washington's programs pretty closely and they had similar stats. It's really going to vary depending on the schools you are aiming for, though. A few other schools I thought about applying to (Samuel Merritt, Dominican and Pacific) don't even ask for GRE scores at all.
 
Aug 11, 2013
140
54
Status
Pre-Rehab Sci [General]
Hey friendly people of the internet. I am a Graphic Designer that has realized this is not the career path I wanted. I have finally gather the courage to go back to school and I have decided to become an Occupational Therapist. I have been doing research on the field and it seems to be a rewarding career path.

My question is whether I should try to take my prereqs and try to apply to variate of different OT schools or should I apply and become a KOTA. I really don't have the best GPA (3.0) and I was told that becoming a KOTA gives you a better chance to later get into OT school. I was also told certain companies will pay for you to go back to school to become an OT.

If anybody has any helpful information please respond back. Thanks!!!
Happy New Year to ya! Just so ya know its actually COTA instead of KOTA because it stands for Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant. I would implore you to have a solid back up plan if you do not get accepted into a school. OT school is very competitive (I am sure people are tired of hearing this cliche fact lolol) but the biggest obstacle for applicants is that there really is no clear cut formula into getting in and there is a significant level of subjectivity involved in being admitted into a program. There was a program I thought I would get accepted into and sure enough I got turned down while the program I thought I was a LONG SHOT in and had little chance ended up being the place I got into and where I plan on going. I have heard stories of people with high gpas 3.7+ who got rejected by programs for whatever reason. Some may disagree but seriously look into the COTA route if it does not work out. This was my back up plan because I wanted to be in the realm of the occupational therapy world while being into a position to advance when ready and still be getting paid. This a rare treat in the professional world that people underestimate. Hypothetically speaking, say you were applying to a graduate/professional psychology program to be psychologist because that field is the field you are drawn, if you don't get accepted that's it....... No such thing as 2 year schooling to become a certified psychology assistant so back to the drawing board of reapplying with no guarantee that you will get current exposure to the field of your choice while getting paid for it unless you score an aide/assistant job at a clinic by your current merit or a nice TA position for psychology classes. If planned right you can get into a COTA program within the spring/summer semesters so as you would be going through the OT applying process you can build up your back up plan so that you roll right into COTA school the following fall if it came to that. You can finish a COTA program in 18 months, pass your board exam, and start enjoying the OT field. I volunteered with several COTAs who LOVED their job, they do pretty much everything an OT does except they can't do Evaluations and their notes and what not have to be checked out and cleared by an OT. COTAs can get around 50k starting off (and good ones can get decent raises over time) which is pretty good considering that your schooling is much less than that (I saw programs that were just 15k total for tuition and fees), and that you just had to be in school for 18 months which beats the curve of most people who have a bachelors who are making nowhere near that unfortunately. One COTA told me that if she were to get accepted into an OT school that her company would pay for her schooling and she mentioned that this is starting to become a more common practice for companies who have good COTAs that are wanting to advance themselves professionally. I met a GREAT OT who had went the route of OTA to OT and bragged about how the OTA experienced gave a her a good handle on the tricks of the trade in terms of OT and it helped her be a more confident and efficient as an OT when she finally became one and not to mention it made her OT schooling easier because she understood quite a bit of the OT field from her OTA experience.