Are Online OT Programs Legit?

Considering an online OT program? Maybe you should reconsider and here’s why: 


According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), there are no accredited online programs for occupational therapy. While accredited educational programs may offer some courses or parts of courses online, there are no entry-level educational programs offered entirely online. Still, nearly 60 percent of master’s programs and 56 percent of occupational therapy assistance programs offer some distance education opportunities to students.

Why is this? It’s simple really. Occupational therapy is on the rise as a career opportunity. More and more people are considering a career in occupational therapy, including nontraditional students such as older adults who are interested in going back to school and those seeking to switch careers.

Some schools use the term ‘hybrid’ to describe their programs. These programs combine online and face-to-face instruction. Program director Deborah Marr, ScD, OTR/L, who helped launch the program at Shenandoah University in 2007, told the AOTA, “One should not assume that having any online component means the students spend less time on campus. To my knowledge, Shenandoah University and University of Minnesota are the only two programs that have at least 60 percent of our program online.”

Other schools may offer weekend or bridge programs. These programs may also offer some portions of their curriculum online, but most of the programs are held in traditional classrooms, regardless of which days of the week classes are held.

The bottom line is that if you are considering applying to a program because they offer online occupational therapy courses, you should do so with a “buyer beware” approach. Before applying, do research to ensure that the program you are interested in is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Only programs accredited by ACOTE enable you to sit for the NBCOT exam after graduating. All 50 states require occupational therapists and assistants to pass this exam in order to begin their careers as licensed OTs or OTAs.

Use our lists of occupational therapy schools and occupational therapy assistant schools to find programs that offer more flexible schedules to help you reach your career goals.

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