If you are interested in solving problems that interfere with a person’s ability to carry out everyday activities, then occupational therapy might be the career for you. Occupational therapists work in a variety of health care settings often as a member of a multidisciplinary team.
The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree program offers excellent preparation for students interested in a career in occupational therapy. The courses offered provide students with differing perspectives across the spectrum of health sciences concentrations, and our graduates are well-prepared to apply for admission to Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy programs both inside Canada and internationally (check out Queen’s MSc(OT) program). The information below provides an overview of the admission process to occupational therapy programs in Canada, and students are encouraged to do their own research into the specific occupational therapy programs in which they are interested.
Some of the following courses are common prerequisites for occupational therapy programs:
- Principles of Psychology (PSYC 100)
- Introduction to Statistics (BIOL 243/STAM 200)
- Anatomy of the Human Body/ Human Anatomy and Morphology (ANAT 100 / ANAT 270)
- Principles of Mammalian Physiology I (PHGY 215)
- Principles of Mammalian Physiology II (PHGY 216)
Some schools require a “social science” course, and there are many options at Queen’s. Some common ones are sociology (SOCY 122) and human geography (GPHY 101). Please visit Queen’s Arts and Science Online for more information about these courses.
Before the Application
Do What You Love
If you do, you’ll tend to thrive! Choose a university program that interests you since you will usually attain better marks learning something that fascinates you. Be aware that you do not have to be enrolled in a health sciences program in order to apply to occupational therapy programs. Some (but not all) schools require specific prerequisite courses, however, they can be completed in conjunction with any degree program.
Research The Profession
What is occupational therapy? What do occupational therapists do? Visit the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists to learn about this profession.
Consider shadowing or conducting information interviews with occupational therapists and occupational therapy students. Know the realities of the day‐to‐day work and how it fits with what you know about yourself. Be realistic and informed by exploring other career options in addition to the role of the occupational therapist.
Meet The Prerequisites
Know what courses are required and obtain them at any time before you apply. To enable you to apply to many universities, you may want to consider taking the desired prerequisites for a variety of schools. Each occupational therapy program has slightly different prerequisites (some do not have any) so always check the specific schools to ensure that these general suggestions will allow you to meet the most up‐to‐date admission requirements.
Aim High Academically
Be sure to keep the doors open. The reality of professional program applications today is that undergraduate grades (even if you have continued your education beyond undergrad) are a very important part of the process.
Become active in your community and with activities that mean something to you. The ability to balance academics with employment, volunteer work, sports, community and extra‐curricular interests is a trait that application committees are looking for in prospective occupational therapy students. Some schools require a minimum number of hours of volunteer work related to occupational therapy (e.g. working with people with disabilities), so be sure to check whether the program for which you are applying has volunteering requirements.
Application Basics and Deadlines
To apply to an MSc(OT) program in Ontario, you must complete your application through The Ontario Rehabilitation Sciences Programs Application Service. The deadline is typically in early January for fall entry of that same year. Schools outside of Ontario each have their own dates and deadlines, as do those outside of Canada.
Whether you are applying through a central application service like ORPAS or directly to the school, you will need to arrange for transcripts. All the transcripts from high school and any post‐secondary programs you have attended have to be sent directly from those institutions to the schools to which you are applying. There is generally a fee associated with this so, factor that into your application budget. If required, contact your current and former educational institutions early to avoid last‐minute problems at deadline time.
Many schools will ask for an itemized list (with descriptions) of activities. This can include employment, volunteer work, education, awards and accomplishments, extra-curricular, research and other activities. You may also be asked to include the name and contact information of a person who can verify the activity. Be sure to use current contact information for the verifier so that the schools can easily connect with them, if needed.
Personal Submissions/Supplementary Materials
Some schools will ask applicants to submit answers or essays to general or specific questions about their goals, experiences and fit with the program. If you’re applying to Ontario schools, all of these requirements will be found within the ORPAS online application. This part of the application can be an extremely time‐consuming part of the application process so it is wise to start early and have others read your writing along the way. Flawless grammar and spelling are essential. Pondering the personal statements portion of the application sometimes highlights for students that they may be having difficulty articulating their specific reasons for choosing a career as an occupational therapist and defining what makes them different from other well‐qualified candidates. Tell succinct but vivid stories that enable the reader to get to know you and to see your potential as an occupational therapist.
Some schools will require that you provide written recommendations. In Ontario, referees are asked to complete a Confidential Assessment Form (which you download from the ORPAS online application). If you are given the option of who to choose, choose referees carefully. It is important to distinguish between “I am willing to write you a reference”, and “I am willing to write you a positive recommendation”. Try to solicit references from people who know you in different contexts (as opposed to 3 teachers, for example) and who will write about specific and positive qualities you possess. Choose people who know you well. Set up an appointment to discuss your goals, your recent activities and to help them remember specific incidences in which your best qualities stood out. Thank them in writing afterwards and let them know your progress.
After succeeding at the initial application stage, you may be invited to attend an interview at the school. You will perform much better if you are well prepared, so be sure to practice!
Because of the competitive nature of MSc(OT) programs in Canada, some applicants consider attending a program internationally. There are many factors to consider when making this decision including increased tuition and living expenses, and the challenges of living in another country.
The process of applying to and paying for a professional program can quickly become onerous. ORPAS application service fees are $190, plus an institutional fee of $90 for each university selection, as of this writing. There are also costs for transcripts ($12) and travel expenses for interviews.
Occupational therapy programs vary in tuition rate. Check each school’s website for up to date information. Some schools offer bursaries specifically for occupational therapy students. Be sure to contact Student Awards at the university to which you are applying to find out about these opportunities.
Occupational Therapy Programs in Canada
Check with each university to ensure that you have the most accurate and up‐to‐date admissions criteria. If you are applying to another province, ask about the number of spots available to out‐of‐province students, then build that knowledge into your application strategy.
- Queen’s University
- University of British Columbia
- University of Alberta
- University of Manitoba
- University of Toronto
- Western University
- McMaster University
- University of Ottawa
- University of Montreal
- McGill University
- Université Laval
- Université de Sherbrooke
- Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
- Dalhousie University
For help with strategies for this and other career goals, visit Career Services, which is free to all currently-registered Queen’s students: careers.queensu.ca