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Occupational Therapy (MS)
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  • About Occupational Therapy (MS)

    Welcome to the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy Program.  The Occupational Therapy program graduated its first class in 2000 with a Bachelor of Science degree.  We began offering a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy degree in the summer of 2005 graduating our first MS class in 2007.  The full-time program includes two years of coursework on campus (including two summers) followed by six months of level II fieldwork.  Students graduating from the program are eligible to sit for the national certification examination administered by the NBCOT.  After successful completion of the exam, the individual will be credentialed as an occupational therapist, registered (OTR).  Most states require a license to practice occupational therapy.  State licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination and additional open-booked testing on the state law.  A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to take the NBCOT certification exam or to obtain state licensure. Please feel free to explore our website in order to learn about the program, admissions, and the profession.  If you would like additional information please send us an email.


    The Occupational Therapy program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (
    AOTA), located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD  20814-3449.  ACOTE’s telephone number, c/o AOTA, is (301) 652-AOTA and its web address is

     In its simplest terms, occupational therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).  Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.  Occupational therapy services typically include: 

    • an individualized evaluation, during which the client/family and occupational therapist determine the person’s goals, 
    • customized intervention to improve the person’s ability to perform daily activities and reach the goals, and
    • an outcomes evaluation to ensure that the goals are being met and/or make changes to the intervention plan.

    Occupational therapy services may include comprehensive evaluations of the client’s home and other environments (e.g., workplace, school), recommendations for adaptive equipment and training in its use, and guidance and education for family members and caregivers.  Occupational therapy practitioners have a holistic perspective, in which the focus is on adapting the environment to fit the person, and the person is an integral part of the therapy team.

    Source:  AOTA

    Employment Outlook

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of Occupational Therapists is expected to grow 29% from 2012-2022, considerably faster than the national average for all occupations.  To learn more about the current employment outlook please visit – Bureauof Labor Statistics

     The mission of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy program is to graduate entry level occupational therapist leaders who are committed to providing excellent occupation centered, client-centered, evidence-based occupational therapy. There are five curricular threads that flow from this mission.  These threads form the basis of the curriculum design: foundational science, research skills, professional identity/leadership, clinical skills, and theory.


    Foundational Science

    Foundational science forms the basis of scientific reasoning.  Courses dealing with the structure and function of the human body and how it moves form the building blocks of understanding how occupational performance is affected by disease and developmental delays.  The rigorousness of these courses and the scientific reasoning used in them gives students a solid foundation to mindfully apply the occupational therapy process.  These foundational science courses occur in the first year of the curriculum, however students are asked to apply foundational science concepts in other coursework, including fieldwork, to explain the “science” behind treatment interventions, to justify evaluation and intervention choices, etc.   

    Research Skills

    Research skills are needed to approach everyday occupational therapy practice with scholarly rigor. Learning the skills and rigor of evidence-based practice (EBP) helps students develop professional reasoning (Coster, 2008).  An evidence-based practitioner has the tools to make ethical and effective evaluation and intervention choices.  The coursework in this thread includes content that helps student develop the skills needed to be an evidence-based occupational therapist.  It is important to note that EBP applications are woven into other courses, including fieldwork, to promote application of EBP concepts in different treatment contexts and with different populations.

    Professional Identity/Leadership

    Professional Identity/Leadership encompasses how students implement their skills and knowledge as a student and a therapist.  The coursework in this thread emphasizes collaborating in teams, assuming leadership roles, internalizing a strong professional identity, demonstrating ability to practice with minimal supervision, valuing life-long learning, and supporting/ promoting the profession of occupational therapy.  Therapeutic use of self, multicultural sensitivity and professional behaviors are strongly emphasized throughout the coursework and all fieldwork experiences.

    Clinical Skills

    Clinical skills include the knowledge and skills that occupational therapists use to make decisions at each step of the occupational therapy process. Courses in this tread include focus on occupational performance problems encountered by various populations in different practice settings (both current and emerging) as well as assessment and intervention options.


    Theory provides guides for understanding practice situations, considering assessment and intervention options, selecting the intervention, timing and method of delivery (Coster, 2008).  Occupational therapy theories are covered in the clinical skills thread in context with populations and practice settings.  The coursework in the theory thread requires higher level thinking.

    Academic Objectives

    University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy Program graduates will: 

    1. apply foundational science principles in their clinical reasoning throughout all steps of the occupational therapy process
      • Summarize structures, function, and pathological conditions that affect selected aspects of the body.
      • Explain selected aspects of client conditions and occupational therapy evaluation and intervention using foundational science concepts.
    1. function as entry level, generalist occupational therapists.
      • Communicate proficiently with clients, supervisors, co-workers, family members and significant others in verbal, non-verbal, and written formats.
      • Use client-centered, occupation-based approaches throughout the occupational therapy process.
      • Effectively evaluate client’s occupational performance.
      • Formulate intervention plans that facilitate the client’s occupational performance.
      • Implement intervention plans that are client-centered and occupation based
    1. incorporate theory into their occupational therapy practice
      • Justify the occupational therapy theory underlying evaluations and interventions used in practice.
      • Use theory as a basis for program planning for both individuals and populations.
    1. serve as leaders with effective professional behaviors
      • Adhere to ethical and legal regulations of practice.
      • Demonstrate effective professional behaviors.
      • Use culturally sensitive practices.
      • Serve in leadership roles and advocate for clients and the profession.
      • Embrace life-long learning for continued professional growth.
    1. use evidence appropriately to guide clinical practice
      • Use evidence to inform decisions.
      • Systematically record and analyze client outcomes in own practice.
      • Read current scholarly literature related to practice.       

    The program is 30 months long and includes 6 months of full-time Level II fieldwork.  Students must complete Level II fieldwork within 24 months of the completion of the didactic portion of the curriculum in order to graduate.  Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).  After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR).  In addition, most states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination.  A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

    Occupational Therapy educational programs are periodically reaccredited to maintain the quality of the program.  The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Occupational Therapy Program was last accredited in 2008 for seven years. 

    While in the program students complete three level 1 fieldwork experiences in the areas of mental illness, adult physical disabilities and pediatrics.  Fieldwork I placements may be in a variety of clinics, hospitals and community based settings.  Additionally, upon completion of the academic portion of the program, students complete two twelve week Fieldwork II experiences, one during the summer and one in fall.  Students must complete Level II fieldwork within 24 months of the completion of the didactic portion of the curriculum in order to graduate.   Students work closely with the Academic Fieldwork Coordinator to select the best placement settings for these experiences.  The program strives to find FW placements that will fit the student's learning style, provide a solid foundation for entry level therapy, and are sensitive the interests of the individual students. 

    In order for students to be better prepared for their Level II Fieldwork experiences, they participate in a "hands-on laboratory" during their final two semesters of coursework.  Under the supervision of licensed occupational therapists, students will experience "live client interaction" as they practice the occupational therapy process with community members (both adults and children) who have volunteered to be a part of the labs.  

    Please be aware that a felony charge may affect your ability to obtain fieldwork placements and/or sit for the board examination.

    We are pleased to report that the UW-L student pass rate on the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) is excellent.  The last three years of examination results are noted in the table provided below.  A comparison of NBCOT pass rates for occupational therapy programs around the country can be found at this link:


    Program Graduates

    First-time test takers

    First-time test takers who passed the exam

    Percentage of first-time test takers who passed the exam

    Total percent of students who passed the exam (includes retakes)