The occupational therapy program resides in the Department of Kinesiology and offers two graduate professional programs, an entry-level master of science (MS–OT) and a post-professional doctor of occupational therapy (OTD). Occupational therapists interested in pursuing a Ph.D. may also apply to the occupational science track of the Ph.D. in Kinesiology. The purpose of the graduate program is to prepare clinicians, researchers, and teachers who possess a solid foundation in both the theoretical and applied aspects of the disciplines of occupational therapy and science.

The M.S. program is a two-year professional program designed to prepare students for practice. It is accredited by the Accreditation Council on Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). At the master's level, supervised fieldwork experiences with children and adults are provided in a variety of settings. This program meets the requirements for OTR certification set by the National Board for Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

The post-professional OTD program is a part-time, structured, predominantly online curriculum serving occupational therapist’s need for distance access and flexibility in acquiring advanced practice skills. The OTD program trains occupational therapists to become visionary leaders, engage in inter-professional education and practice, and facilitate research translation.

The Ph.D. program in kinesiology–occupational science track provides relevant classroom and laboratory experiences for the scholar–researcher interested in occupational science. The academic program consists of coursework within the Department of Kinesiology and in related areas such as psychology, statistics, population health, engineering, or education. Students completing the program will be prepared for careers as university professors and researchers. For further information about this degree, see Occupational Science on the department website.

A bridge program can be designed for students who wish to pursue entry-level professional training and further advanced graduate study at the OTD or Ph.D. level. Such students follow a modified sequence of coursework, fieldwork training, and research experience in order to satisfy all academic and certification requirements.

Course Information

Information about the MS-OT curriculum design, course sequence, and course descriptions can be found here.

Financial assistance, sometimes available to graduate students in occupational therapy, consists of scholarships, fellowships, and teaching, project or research assistant positions. Financial assistance is limited; opportunities vary by program and from year to year. Students enrolled in the OTD program are not permitted to accept teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, or other appointments that would result in a tuition waiver. Students who are considering applying for financial support should see the OT program M.S. or OTD webpages for further information.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master's Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

61 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

50% of degree course work (31 credits out of 61 total credits) must be completed in graduate level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Grad Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of graduate course work from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirement: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval and payment of the difference in tuition (between special and graduate tuition), students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of course work numbered 300 or above taken in UW–Madison University Special student status. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

The MS–OT has a prescribed curriculum of 61 credits, with potential for electives. See Curriculum on the OT website.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

Minimum 3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

The Graduate School requires students maintain a graduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for courses numbered 300 and above (excluding research) to receive a degree. Conditions for probationary status may require higher grades. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.

Probation Policy

The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School. See Probation on the Graduate School website.

Advisor / Committee

All students must have an assigned advisor to meet UW information management needs, and accordingly, and of its own volition, the department assigns an advisor to each student. Assigned advisors in the M. S. in Occupational Therapy (MS–OT) program are graduate research or clinical faculty. To ensure that students are making satisfactory progress toward a degree, the Graduate School expects them to meet with their advisor on a regular basis.

Assessment and Examinations

No formal examination specific to the MS is required. Curricular requirements (all didactic courses) must be passed, in conformity with GPA and grad requirements, above.

Time Constraints

Master's degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Level II fieldwork must be completed within 24 months of completion of coursework.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

Applicants for all graduate programs must complete a UW–Madison Graduate School application.

M.S. in Occupational Therapy (Professional)

Admission to the entry-level professional program in occupational therapy requires:

  • a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) from a regionally accredited school of higher education by the start of the program
  • transcripts from each college, university, or technical college attended showing work completed and in progress
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores
  • documentation of paid or volunteer experience in at least two different settings serving persons across the lifespan with physical, behavioral or mental health disabilities
  • direct observation of occupational therapists, or Certified Occupational Therapy Assistants, providing services is highly recommended
  • a minimum of three letters of recommendation
  • a personal statement responding to prompts provided on the graduate application page
  • at least a "C" or better in the following prerequisite courses or their equivalent:
One of the following:3
Development of the Young Child
Human Development in Infancy and Childhood
Child Development
HDFS 363 Development from Adolescence to Old Age 13
PSYCH 405 Abnormal Psychology3-4
ANATOMY/​KINES  328 Human Anatomy3
PHYSIOL 335 Physiology5
Applicants may complete 6–8 credits (two semesters) of combined anatomy and physiology (with lab) to fulfill both the anatomy and physiology prerequisites6-8

Applicants who complete a lifespan/human development course should complete a second course in child or adult development.

Knowledge and Skills

Foundational Knowledge

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the physical, psychological and contextual substrates of human occupation in typical and nontypical development.
  • Discuss the role of personal and environmental factors on involvement in daily activities and community participation.
  • Critically examine and apply theories associated with the science of human occupation and models of interprofessional practice to service delivery.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of one's own role and those of other professions to appropriately assess and address the needs of clients and populations served.

Scientific Inquiry and Theory Development

  • Articulate current problems facing the profession of occupational therapy in an interprofessional context with respect to theory, knowledge and practice.
  • Identify and critique current knowledge, theories and evidence to inform practice.
  • Demonstrate necessary skills for designing a scholarly proposal that includes a research question, relevant literature, samples, design, measurement and data analysis.
  • Participate in scholarly activities that evaluate professional practice, service delivery, and/or professional issues.

Practice Reasoning and Decision Making

  • Appropriately assess clients' participation in daily life acgtivities and employ an interprofessional approach to determining the clients' needs within the context of family and society.
  • Identify factors within the environment that influence participation in home and community life.
  • Plan for discharge in collaboration with the client and family and terminate occupational therapy when appropriate.

Professional Conduct

  • Articulate the values of the occupational therapy profession.
  • Work with individuals of other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values.
  • Describe the varied roles of the occupational therapist as practitioner, educator, researcher, and entrepreneur,
  • Establish appropriate therapeutic relationships with individuals, groups, organizations and systems,
  • Use effective interpersonal communication and demonstrate effective and culturally sensitive group communication.
  • Demonstrate use of safety precautions with the client during the process of practice.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of legal and ethical issues related to care in health, education, and community settings.

Faculty: Professors Benedict (OT Program Coordinator), Edwards; Associate Professor Larson; Assistant Professors Ausderau, Pickett, Travers. Additional instructors are listed here.