Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who is eligible for admission to this program?
  2. What are the benefits of obtaining a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy?
  3. How does the quality of a distance program compare to a campus-based program?
  4. What about the sustainability of this program?
  5. How large is each class and who are the students who choose this program?
  6. Can I specialize my studies to fit my practice area?
  7. How many years experience as an OT should I have before applying to the program?
  8. Do I need to take the GRE's for acceptance into the program?
  9. What is the admissions process?
  10. Do you accept transfer credits from other institutions?
  11. How much is the tuition for California residents, out of state, or international students?
  12. Are there any additional costs?
  13. Are students in this program eligible for financial aid?
  14. Do I have to attend an orientation in San José?
  15. Are there additional meetings in San José?
  16. What is it like to take courses on-line?
  17. Are there "live" discussions that require students to be on-line at a certain time?
  18. Are there any tests given in the classes? What are the assignments like?
  19. How much work/time can I expect to devote to the program?
  20. Do students have access to each other and to the teachers outside of the "virtual" classroom?
  21. What kind of support can I expect once I am in the program?
  22. What if I want to pursue a doctoral degree?
  23. How can I make my application successful?
  24. How can I get more information?

Who is eligible for admission to this program?

The online Master's Program is a post-professional degree that is only open to practicing occupational therapists (OT). In the United States, this means that the OT is registered (OTR) and has the necessary state licensure to practice. International students must have obtained a four year baccalaureate degree (or the equivalent) from an accredited occupational therapy program; be qualified to practice occupational therapy in their home country; and have passed one of the three accepted tests of English language proficiency if you attended a school in a country in which English is not the primary language. Please see the following website on GAPE for more information regarding the English language proficiency tests accepted by SJSU. In addition, we prefer that you have at least two years of clinical practice experience.

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What are the benefits of obtaining a Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy?

All newly qualified occupational therapists in the United States are required to have a Master's degree for entry level practice. Those with previously obtained baccalaureate degrees will be allowed to continue practicing but may be at a disadvantage for job hiring and promotions. More important however, is that a post-professional Master's degree provides the therapist with the state of the art knowledge necessary to address the complex professional and clinical issues we face today. A Master's degree may or may not mean a pay raise or job promotion, however data collected from our graduating classes indicate that our graduates do benefit, financially and professionally, through promotions, obtaining grants, and creating new programs and positions.

The purpose of a post-professional degree in occupational therapy is to enrich and enhance one's understanding of the profession and develop leadership skills in clinical practice, management, and education. This is a different focus from the entry level degree, which prepares clinicians for entry-level practice. Our students consistently express their newfound appreciation of their chosen field and marvel at how much they still had to learn!

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How does the quality of an online program compare to a campus-based program?

Potential applicants are wise to carefully research the qualifications of those offering online education courses. The post-professional online Master's degree program at SJSU was designed and is administered by faculty with extensive background in educational pedagogy as well as in occupational therapy. See more information about our faculty. SJSU has a national and international reputation for its outstanding faculty and well as turning out graduates who have become leaders as clinicians, supervisors, managers, researchers, authors, and teachers. The SJSU degree is fully accredited and there is no distinction made on the diploma about campus based vs. online. Our program was the first online Master's degree program in occupational therapy in the United States. We admitted the first class in 1999, and have engaged in continuous curriculum development to optimize the educational benefits of online instruction.

Our outcome data show that not only is the online format comparable to campus based programs, in some ways it may be of superior quality. Students and faculty alike report that the interaction level, depth of understanding and discussion, and even the ability to get to know everyone in the class are greater than what was experienced in traditional programs.

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What about the sustainability of this program?

The SJSU Department of Occupational Therapy is committed to supporting this program as long as the need exists. Our success with on-line delivery of classes has led the department to explore offering continuing education through this method. In addition, this Master's program has now been articulated with the PhD in Human Science at Saybrook Graduate School. This arrangement allows the SJSU distance program graduates to transfer all 30 credits from their Master's degree into the PhD program at Saybrook, a fully accredited distance program with a similar educational pedagogy and course offerings well suited to occupational therapists. (For further information about Saybrook Graduate SchoolExternal Link that Will Take User Outside SJSU Domain, please visit their website).

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How large is each class and who are the students who choose this program?

We take in a yearly class of 18-20 people called a “cohort”. Our students come from all over the United States as well as other countries. Student motivations for obtaining a post-professional degree vary. Some want to learn more about research; others want a way to advance their careers, particularly in teaching and management. A common theme found in the program applications is that post-professional occupational therapy students are looking for ways to re-focus and rejuvenate their careers.

Our outcome data reflect that the students achieve that goal and generally get much more from the education than they initially expected. See the students page for more information about our students.

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Can I specialize my studies to fit my practice area?

Our philosophy is that it is essential that occupational therapists can identify and articulate our generalist background. However, having said that, it is also true that individual students can and do explore their unique clinical passions. For example, there are assignments on assessment and evidence based practice that students individually design to meet their own needs. The students' capstone Master's projects also reflect their unique clinical interests. Much of the coursework requires that students reflect on their current practice to address a wide variety of practice issues. Our students consistently comment that their different geographical, cultural and professional backgrounds allow them learn an enormous amount from each other. See specific information about the curriculum.

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How many years experience as an OT should I have before applying to the program?

Preference is given to applicants with at least two years clinical experience. However, exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis for otherwise qualified applicants. As this program is designed for the adult learner, we recognize that everyone will enter the program with different levels of comfort and expertise in various skills. For example, the more recent graduates are typically more familiar with recent theories, technology and academic writing. The therapist who has been in practice for extended length of time brings a wealth of experience but may be “rusty” in study skills.

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Do I need to take the GRE's for acceptance into the program?

We do not require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or any other standardized admissions examination. We are interested in working with a diverse group of occupational therapists who have leadership potential.

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What is the admissions process?

The links for the various procedures and forms for admission are available on the OT online website. There are two separate applications. The university application is completed online and costs $55, payable by credit card at the time of submission. The university requires official transcripts for all undergraduate institutions attended. Official transcript must be sent directly to Graduate Admissions & Program Evaluations, see the address at The second application is sent directly to the Department of Occupational Therapy. The department requests copies of all transcripts but it is not necessary to send us official transcripts. The department also requires three letters of recommendation, a resume or summary of professional achievements, and a statement of purpose. See information on requirements. There is no cost for the departmental application.

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Do you accept transfer credits from other institutions?

It is possible to transfer up to 6 credits of previously completed graduate coursework; however, this is a rare occurrence. The courses are designed to support each other and the students go through the program sequentially in a cohort (together). In order for a course to be acceptable for transfer, the student would have to demonstrate that equivalent content was covered. This is determined through petition on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us directly if you have questions about transfer credits.

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How much is the tuition for California residents, out of state, or international students?

All of our students in the post-professional distance program pay the same rate. The program is self-supporting and therefore does not take any money from the California General Fund. This is arranged by design, as we wanted to have a truly global program. The tuition for 2013-2014 is currently set at $650.00 per unit. The entire program is 30 units, for a total tuition cost of $19,500.00. Please contact the department to verify, as price is subject to change.

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Are there any additional costs?

The yearly on-campus retreats cost approximately $350 for the program, with most meals included. Students  book their own hotels, and are also responsible for paying their travel expenses to San José. There are several hotels within walking distance of campus. There is no additional fee for the technology but it is expected that you have an up to date computer and high-speed access to the Internet. The other expense is books. The first semester may cost as much as $300, but we use several of these books throughout the program. We also heavily use electronic resources, which are available to you free as a SJSU student.

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Are students in this program eligible for financial aid?

Students are eligible for government and private student loans. However, for students who are working professionals, need based scholarships are often difficult to obtain. In our effort to keep fees as low as possible, the program operates at cost and is therefore generally not able to offer scholarships. We do have a small need based scholarship available. The advisor routinely provides resource information for other scholarships. Visit the SJSU website for more information about financial aid.

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Do I have to attend an orientation in San José?

Although the coursework in this program is designed to be delivered entirely online, research has shown that successful online programs have some element of face-to-face contact. Our yearly program retreats provide the opportunity for this contact, as well as for learning experiences that are best presented in person. All students must attend the 2 1/2 day Orientation Retreat prior to beginning the program. This retreat is held in mid-August, prior to the beginning of fall semester classes. Students receive orientation to the online program, the web-based teaching platform, and the library services. They meet their classmates, course instructors, and advisor. In addition, incoming students participate in workshops and social events with returning students. See specific retreat dates.

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Are there additional meetings in San José?

There are two additional retreats that are part of the program. The retreat between the first and second year of study is designed for the student to learn about the second year courses and prepare for the Master's project component of the program. It is also an opportunity to reconnect with classmates and greet the incoming class. The final retreat occurs in May of the second year of the program. Students may present their Master's project in a poster session and participate in University commencement and departmental convocation ceremonies. Students are given the specific dates well in advance in order to facilitate travel planning. See Link for more information about the onsite retreats.

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What is it like to take courses on-line?

It is much easier than one might think, even with minimal computer skills. The general rule is that if you can handle e-mail you can handle the virtual classroom. Keep in mind that all students receive training in the technology during the orientation. We also have technical support services available through e-mail that will help you with any computer problems.

Each instructor arranges her course somewhat differently but in general you can expect study notes to be posted in unit increments (between 4 and 8 units throughout a semester, depending on the class) that provide content material, links to additional electronic sources, and instructions for assignments. A cornerstone of the learning experience is the posted discussion questions. Each student responds to questions posed by the instructor and dialogues with other students about their responses. Contrary to the perception that online education is isolating, these discussions foster a dynamic, interactive learning community.

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Are there "live" discussions that require students to be on-line at a certain time?

No. We use what is known as an "asynchronous model (not in real time - like e-mail) rather than a synchronous model (real time, as in chat rooms). The asynchronous model allows for much greater flexibility and accommodation for individual learning and life styles.

In order to make sure that all the necessary content is delivered there are class schedules. Typically students have at least one week to answer any posted question and are provided with a calendar with due dates of assignments.

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Are there any tests given in the classes? What are the assignments like?

We do not use tests in any of our post-professional graduate classes. Assignments consist of papers and projects that are often carried out in the worksite. Depending on the professor's instructions, assignments may be posted on-line for the whole class to see or submitted electronically solely to the instructor. Students can expect to receive individual feedback from the instructor regarding both their participation in the class discussions and on the quality of assignments.

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How much work/time can I expect to devote to the program?

Everyone's learning style and skills are different so the amount of time needed for this program is highly variable. A very general rule of thumb is to expect to spend at 2-3 hours per credit per week on schoolwork. (about 15-18 hours per week). One of the benefits of distance education is the built in flexibility, where students are able to plan their study time to accommodate their busy personal as well as professional lives. In other words, students may not be able to put in that time every week but can plan ahead to complete assignments.

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Do students have access to each other and to the teachers outside of the "virtual" classroom?

We use the technology to not only deliver course material but to provide formal and informal access to each other and to the faculty. Each cohort has their own virtual “café” where students share a whole range of ideas, only some of which have anything to do with the classes. We also have a virtual "town square", where all cohorts of distance students and faculty can converse. An e-mail program and chat rooms are part of the web-based classroom so students and faculty may easily contact individuals as well as the group.

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What kind of support can I expect once I am in the program?

You are entitled to the services of the university, including the financial aid office, the library, the writing center, and the department of International and Extended Studies, which provides technical support. As a comprehensive university with a history of continuing and distance education, SJSU has a myriad of electronic services including an integrated web based platform and electronic library services and databases. In addition to the support of the instructors and the other students, each cohort is provided with an advisor to assist in all aspects of student life.

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What if I want to pursue a doctoral degree?

Obtaining a Master's degree is the first step to doctoral study. Graduates of the online Master's program are well prepared for success in competitive doctoral programs; a number of our graduates are currently pursuing doctoral study. In addition, this Master's program has been articulated with the PhD in Human Science at Saybrook Graduate School. This arrangement allows the SJSU online Master's program graduates to transfer all 30 credits from their Master's degree into the PhD program at Saybrook, a fully accredited distance program with a similar educational pedagogy and course offerings well suited to occupational therapists. For further information, please visit Saybrook Graduate School.

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How can I make my application successful?

  • Start early! We have a rolling admission system, which means we accept qualified people as they complete their application. Therefore it is in the applicant's best interest to begin the process as soon as possible. The application period opens on October 1 for the following fall and we accept students until the class is full (usually late spring). Applications cannot be accepted after May 13. The deadline to have all of your documents in to the university is May 20.
  • Read instructions carefully. Remember that the admissions process requires both a university and departmental application. Ask your undergraduate school to mail official transcripts to the Graduate Admissions and program Evaluation office. This is especially important for applicants who studied outside of the United States as these documents often take a long time to receive.
  • Communicate with the OT department. We can help you with the process if we know the status of your application. At any time, you can contact the program coordinator, Deborah Bolding, with questions or concerns. It is also helpful to stay in touch with the program assistant Yvonne Soria-Ramirez to let her know when documents will be arriving.
  • Ask for appropriate letters of reference using the Letter of Recommendation form provided on this website. In general, the references should be able to attest to both your clinical skills and your potential for scholarship.
  • Thoughtfully complete the personal statement. Although we do ask for an updated resume as part of the admissions process, keep in mind that we are more interested in your potential than your achievements. It is not necessary to have published, conducted research, or taught. If you don't have these skills yet, you will have them by the end of the program!

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How can I get more information?

This website contains detailed information about all aspects of the online Master's program. Please take some time to peruse it! The program coordinator, Deborah Bolding , is also happy to answer any questions you may have. But probably the best way to find out if this program is for you is to talk with students who are currently enrolled. Upon request, you can receive the email addresses of students who work in your area of practice or geographic region. Our students love to talk about the program!

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