KALAMAZOO, Mich.—In fall 2021, the Department of Occupational Therapy (OT) was awarded candidacy for a new occupational therapy assistant bachelor's degree program. In spring 2022, WMU welcomed its first cohort of new Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy students. This exciting new undergraduate program prepares students to sit for the national exam to become certified occupational therapy assistants (OTA).
“OTAs are well-paid and according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the profession has a bright outlook and is expected to grow rapidly,” says Dr. Steven Eberth, coordinator of the new program. “Our new bachelor’s degree will help students fill this need in the field.”
Many community colleges offer associate degrees that prepare students to sit for the exam, but Western’s program offers benefits community colleges cannot.
“Our OTA students complete a baccalaureate project before graduation,” says Eberth. “That allows them to do a ‘deep dive’ into a subject area, giving them insight and expertise in practical areas of the occupational therapy field. It’s something employers will notice when they’re hiring their next OTA.”
OT undergraduate students will engage in mentoring relationships with Western's OT doctoral students to build working partnerships through clinic fieldwork experiences that mirror real-world situations with OTs and OT assistants.
The past few years have marked great change for the Department of Occupational Therapy at Western. First, after a years-long process, the department launched its Doctor of Occupational Therapy program in the summer of 2020. This new program, now into its second cohort, replaced the long-standing and highly-regarded OT master’s degree.
"I'm very excited about the hands-on learning with the undergrad program," says Eberth. "Of course, I enjoy the doctorate-level classes, too, but I am looking forward to getting back to the fundamental, hands-on work with the new students."
Eberth led an orientation session for new OT students during the first week of the spring semester.