College Grants for Students Going into Occupational Therapy

Get One Step Closer to Your Degree

Occupational therapists are often confused with physical therapists, and while there are similarities between the two professions, there are also some significant differences. While physical therapists work closely with patients to help them recover from an injury or illness, occupational therapists concentrate on rehabilitation techniques that prepare their patients to live and work independently. Occupational therapists work closely with individuals who have lost their independence due to physical, emotional or developmental disabilities.

Choosing occupational therapy as a career path requires a high level of dedication, and an extensive education. Occupational therapists typically need a master’s, or other advanced degree, in order to be licensed to practice. They also need an educational background that encompasses biology, sociology, psychology and anatomy. Becoming an occupational therapist takes years of training, and the necessary education is expensive. For many students interested in pursuing occupational therapy as a career, grants and scholarships provide the valuable funding they need to complete their college education. The secret is knowing where to look for them.

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Federal Grants for OT Students

Federal financial aid should be every student’s first stop on the road to college funding, and students pursuing occupational therapy as a profession are no different. While the Federal government doesn’t offer specific grants for occupational therapy majors, they do provide a number of grants that are applicable to all students, and that help to lay a firm foundation for a successful college financial plan. The Federal government also offers a few scholarship and loan forgiveness programs that target the critical shortage of qualified healthcare professionals currently facing the country.

The following Federally administered financial aid programs will be of interest to students pursuing a degree in Occupational Therapy.

  • The Federal Pell Grant provides financial assistance to both undergraduate and graduate students regardless of their major. While the Pell grant will offer little support to occupational therapy majors in the later stages of their education, it can provide much needed funds for students at the beginning of their college careers. The maximum annual award amount of the Federal Pell grant is $5500, and eligibility is determined by financial need.
  • The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant offers additional funding to those students who can demonstrate an extreme degree of financial need. While the program is funded by the government, it is administered directly through the participating colleges and universities. Award amounts range from $100 to $4000, depending on financial need. FSEOG funds are limited, and are awarded on a first come, first served, basis. Students are encouraged to apply for the FSEOG as early as possible
  • The Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students is administered by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program awards college funding to students with extreme financial need, and from disadvantaged backgrounds. To be eligible, applicants must be pursuing a career in the healthcare industry, including Occupational Therapy. Award amounts vary, and are determined by financial need and total cost of tuition.
  • The National Institutes of Health sponsor a wide variety of research grants and fellowships for students in the final stages of their Master’s degree program. These Federally funded programs target many critical need healthcare professions, including Occupational Therapy. The grants and fellowships sponsored by the National Institutes of Health are highly competitive, and students will need to demonstrate the requisite level of academic achievement in order to be eligible for consideration.

Colleges and University Grants for OTs

Universities with large colleges of medicine often offer substantial grants and scholarship programs for their attending students. These programs are typically determined more by merit than financial need, though need may be a partial consideration. In many instances, these financial aid programs will target Master’s degree students, and may come in the form of research grants or fellowships. Students should contact their college’s office of financial aid, and their department heads, for information on grants and scholarships that may be available to qualified Occupational Therapy majors.

The following examples should illustrate the types of financial aid programs administered at the college level.

  • The University of Washington Department of Rehabilitation Medicine sponsors a variety of grants and fellowships for students enrolled in their Occupational Therapy programs. Special attention is given to minority students, and students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • The University of Wisconsin La Crosse is home to one of the most successful Occupational Therapy programs in the country. The university administers a wide range of scholarships and grants for Occupational Therapy majors, including the UW-L Alumni Scholarship, the Lillian Neale Campbell Scholarship, as well as grants from the Wisconsin Paralyzed Veterans of America and the American Occupational Therapy Foundation. Award amounts vary, and are determined by academic merit and financial need.
  • Suny Downstate Medical Center has an impressive Occupational Therapy department. As a teaching college, Suny’s students have access to the advice and support of working professionals, as well as to state of the art technology. Suny administers a selection of grants and scholarships for Occupational Therapy majors , including grants from Atlantic Health and the Black Caucus Spouses. The majority of Suny’s grants and scholarships target graduate and doctoral students completing their professional degrees.

Grants from Professional Organizations

Many national and regional Occupational Therapy Associations offer financial aid for student members who are working toward their professional certification. These organizations actively work to improve the career opportunities of Occupational Therapists, and to provide education and support for their members. Students pursuing a career as Occupational Therapists may find additional college funding through one or more of these professional organizations.

The following are examples of professional associations that provide financial assistance to Occupational Therapy majors working toward their professional degrees.

  • The American Occupational Therapy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting “research, education and public awareness” for Occupational Therapy. Working in conjunction with private donors, and with state governments, the AOTF administers a variety of grants, scholarships and fellowships for doctoral level Occupational Therapy majors.
  • The Missouri Occupational Therapy Association is a professional advocacy group working to increase the availability of certified Occupational Therapists in the state of Missouri. The MOTA administers a number of grant awards and scholarships for Occupational Therapy majors attending university within the state.
  • The Florida Occupational Therapy Association works within the Sunshine state to advance the profession, and to encourage and support the expansion of the field. The FOTA administers the Myra McDaniel Student Leadership Fund, which provides $500 grants to eligible students to help pay for their examination and licensing fees.

Occupational Therapy continues to be a growing profession that offers a wealth of career opportunities for the highly motivated student. Occupational Therapists may work with specific populations, such as children or the elderly. Many Occupational Therapists specialize, and dedicate themselves to working with the blind and the deaf, the mentally handicapped, or the emotionally impaired. It is a noble profession that provides comfort and support for people from all walks of life, and in a variety of challenging circumstances.


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