2020 Scholarships for Occupational Therapy Students

A career in occupational therapy (OT) provides the opportunity to work with people of all ages and improve their quality of life. Occupational therapists help people across the lifespan to participate in the pursuits of their daily lives through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

An occupational therapy doctorate offers an opportunity for growth and leadership in the field. Still, students may hesitate to pursue it due to financial concerns. Fortunately, prospective occupational therapy students can explore scholarships and grants. For ways to mitigate education costs, see the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) scholarships below.

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What is the Average Tuition for an Occupational Therapy Doctorate?

Most occupational therapy students begin with a bachelor’s degree in OT or a related field. When asking yourself whether an OT doctorate is worth it, keep in mind that the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) requires that by July 1, 2027, all incoming students must pursue an OT doctorate to obtain an occupational therapy license.

The cost of an occupational therapy doctorate varies by school and state. Below, we’ll explore some typical tuition prices at accredited universities.

All 50 states require that occupational therapists are licensed. To obtain this license, OT students must pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam. Before you can sit for the exam, you must graduate from an accredited institution. So make sure you enroll in an accredited occupational therapy program as you pursue your degree.

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education provides a list of accredited universities with OTD programs.

The annual cost of tuition at these universities is usually $35,000 to $50,000.

Typical OTD programs take just under three years to complete. Here’s what total tuition comes out to when calculating based on averages from accredited universities.

$35,000 x 3 years (8 trimesters) = $105,000
$50,000 x 3 years (8 trimesters) = $150,000

These prices reflect full-time, in-person courses. But many universities also offer Doctorate of Occupational Therapy online programs.

Fortunately, you may not have to shoulder high tuition costs on your own. Keep reading for a rundown of some grants available to Doctorate of Occupational Therapy students.

Grants for Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Students

Various providers offer grants to aspiring occupational therapists. These financial awards typically aid OT students who are involved in research projects. In some cases, grants can be used for tuition as well.

Here are some places that offer grants to occupational therapy students:

American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF)

The mission of the American Occupational Therapy Foundation is “to advance the science of occupational therapy to support people’s full participation in meaningful life activities.” The foundation accomplishes this in many ways, from releasing publications to assisting those in the field. One of the ways they assist OTs is through research grants. The grants often have a very specific area of study laid out for researchers. New grants are released regularly.

Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development

Missouri residents can apply for grants offered by the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development. Eligibility requirements differ among grants. However, all applicants must submit a FAFSA. The department also offers scholarships to aid in postsecondary education.

Grants.gov

The Grants.gov database is filled with legitimate sources of funding. With specific filters, you can comb through grants and find ones that you meet your criteria. Consider using this website to expand your grant options.

Guide to Occupational Therapy Scholarships for Doctoral Students

If you find the high price of OTD programs daunting, there is good news. Many universities offer financial aid. Additionally, OT students have access to occupational therapy scholarships from multiple foundations and organizations.

American Occupational Therapy Foundation (AOTF) Scholarships

Dr. Gary Kielhofner Doctoral Research Scholarship

This award is open to OT students enrolled in a doctoral research program. The purpose of the scholarship is to aid a doctoral student in his or her research. One recipient is selected each year to receive the $5,000 award. See more details about the Dr. Gary Kielhofner Doctoral Research Scholarship.

Charles Christiansen and Beth Jones Scholarship

Any OTD student can apply for this $2,000 scholarship. However, those with diverse ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be selected. Applicants are required to submit two letters of recommendation.

Lela Llorens Endowed Scholarship

This scholarship is open to OTD students who have practiced excellent leadership in the Student Occupational Therapy Association on their campus and as a member of the Black Occupational Therapy Association and/or Caucus are eligible.

The Florence Wood Scholarship

This $500 American Occupational Therapy Foundation scholarship is open to OT students in Arkansas.

Robert and Sharon Ryan Endowed Scholarship

Full-time OTD students are welcome to apply for this scholarship, with preference for “underrepresented minority students.” The award amount is not specified. As with all AOTF scholarships, applicants must have finished at least one year of OT coursework.

Visit the AOTF Scholarship Program page and the AOTF How to Apply page for more information.

More Doctorate of Occupational Therapy Scholarships

Scholarship Program for Therapists — AMBUCS

AMBUCS is a nonprofit that aims to inspire “people to conquer challenges related to mobility and independence.” The foundation offers multiple scholarships for students in doctorate degree programs related to therapy. Scholarships range from $500 to $3,000. Applicants do not need to be affiliated with AMBUCS.

See more details about the AMBUCS Scholarship Program for Therapists.

Scholarship for Physical and Occupational Therapy Students — HIE Help Center

Students planning a career in occupational therapy can apply for this $1,000 scholarship. This award is open to OT students who are not yet enrolled in a degree program. Applicants must submit an essay.

See more details about the HIE Help Center Scholarship for Physical and Occupational Therapy Students.

Katherine H. Dilley Scholarship Fund — ASDAR

ASDAR, an Arizona organization with chapters across the state, offers this $1,000 scholarship to occupational therapy students at accredited Arizona universities. Along with an essay discussing plans, applicants must submit two letters of recommendation.

See more details about the ASDAR Katherine H. Dilley Scholarship Fund.

Becky Burrows Memorial Scholarship — Pilot International

Pilot International’s mission is to support those who care for others. The $1,000 Becky Burrows scholarship is open to graduate students who are re-entering the job market, beginning second careers or “seeking to improve their professional skills for their current occupation by continuing their education in that field.”

See more details about Pilot International scholarships.

Ruby Newhall Memorial Scholarship — Pilot International

For international students seeking financial assistance, this award offers up to $1,500. The applicant's “field of study must be of a nature that it improves the quality of life for the community in their home country.” This is open to master’s and doctoral students.

See more details about Pilot International scholarships.

Marie Newton Sepia Memorial Scholarship — Pilot International

If you are interested in working with children post-doctorate, consider applying for this award. Applicants must be pursuing “careers related to youth development and leadership, brain safety and fitness or caring for families in times of need.” This scholarship offers up to $1,000 in tuition assistance.

See more details about Pilot International scholarships.

Physical/Occupational Therapist Scholarship — Lamber-Goodnow Law

If you are enrolled in an occupational therapy program, consider applying for this $1,000 scholarship. Applicants must submit a short essay about why they are pursuing a career as an occupational therapist, and no letters of recommendation are required.

See more details about the Lamber-Goodnow Law Physical/Occupational Therapist Scholarship.

Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students — Health Resources and Services Administration

Universities across the country partner with the HRSA to offer funds to disadvantaged students. To see if you meet the disadvantaged student criteria, visit the HRSA website (PDF, 144 KB). The award amount varies depending on student needs and funds available.

See more details about the HRSA Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students.

Organizations like the ones above strive to make the path to a doctoral degree more accessible. Be sure to also explore scholarships unique to your university.

Stay Informed of the Latest OT Scholarship Resources

Becoming an occupational therapist is by no means easy. Nevertheless, the OT field is growing rapidly, with challenging and exciting opportunities for occupational therapy students. High median salaries provide another draw to the field.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Job Outlook page reports that occupational therapists earn an average of $84,270 per year and that employment in the field is expected to grow by 18% from 2018-2028. An increase in job prospects means more opportunities for qualified occupational therapists. However, there are a number of educational requirements on the path to becoming a licensed occupational therapist.

No matter what brings you to the field of occupational therapy, obtaining scholarships after getting into OT school can help relieve some of the financial strain. Take advantage of these resources on your path to an occupational therapy doctoral degree. Once you are in a doctoral program, continue applying for grants and scholarships to increase your chances of receiving funds throughout the program.

Last updated: May 2020