The University of Missouri Board of Curators has approved the Bachelor of Health Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant (BHS-OTA) degree program in the Department of Occupational Therapy, making it the first such program at a public institution in Missouri, and one of only a few in the nation.

Demand for highly-trained OTAs and increasing accreditation requirements prompted the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) to vote in support of entry-level education for OTAs at the bachelor’s level, in addition to the traditional associate’s degree, earlier this year. This provides an additional degree option for students who wish to complete an undergraduate degree that supports immediate employment in a high-demand field with above-average entry-level pay.

The BHS-OTA is an important component in the academic pipeline for occupational therapy, creating a strong link and opportunity for collaboration with community colleges. Having both the entry level degree and terminal degree options at MU gives students the opportunity to complete an undergraduate degree and then, while working as a licensed OTA, pursue an occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) if they wish to continue on to advanced practice, or pursue a PhD in health and rehabilitation science to advance their career opportunities.

Occupational Therapy Department Chair Tim Wolf said the addition of this program at Mizzou creates opportunities for more students to access occupational therapy education. “The BHS-OTA program opens the door for affordable, high-quality, evidence-based OT education with an entry-level degree that leads to immediate professional health care employment or further education in OT,” Wolf said. “Mizzou OT is providing as many options as possible for students to become part of the health care work force and improve the independence and quality of life of Missourians.”

The new BHS-OTA was approved by the UM Curators and is pending formal approval from the state. The program’s implementation timeline also awaits approval from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). Application information will be published on the MU Department of Occupational Therapy web site as soon as it is available.

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