Essential Skills for Master of Occupational Therapy Students

Master of Occupational Therapy Student Essential Skills and Requirements

Occupational therapists are health care professionals with expertise in the evaluation and treatment of the skills that support meaningful and satisfying participation in the “occupations” of self-care, work, and play. The West Virginia University (WVU) Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) degree program is a rigorous 8 semester program dedicated to preparing entry-level occupational therapy generalists for practice across all age groups in common practice settings, such as hospitals, schools, clinics, skilled nursing facilities, and home health as well as in emerging or non-traditional areas of practice such as community-based settings, industrial rehabilitation programs, primary care, and research. The physical, cognitive, psychological, emotional, and professional demands of occupational therapy practice are reflected in student expectations in the WVU MOT program. Students must have the capacity to assess and analyze the occupational performance of clients, provide occupational based interventions, and effectively communicate with clients, families, members of the healthcare team, and other numerous other stakeholders in clinic settings, schools, and local community as well as across the state and nation. 

Essential skills and requirements reflect the necessary knowledge, clinical skills and abilities, and interpersonal competence necessary to graduate as an occupational therapy entry-level generalist. Students must be able to perform the following tasks (with or without reasonable accommodation) safely, reliably, and efficiently in accordance with legal and ethical standards throughout their entire occupational therapy education at WVU:

  1. Attend classes for up to 35 hours per week and have the ability to sit and/or stand and maintain an upright posture for several hours at a time.
  2. Have the intellectual skills to recall and comprehend large amounts of didactic information under time constraints and apply this information to the practice of occupational therapy.
  3. Utilize appropriate verbal, nonverbal, and written communication with clients, families, and others.
  4. Select, perform and document appropriate occupational therapy procedures used to assess the function of cognitive/mental/perceptual status, activities of daily living, behavior, social performance, functional capacity, ergonomics, vital signs, endurance, sensation, strength, tone, reflexes, movement patterns, coordination, ROM, balance, developmental stage, soft tissue, joint motion/play, pain, cranial and peripheral nerve function, posture, gait, functional abilities, assistive device fit/use, and the pulmonary system.
  5. Determine the occupational therapy needs of any client with perceived or potential movement, cognitive, perceptual, emotional, and/or psychosocial dysfunction.
  6. Develop and document a plan of care for a client with occupational performance deficits across the lifespan.
  7. Recognize the psychosocial impact of dysfunction and disability and integrate the needs of the client and family when implementing the plan of care.
  8. Perform intervention procedures in a manner that is appropriate to the client’s status and desired goals. These include, but are not limited to: skills training in basic and instrumental activities of daily living, group interventions, cognitive rehabilitation, exercise, developmental activities, balance training, coordination training, transfer training, orthotics fabrication, positioning techniques, and CPR.
  9. Possess the ability to manage a full client caseload and the ability to recognize and appropriately respond to emergency situations.
  10. Demonstrate ability to apply universal precautions.
  11. Participate in the process of scientific inquiry.
  12. Maintain composure and continue to perform duties with clients experiencing personal distress and demonstrating challenging behaviors and/or attitudes.
  13. Apply teaching/learning theories and methods in health care and community environments with the goal of health care promotion and prevention.
  14. Demonstrate management skills, including planning, organizing, supervising, delegating, and working as a member of a multidisciplinary team.
  15. Develop responsibility for lifelong professional growth and development. Have competence in computer use sufficient for participation in classroom and distance learning activities.
  16. Act in accordance with professional values, ethical standards, and appropriate demeanor essential for client-centered, quality client care.
  17. The above requires students to be able to perform, including with reasonable accommodation, the following: bending, carrying, climbing, grasping, heaving, lifting, pulling, pushing, reaching, sitting, crawling, sight, hearing, speaking, stooping, kneeling, use of hands, walking, and writing.

The MOT program at WVU welcomes all qualified Occupational Therapy applicants regardless of age, gender, heritage, ethnicity, race, religion, or disability. The Program acts in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, including changes made by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. Certain disabilities can interfere with a student’s ability to complete the program of study and acquire the skills and requirements necessary for the practice of occupational therapy. A student who feels they have such a disability is required to register with WVU’s Office of Accessibility Services. Additional information can be found at Reasonable accommodations can be made to compensate for some, but potentially not all, limitations. Students should be aware that those that interfere with patient care and safety or require the use of an intermediary may be incompatible with independent professional practice. In accordance with the accreditation standards of the Accreditation Commission for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), the WVU MOT program has the prerogative and ultimate responsibility for the selection and evaluation of its students, the design, implementation, and evaluation of its curriculum, and the determination of who is eligible to be awarded a degree.  
Students accepted into the MOT program will be required to sign a form stating they are able to fulfill the essential skills and requirements on a yearly basis. Admission and retention decisions reflect both academic and non-academic factors, including the ability to perform essential skills, requirements, and functions. A student who is unable to fulfill essential skills and requirements for occupational therapy students at WVU, as described above, may have their offer of admission withdrawn or be dismissed from the program if:

  1. He or she has requested and received a reasonable accommodation and is unable to meet program qualifications including the “Essential Skills and Requirements.”
  2. The requested accommodation(s) would fundamentally alter the nature of the WVU MOT program, or
  3. The requested accommodation(s) would create a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of others.

Fieldwork Education Considerations

Fieldwork is an important part of the MOT program. Throughout the curriculum, students are carefully placed to in a variety of settings to facilitate an appreciation of the scope of occupational therapy and foster a well-rounded, entry-level, educational experience. Students are responsible for all fieldwork-related expenses including transportation, housing, meals, and related costs. For level I fieldwork, students may be required to drive up to 60 minutes from WVU’s Medical Campus. Level II fieldwork sites have been established for WVU MOT students both within and outside the Morgantown area. Students are matched with level II fieldwork sites (two separate twelve-week full-time internships) based on learning needs, student professional goals, availability of sites, and other factors as determined by the academic fieldwork coordinator in collaboration with the student. All students are responsible for the following:

  1. Ensure that immunizations, CPR certification, and health insurance are current.
  2. Completing education on infection control and prevention.
  3. Completing education on HIPAA/HITECH compliance.
  4. Completing drug screens upon request of the fieldwork site.
  5. Disclosing health conditions/disabilities to the WVU Accessibility Services Office and seeking accommodations for conditions that may impact fieldwork performance.
  6. Criminal background check results clear of felony convictions.

Applicants must complete the required criminal background check following the offer of admission but prior to enrollment. Additional background checks may be required at the request of the fieldwork site/agency. A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification examination or to attain licensure as an occupational therapist.


Essential Functions, University of Cincinnati Master of Occupational Therapy Program.

Essential Functions, Graduate Program in Occupational Therapy, Sacred Heart University.

Technical Standards for Occupational Therapy Students, The Ohio State University.

Occupational Therapy Fieldwork, Spalding University.