Occupational Therapy : Overview

Department of Rehabilitation Sciences

Contact Information

School of Public Health and Health Professions
515 Kimball Tower
South Campus
Buffalo, NY 14214-3079

Phone: 716.829.3141
Fax: 716.829.3217
Web Address: sphhp.buffalo.edu/ot
Robert Burkard
Susan Nochajski
Program Director
Jo Schweitzer
Director of Clinical Education


The occupational therapy program, as part of the rehabilitation science department in the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the University at Buffalo, is based on the philosophical belief that people have a vital need for occupation. Occupation is defined as the meaningful and productive ways in which people use their time. It includes activities such as self-care, play, learning, work, and leisure. A person's engagement in occupations fulfills four primary functions: (1) to acquire skills and behaviors necessary for insuring one's survival, (2) to achieve a sense of quality in one's life, (3) to contribute to the progress and well-being of society, and (4) to promote one's personal physical and mental well-being. The ability to engage in occupation and realize these four functions may be compromised as a result of illness, disability, or other life circumstances.

A fundamental principle of the occupational therapy program is that human beings learn and adapt through active engagement in occupations. Learning and adaptation occurs when a person receives information from his or her senses, processes it, and compares it with knowledge and experience previously obtained. Through repetition of these experiences, new behaviors are demonstrated and used. These fundamental concepts are applied to the clients that we prepare our students to work with, as well as to the students themselves.

Clients who receive occupational therapy services are engaged in active, meaningful occupational activities. Following observation, evaluation, and consultation with the client and family, therapists choose activities that are appropriate for the individual's developmental level, skill level, and the environment in which the client will function. This is done to enable the client to move towards occupational goals and a greater degree of health and independence.

The entry-level professional occupational science/occupational therapy program is a five year combined BS/MS program. Preceding their professional preparation, students receive a liberal arts education in their pre-professional studies. The professional program, structured to prepare students for personal and professional development, is flexible enough to meet the needs and interests of individual students while still ensuring that upon graduation they will be competent to enter the profession.

Professional-level classes begin in the fall of the third year of the program, following successful completion of all prerequisite courses, including Gross Human Anatomy, ANA 407. Two academic semesters and a summer at the undergraduate level provide learning experiences structured to integrate theory and practice. In the fall semester of the fourth year, students progress to the MS component of the program and complete more of the professional practice courses. In the spring semester of the fourth year, students register for six months of full-time supervised fieldwork experience. During the fifth year, students complete their master's project in addition to other required courses.

Students choose fieldwork sites by a lottery system and in consultation with the fieldwork director. Additional fieldwork experiences in such specialized areas of practice as developmental disabilities, substance abuse, and ergonomics are available as electives. The program maintains clinical affiliation agreements with more than 150 healthcare facilities throughout the United States for student placement. Students should expect to leave the Western New York area to fulfill this requirement. Upon completion of fieldwork, students return to the campus for the fifth year of the program. Students must complete all requirements of the professional component of the program, including fieldwork and the graduate research project, within a five-year time period.

The professional entry level BS/MS program in occupational therapy at the University at Buffalo is accredited through the 2016-2017 academic year by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). AOTA is located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, PO Box 31220, Bethesda, MD 20824-1220. Telephone: 301-652-AOTA.

Graduates are eligible to apply to take the National Certification examination; students must apply directly and pay all required fees. Contact information: NBCOT, located at 12 South Summit Avenue, Suite 100, Gaithersburg, MD 20877-4150. Website: www.nbcot.org. Phone: 301-990-7979; Fax: 301-869-8492

Updated: 13 Nov 2012 06:01:53 EST