College of Allied Health Sciences
Department of Occupational Therapy

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About the Program

Our professional (entry-level) master's degree program was developed to meet the needs of therapists who will practice in a highly complex healthcare environment. Upon completion of our program, the graduate will have a master's of science degree in occupational therapy and will be prepared to work in diverse practice settings with a variety of people. Graduates of our program are eligible to sit for the national certification examination.


Background Infoa

Background Information

The Occupational Therapy Program is part of the College of Allied Health Sciences at East Carolina University.

The East Carolina University College of Allied Health Sciences was established in 1968 and now offers Bachelor's degrees in Clinical Laboratory Science, Health Services Management, Rehabilitation Services, and Speech and Hearing Sciences. Master's degrees are offered in Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation and Career Counseling, Health Informatics and Information Management, Substance Abuse and Clinical Counseling, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Physician Assistant Studies.  Doctoral degrees are offered in Physical Therapy, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Audiology, and Rehabilitation Counseling and Administration.

The Department of Occupational Therapy graduated its first class in 1974. The Department's educational curriculum follows guidelines established by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and has been designed around the belief that professional level coursework must be based on a solid liberal arts general college background. The curriculum is also designed to provide students with the opportunity to integrate classroom learning with clinical experience and therefore includes several supervised, practice-oriented, fieldwork courses.  The program also values the cultivation of strong leadership skills which will enhance the students' abilities to continue to grow within the profession and take an active role in moving the profession forward.


Dept Philosophya

Department Philosophy

Occupational therapy is a profession of many dimensions. The faculty of this Program believe there is a unifying paradigm that ties the wide diversity of occupational therapy practice together. This unifying paradigm consists of three basic themes; 1) the use of occupation as a unique health giving tool, 2) the interactive view of man and his environment, and 3) the importance of common values in the profession. Furthermore, the faculty strongly believe that research and service are essential to support the viability of these values within the profession.

Theme 1:
Occupations are meaningful person-centered activities. Often viewed as work, leisure/play, and/or daily living tasks, occupation is the dominant activity of human beings. These areas of occupation influence the biological, psychological, cognitive and social nature of each individual during the process of normal human development not only creating unique individuals, but influencing human cultural evolution as well. Basic to this concept of occupation are certain assumptions. First, is the assumption that human beings have an occupational nature. That is, occupation is essential to the human species and the need to engage in purposeful occupation is innate and related to health and survival (Wilcox, 1993). Being part of the human condition, this occupational nature consists of underlying performance components and therefore is a determinant and a product of development. A disruption of performance components may affect the individual's interaction with his/her environment and thus results in lost potential, stress to the individual, and decreased quality of life. Further, because impairment or disability may disrupt the occupational nature of man, this magnifies the condition of the impairment or disability and further disruption evolves.

Another assumption is that occupation, used as a therapeutic tool, may promote health or well being. This is the basic dynamic of occupational therapy. Professional guidance by an occupational therapist toward participation in purposeful and meaningful occupation is restorative and can prevent or stop the loss of ability and facilitate the performance of occupational roles. The therapeutic element becomes the interaction of the individual's performance component (the underlying capabilities of engaging in occupation) and the form of the occupation. It is essential in the therapeutic use of occupation that the process be relevant to the uniqueness of the individual and his/her cultural heritage. Moreover, it requires the individual's personal experience of meaningfulness.

Theme 2:The individual functions within a context and is seen as both a product and producer of his environment. People are believed to have motivation to engage in occupation and strive toward competence. Concurrently, the social, physical, and cultural environment "press" the individual to engage in occupation. This perspective attempts to focus on the interdependent aspects of the person and the environment, realizing that both have adaptive capabilities and limitations. Further, rather than focusing on the end products of these interactions, the focus is on enabling the individual to experience competence within his or her environment.

Theme 3: The existence of common values shared by the faculty. Values are believed to influence practice and clinical reasoning of occupational therapists and therefore need to be explicit and emphasized throughout the program of study. If individuals are viewed with dignity, respect, and seen as unique sociocultural human beings, we believe that occupational therapy should: 1) be person-centered, 2) consist of meaningful occupations, 3) maximize function with individualized intervention, 4) prevent impairment and enhance wellness, 5) consider the whole person within his/her environment, and 6) help a person gain a sense of self, self worth, and/or life satisfaction.

The faculty believes that an effective curriculum must achieve a balance between technical skills, theoretically based knowledge, service learning, and scientific inquiry. For example, students must be able to understand theoretically how to use occupation as a health giving tool to enhance quality of life. They also need to learn the underlying performance components and how to perform and teach the occupational activities such as dressing, communication, or leisure skills, and investigate the outcomes of occupational therapy intervention. Additionally, the faculty are committed to developing professionals who are life long learners and able to implement independent inquiry. Thus, because of the holistic nature of the profession and the Program's philosophical view, the Program constantly strives to achieve a balance between technical skill acquisition necessary for satisfactory performance on the job, theoretically based knowledge which will result in the student's ability to solve clinical problems in an adaptive and flexible way, a sense of commitment to the community, and the utilization of research skills and knowledge.

Finally, the faculty believe that along with the technical, investigative, and theoretical knowledge, students must learn to be competent in the art of using caring relationships in a helping and ethical manner. We believe that students benefit from significant role taking experiences. Therefore, service to communities is seen as essential to the student's learning. There is an expectation that students will participate in variety of roles that serve the community, as role modeled by faculty performing service in a diversity of settings.

Competence in the art of the use of caring relationships and occupation implies a high level of problem solving and clinical reasoning abilities which must be instilled and taught to occupational therapy students in the educational program within a relatively brief period of time. The use of a developmental model of clinical reasoning will be the Program's basis of providing the grounding for the development of clinical reasoning with facilitation of the more complex levels of clinical reasoning applied when students indicate the readiness. The facilitation of clinical reasoning must be individualized based on the fact that students have a diversity of learning styles and come to the program with a variety of life experiences. The occupational therapy faculty strive to promote the student's individual learning in the necessary skills and abilities for an entry-level professional and to facilitate personal growth through the structure of the curriculum, course objectives, and fieldwork experiences including those unique to eastern North Carolina.

In summary, the occupational therapist is a competent and caring expert in the use of occupation. With knowledge based in physiological, cognitive, social, and psychological dimensions, the occupational therapist fosters self determination in the patient or client. The therapist acts as an agent of change by engaging people in occupation that is meaningful and adds satisfaction to the individual's life. This Program's goal is to facilitate development of professional mastery in the use of occupation, balanced with technical, theoretical, service, and research abilities, with the perspective "that man, through the use of his hands as energized by mind and will, can influence his state of health." (Reilly, 1962).


Reilly, M. (1962). Occupational therapy can be one of the great ideas of the 20th century medicine. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 16, 1-9.

Wilcock, A. (1993). A theory of the human need for occupation. Occupational Science:Australia, 1, 17-24.


Description of the program

The faculty are dedicated to preparing graduates to practice as competent entry-level occupational therapists in a wide variety of places including school systems, home health, hospitals, and community settings such as homeless shelters. We believe that the discipline of occupational therapy is unique and dynamic, grounded in core principles of occupation, but constantly influenced by new emerging knowledge and technologies. As such, the faculty are striving to develop an educational program in occupational therapy that consistently reinforces the necessity for life-long learning, the application of critical thinking and clinical reasoning, and constantly refine and improve professional knowledge and skills.


Excellence in Practice

Our motto "Promoting Excellence in Practice" is enacted in many ways throughout our curriculum. Opportunities for supervised experiential learning are abundant throughout the curriculum. Thus, students have many chances to have reflective learning experiences with faculty. Together, students and faculty are actively engaged in providing direct, indirect, consultative, and research-based services to clients.


Practical Experiences

Our occupational therapy program is designed to facilitate the development of excellent practitioners. To achieve that, we believe that students need experiences interacting with a diversity of individuals in a variety of settings. Therefore we have structured hands-on experiences throughout the program in addition to the traditional fieldwork requirements.



It is the vision of the Occupational Therapy Department to prepare occupational therapy graduates to enhance the occupational performance status of the citizens of eastern North Carolina, the state of North Carolina, and the broader community.  We envision an educational community where faculty, staff, clinical educators, and students work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect, cooperation, and commitment to excellence in occupational therapy practice.


The mission of the Occupational Therapy Department is to foster excellence in occupational therapy practice through graduate education, research, and service.  Specifically, we will 1) provide the community with competent occupational therapy graduates who are leaders in the field and who, as change agents, are responsive to the unique sociocultural nature of the region and its residents, 2) provide quality graduate educational experiences which facilitate development of high levels of critical thinking, analytical ability, and independent inquiry, and 3) generate research which advances the art and science of the occupational therapy profession.



The objectives of the occupational therapy curriculum are the following:

1. Prepare students to begin practice as caring, competent, ethical, and creative occupational therapists with professional mastery in the use of occupation appropriate to a wide range of populations and practice areas.

2. Provide students with the foundation of theoretical knowledge, technical skills, and values needed for quality occupational therapy practice.

3. Prepare students with the knowledge and skills to do clinical reasoning in order to assume the role of a health care professional who functions as an change agent by engaging patients/clients in meaningful occupation.

4. Provide students with the knowledge and skills, appreciation, and ability to use research which advances the effectiveness of occupational therapy practice.

5. Develop in students the appreciation and skills for life-long learning within a changing environment.

6. Provide the communities of our region, state, and nation with quality therapists who are responsive to an individual’s unique sociocultural nature and their environment.

7. Provide occupational therapy leaders and advocates to serve our region, state, and nation.


Educational Focus

The occupational therapy faculty at East Carolina University believes that the discipline of occupational therapy is unique and dynamic, grounded in core principles of occupation, and is constantly influenced by emerging knowledge and technologies. As such, the faculty believe that the education of future occupational therapists must consistently reinforce the application of critical thinking and clinical reasoning, the necessity for life-long learning and the improvement of professional knowledge.

To develop and refine critical thinking, new material will be presented in a manner that reinforces the relationship to previous educational foundations, as well as its importance to future learning. The physical, social, and temporal environments will be incorporated in the learning process to facilitate the student’s development of critical thinking and acquisition of knowledge and skills. Structured courses, clinical experiences, and independent learning situations will be provided to develop and refine clinical reasoning. Students will be encouraged to become independent learners capable of assessing their own knowledge and able to use a wide variety of resources (professional organizations, books, journals, World Wide Web, folklore, personal experiences). A compassion for differences in student’s needs and learning styles will optimize academic and personal success. Faculty will serve as role models demonstrating the use of critical thinking, clinical reasoning and attention to individual differences. Through all of these approaches, students will gain an appreciation for critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and professional development through lifelong learning.

In order to improve professional knowledge and skills, students will have access to "real life" cases in the classroom and community. Through these "real life" experiences, faculty will facilitate reflection and shared feedback between peers and faculty about the uniqueness of each experience. The faculty believe that ultimately the students will be cognizant of and integrate the unique needs, lifestyles, and culture of each client while practicing occupational therapy.

The faculty believe that education constructed around these core principles will produce life long learners who are knowledgeable, skilled, and compassionate individuals. These individuals will be capable of entering the work force as competent occupational therapists, committed to the enhancement of client’s lives and the advancement of the profession.




Graduates of the program are able to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for the Certification of Occupational Therapy (NBCOT),800 S. Frederick Avenue, Suite 200Gaithersburg, MD 20877-4150(301-990-7979)

After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR).

Please note: A prospective student who has a felony conviction should know that he or she may not be eligible to take the national certification exam. Please click HERE for more information about this.

Graduation and Pass Rates

Shown below is our 5 year summary of graduation and pass rates as required by the University.

First Time Pass Rate
Pass Rate
within 1 Year
2011 20/19 95% 100% 100%
2012 24/24 96% 100% 100%
2013 25/25 100% 96% 100%
2014 26/25 96% 91.6% 100%
2015 25/24 96% 100% 100%
TOTAL 120/117 98% 97% 100%

Shown below is our 3 year summary of graduation and pass rates as required by ACOTE.

First Time Pass Rate
Pass Rate
within 1 Year
2013 25/25 100% 96% 100%
2014 26/25 96% 91.6% 100%
2015 25/24 96% 100% 100%
TOTAL 76/74 97% 94.6% 100%

Note: Graduation is in December with pass rates on NBCOT posted from December of Graduation - next year April.