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  Jul 10, 2020
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Occupational Therapy (M.S.)

Occupational Therapy (OT) is a health care profession in which therapists work with people whose abilities to manage everyday tasks of living are affected by developmental deficits, the aging process, environmental barriers, physical injury or illness, or psychosocial issues. Occupational therapists are in high demand across the country as critical caregivers in today’s rapidly growing health care system. The profession offers many opportunities for a career rich in both meaning and reward.

Occupational therapists help individuals of all ages identify and return to the occupations and activities that are important to them. The word occupation refers to how people use time, or are occupied in their daily lives. Occupational therapists assist people to adapt old methods or learn new strategies so they can participate in valued life activities and roles after illness or injury. OTs are employed in a variety of settings including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, homecare, schools, private practice, and community agencies.

The MS in Occupational Therapy at Sage is the only accredited master-level Occupational Therapy Program in New York’s Capital Region. Qualified men and women who possess a bachelor’s degree and who fulfill the prerequisite courses for the Occupational Therapy Program may apply directly through the Sage Graduate School. Students can complete the 82-credit program in just over two years, including a research project and six months of full time fieldwork. Upon successful completion of academic, research and fieldwork courses, students are awarded an MS degree in Occupational Therapy and are eligible to sit for the certification exam that leads to national certification and eligibility for state licensure.

Program Accreditation

The Sage Colleges Occupational Therapy program is registered with the New York State Education Department and accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Bethesda, MD 20824-1220, 301/652-2682. The most recent reaccredidation was granted in April 2007 for a ten-year period. Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the national certification exam administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). In addition, most states require licensure in order to practice occupational therapy; however state licenses are usually based on the results of the national certification exam. A felony conviction may affect a student’s placement in fieldwork settings, or a graduate’s ability to sit for the certification exam or to attain state licensure.

Mission and Philosophy

The mission of the Occupational Therapy Program is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, ethical and competent therapists. The OT Program is based on a framework that considers how biological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors influence occupational behavior. Faculty believes the study and practice of occupational therapy encompasses philosophical principles that:

  • affirm the inherent value of occupation to support participation in life;
  • link occupational engagement to achieving self-actualization and quality of life;
  • reinforce the individual’s right to self-determination;
  • support a broad definition of independence; and
  • acknowledge the multifaceted needs of a diverse society.

Faculty views education as a process, where students progress in their abilities to become client-centered and evidence-based practitioners. Students are assisted in acquiring the knowledge, skills, and judgment needed for skilled and ethical practice in traditional and emerging settings through experiences that:

  • challenge and expand their belief systems;
  • reinforce their role and responsibility to actively engage in the learning process;
  • provide multiple opportunities to practice and obtain feedback and reinforcement; and
  • illustrate the dynamic relationship among health, well-being and occupational engagement through a variety of learning activities and experiences.

Occupational Therapy Curriculum Model

The occupational therapy curriculum is developed around humanistic values and incorporates an experiential approach that focuses on students becoming active learners. Foundation and upper level clinical courses promote an understanding of the dynamic relationship between health, well-being and occupational engagement, or a person’s ability to participate in valued life activities and roles. Students are immersed in learning opportunities to both promote clinical reasoning skills and develop a systemic view of health and the health care system. The curriculum model is organized around three elements: Foundations and Professional Responsibilities, Evaluation and Intervention in Practice Settings, and OT Service Delivery and Research. It is further supported by three major themes that are infused throughout coursework: Person-Environment-Occupation Relationship, Therapeutic Style and Interactions, and Competent Practice.

Organizing Elements

Foundations and Professional Responsibilities

Initial courses provide students with a basis for understanding the unique occupational perspective of the profession. Through these foundation courses students explore the physical, psychosocial, cultural, and spiritual aspects of occupational participation on lifestyle and valued life roles. The Occupational Therapy Practice Framework is introduced along with the major practice models and theories that define the language and philosophy of occupational therapy. Early courses explore the wellness-illness continuum and the concept of disability.

Evaluation and Intervention in Practice Settings

Evaluation courses focus on clinical and community-based practice settings, and provide a framework for developing client-centered intervention skills. The application of theories and practice models within this content guides the development of critical thinking. Students engage in fieldwork experiences to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to clinical settings, hone clinical reasoning skills, and achieve independent practice competence.

Occupational Therapy Service Delivery and Research

A multi-course research sequence provides students with content leading to basic proficiency in research while preparing them to be evidence-based practitioners. Working collaboratively with clinic and community-based sites, student teams develop and implement research studies whose outcomes add to the literature and meet the information needs of research partners. The culminating requirement is a presentation at the annual Graduate Research Symposium. Students learn about the roles and associated responsibilities of the OT through coursework that addresses occupational therapy service delivery, advocacy, consultation, and administration. Through these experiences, students develop the broad perspective required for promoting and providing best practice.

Supporting Themes

Person-Environment-Occupation Relationship

Students explore how personal factors, environmental influences, and occupation-related characteristics impact participation, health, and well-being. Throughout the curriculum students engage in literature reviews, case-based learning, and field experiences with clients, families and communities. Together these activities assist students to better understand the factors that enable and constrain occupational performance.

Therapeutic Style and Interactions

Students develop skills in forming therapeutic relationships through activities that foster self-awareness, personal maturity, and effective communication. Exposure to client-centered practice supports the student’s ability to engage in a collaborative intervention process.

Competent Practice

Competence as an occupational therapist is facilitated through the development of critical thinking skills, therapeutic use of self, and professionalism. The application of ethics, evidence-based practice, and clinical reasoning are woven throughout coursework and fieldwork experiences. Students develop the knowledge, skills, and behaviors required for best practice.


Students complete five part time and full time fieldwork experiences to refine clinical reasoning and therapeutic skills while working with clients. Level I fieldwork involves three multi-week experiences in clinical settings integrated within first and second-year coursework. Level II fieldwork involves two full time, 12-week internships during the summer and fall following the second year of study. These affiliations give students the opportunity to practice the clinical skills learned in the classroom in occupational therapy settings under appropriate supervision. The expected outcome of Level II fieldwork is entry-level therapist performance and independent practice. Sage maintains a working relationship with 400 clinical sites located throughout the country.


Students enjoy an excellent student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1 that facilitates personal attention and close working relationships. The Sage Occupational Therapy faculty are specialists in the fields of pediatrics, psychosocial practice, rehabilitation, gerontology and research. To ensure fresh program content delivery, Sage faculty are engaged in scholarly work and clinical practice in addition to their teaching responsibilities. Sage professors hold advanced certification in pediatrics, neurorehabilitation, sensory integration, neurodevelopmental treatment, and hand therapy. Faculty doctoral degrees and advanced study include occupational therapy, expressive arts, education, and psychology. They are able to bring new ideas and technologies into the classroom, and expose students to contemporary practice in their respective therapy specialties. Students also benefit from faculty expertise through collaboration in ongoing research projects.

OT Program Outcome Statements

At the conclusion of the occupational therapy educational program students will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the history of the profession, the scope and role of occupational therapy within the health delivery system, and its contributions to quality of life.
  • Establish and sustain therapeutic relationships.
  • Articulate a professional development plan that demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning.
  • Demonstrate professional behaviors, attitudes and actions reflective of ethical standards and values.
  • Communicate effectively in writing and speaking to a variety of audiences.
  • Advocate for the profession and the people we serve through active participation and membership in community and professional organizations.
  • Consider culture and other person-environment factors in developing meaningful interventions across clinical and community settings.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the relationship of theory to practice and the ability to use theoretical models and frames of reference to guide clinical reasoning.
  • Select and use appropriate screening and evaluation methods to determine client needs and priorities; make referrals to other disciplines as indicated.
  • Develop and implement occupation-based intervention plans that support participation in relevant environments.
  • Document services to ensure accountability and meet standards for reimbursement.
  • Work cooperatively with members of multi-disciplinary teams and other stakeholders within the health delivery system.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of state, federal and professional standards and regulations that shape community and clinical practice.
  • Demonstrate skills in the management of occupational therapy services including supervising and collaborating with others.
  • Identify opportunities to address societal needs by participating in the development and marketing of OT services.
  • Use research literature to make evidence-based decisions and engage in research activities that contribute to best practice.
  • Demonstrate skills in research methods, the development of a research design, and implementation of a research study.

OT Program Curricular Objectives

Foundations and Professional Responsibilities

  1. Demonstrates consistent personal and professional ethical behavior
  2. Demonstrates positive interpersonal skills
  3. Communicates the values and beliefs of OT to clients, staff and family
  4. Demonstrates good written and oral communication skills
  5. Seeks and responds constructively to feedback
  6. Takes responsibility for own learning
  7. Identifies strategies for ongoing professional development
  8. Participates in professional activities to advance the profession

Evaluation and Intervention in Practice Settings

  1. Adheres to safety regulations in regard to safety of self and others
  2. Demonstrates ability to establish rapport
  3. Demonstrates respect for diversity factors and lifestyle choices of others
  4. Analyzes impact of person-environment factors on OT evaluation and intervention
  5. Selects appropriate screening and assessment tools based on client need and context
  6. Refers to specialists for consultation and intervention
  7. Uses standardized and non-standardized screening and assessment tools appropriately
  8. Uses theories, practice models, and frames of reference to guide and inform evaluation and intervention
  9. Makes informed practice decisions based on critical analyses of the evidence
  10. Develops and implements occupationally-based intervention plans based on appropriate theoretical approach and client needs

    1. Modifies environments (home, work, school, community) and adapts processes
    2. Provides design and training in assistive technologies and devices, including fabrication of splints
    3. Provides recommendations and training to enhance mobility including transfers, wheelchair management, community mobility and driver rehabilitation
    4. Provides management of swallowing, feeding and eating to enable performance and make referrals to specialists when appropriate
    5. Develops, remediates and teaches compensatory strategies for physical, cognitive, perceptual, neuromuscular, behavioral, and sensory skills (e.g., vision, tactile, vestibular, auditory, gustatory, and olfactory)
    6. Demonstrates safe and effective application of physical agent modalities
  11. Demonstrates skills in supervising and collaborating with OTAs
  12. Documents services and maintains records to ensure accountability and meet reimbursement and facility standards
  13. Demonstrates knowledge and compliance with reimbursement mechanisms
  14. Monitors and reassess the effect of OT intervention and need for continued or modified services
  15. Develops discharge plans and terminates OT services as appropriate
  16. Reports evaluation results and modifies practice to improve outcomes
  17. Provides client and family education to support occupational participation

OT Service Delivery and Research

  1. Manages time, schedules and prioritizes workload appropriately
  2. Develops strategies for effective use of OT and non-OT staff
  3. Understands trends in models of service delivery and their effect on OT practice
  4. Considers the impact of contextual factors on management and delivery of OT services
  5. Demonstrates ability to design processes for quality improvement and develop program changes
  6. Understands factors that promote policy development and provision of OT services
  7. Demonstrates knowledge of state, federal and professional standards that shape practice
  8. Demonstrates knowledge of advocacy to benefit consumers and the profession
  9. Identifies opportunities to address societal needs by participating in the development and marketing of OT services
  10. Uses research/professional literature to make evidence-based decisions
  11. Understands and critiques research studies
  12. Designs and implements beginning-level research studies

Program Academic Standards

The M.S. in Occupational Therapy is a professional education program.  Students enrolled in the program must demonstrate achievement in academic and clinical competencies necessary for professional practice, and meet academic standards consistent with graduate school criteria.  Students must also demonstrate effective professional behavior as detailed in the Standards of Professional Behavior.

   1.  Grade Point Average (GPA)

  • A minimum overall grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained in Occupational Therapy coursework each semester.  A semester GPA below 3.0 will result in probation for the following semester.
  • If the semester GPA is below 3.0 for two consecutive semesters, the student will be subject to suspension from the full-time program.
  • A student must attain a minimum overall 3.0 GPA prior to enrolling in fieldwork courses.
  • A student must achieve a minimum overall 3.0 GPA to be eligible to graduate.

   2.   Passing Course Grades 

If a grade of “F” is obtained in a course, the student will be suspended and the course must be repeated before continuing in the curriculum.  A course may be repeated only once and the student must achieve a minimum of “B-” (“P” is pass/fail course) on the second attempt.  If a student receives a grade of “F” in two OT Program courses, the student will be dismissed from the program.

   3.  Practical/Proficiency Exam Grades

  • Each student is expected to pass every oral/practical/proficiency exam on the first attempt with a minimum passing grade of 80%.  If unsuccessful, the student will be allowed one retake of the exam.  If the student does not achieve the minimum passing grade of 80% on the retake, the student will receive a grade of “F” for that course and will be suspended from the program.
  • The second occasion that a student needs to repeat an oral/practical/proficiency exam will result in probation.  On the third occasion, the student will be suspended from the  program.
  • Each student is expected to demonstrate competency in all safety items in order to successfully pass the lab practical exam or proficiency.

   4.  Retention and Dismissal

a.  Probation

- A student who receives a grade of “C” or “C-” in any course will be placed on probation for the next semester.  Probation for two consecutive semesters will result in suspension.  Probation for three semesters will result in dismissal.

- Violations of the OT Program’s Standards of Professional Behavior or AOTA Code of Ethics are also grounds for being placed on probation.

b.  Suspension

- Suspension from the program will be for a one-year period of time.  A program of remediation will occur during this time period.  Since the program is a lock-step curriculum, courses that were not successfully completed cannot be repeated until the following year.

- A second suspension results in dismissal.

- Repeated violations of the OT Program’s Standards of Professional Behavior or AOTA Code of Ethics are also grounds for suspension.

c.  Dismissal

A student is subject to dismissal from the OT Program for any of the following:

- Student receives a grade of “F” in two courses;

- Student has to retake a lab practical/proficiency exam in three courses;

- Student has two suspensions;

-Student has three probations;

- Student does not achieve a minimum grade of “B-” (“P” in pass/fail course) when repeating a course;

- Egregious conduct that violates professional and/or legal standards.

A student who is academically dismissed from the OT Program may apply for readmission after a period of one year.  A program of reassessment and review will be required during this period.  Students having difficulty maintaining the academic standards may be required to enroll in an extended curriculum.

Students who withdraw or who are dismissed for reasons other than GPA will have their records reviewed for possible readmission by Occupational Therapy program faculty.  Readmission will be determined by the faculty based on this review and any additional criteria required at the discretion of the faculty.

   5.  Fieldwork

  • By the terms of the College’s contractual agreement with fieldwork sites, only students who have satisfactorily completed the requisite professional courses and demonstrate safety and competence in all lab proficiency exams/check-offs will be placed in fieldwork.
  • Students must have demonstrated the ability to meet the academic and program standards of the OT Program outlined in the OT Student Handbook, demonstrate effective interpersonal communication, professional behavior, and judgment necessary for the field setting, and be recommended by faculty for fieldwork education.
  • Faculty will formally review all students’ progress at the end of the spring semester of the second year of professional coursework (or equivalent) to ensure that students are demonstrating mastery of material and are ready for Level II fieldwork.  This appraisal includes a review of students’ grades and professional behavior.  Faculty retains the final decision to approve students for fieldwork placements.
  • Students who frequently display unprofessional behavior and/or judgment, or who are unable to address professional behavior concerns that have been identified by faculty, will be required to appear before a sub-group of the OT Program faculty that includes at a minimum the fieldwork coordinator, program director, and faculty advisor.  This faculty group may impose sanctions which can include probation, suspension, or dismissal from the program, and/or delay the student from engaging in the fieldwork portion of the curriculum.
  • Students must successfully complete Level II fieldwork within 15 months beyond the date of completion of evaluation and intervention courses, or repeat the course(s), and/or demonstrate academic and clinical competency in the course(s) prior to beginning fieldwork experiences.
  • Students must obtain permission of faculty prior to repeating a failed fieldwork experience.  Failure to complete a fieldwork or having to be removed from a placement may result in a student’s dismissal from the program.  Students who need to repeat more than one Level II fieldwork course will be dismissed from the program. 

6.  Academic Leave

  • All students are required to maintain continuous matriculation in the program.  In the event a leave of absence is required, this must be requested and approved by Occupational Therapy Program faculty in order for the student to maintain a place in the program and eventually be eligible to graduate.  Students who have requested and obtained a leave of absence from the program will need to complete program requirements in the time frame indicated in the letter from the program approving the leave.  In most cases a leave will not be approved for a period in excess of one calendar year.  Students who have been inactive in coursework or who are two or more years beyond the date of completion of their last Level II Fieldwork placement will need to request permission of the faculty to be readmitted to the program.  Students will be required to repeat all of the evaluation and intervention courses or demonstrate academic and clincial competency in each of these courses, via examination, to be allowed to complete the program and be eligible to take the certification examination.

Admission Requirements

Applicants may wish to visit the college and meet with a representative of the Occupational Therapy program. Candidates should call the OT program office at (518) 244-2267 to schedule an appointment with the program director. There are two points of entry into the M.S. in Occupational Therapy Program: direct entry through Sage Graduate Schools or through Russell Sage College via the 3+2 accelerated program or more traditional 4+2 program.

Direct Entry through Sage Graduate School

Qualified men and women who possess a baccalaureate degree and who have fulfilled the prerequisite courses for the graduate program in Occupational Therapy may apply directly to the M.S. in Occupational Therapy program through Sage Graduate Schools. In addition to meeting the general requirements for admission to Sage Graduate Schools, the successful applicant to the M.S. in Occupational Therapy program will demonstrate evidence of the following:

  • Earned baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Minimum 3.0 GPA in overall undergraduate study and OT Program prerequisite courses
  • Completion of OT program prerequisite courses with grades of “C” or better in each required course.
  • Completion of at least 20 hours of clinical observation under the supervision of an occupational therapist before beginning the professional program. Applicants are encouraged to complete clinical observation hours as early as possible. Students who are unable to complete observations prior to submitting the admission application must include a letter outlining a plan for completion of these hours with their applications (see observation documentation form in application packet).
  • Submission of Academic Standards Statement and Documentation of Clinical Observation Hours Form with the Sage Graduate School Application (forms are available on the Sage OT program website).
  • Submit complete application by February 1 priority deadline.  After the February 1st deadline, applicants are reviewed on a rolling basis and admitted as space permits.

Entry through RSC 3+2 Accelerated Program

Women entering college directly from high school or transferring at the undergraduate level may apply to Russell Sage College for the 3+2 bachelor’s degree leading to the M.S. in Occupational Therapy. Students admitted to the accelerated five-year program at Russell Sage College will choose an RSC undergraduate major. The bachelor’s degree in the chosen major is awarded from Russell Sage College at the end of the fourth year and the M.S. in Occupational Therapy is awarded from Sage Graduate School at the end of the fifth year, plus fieldwork.

Undergraduate Academic Standards for Acceleration to the M. S. in Occupational Therapy Program

Students who enroll at RSC in the 3+2 bachelor’s degree leading to the M.S. in Occupational Therapy may enroll in OT graduate courses during their fourth year of undergraduate study and are guaranteed acceptance to the graduate OT Program, providing they maintain the following academic requirements in the first three years of undergraduate study:

  • Achieve a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate study;
  • Achieve a minimum 3.0 GPA in OT Program prerequisite courses;
  • Achieve a grade of “C” or better in all OT program prerequisite courses;
  • Complete and document 20 hours of observation with a licensed occupational therapist; and
  • Complete undergraduate major requirements, RSC general education courses, and OT program prerequisites.


OT Program Prerequisite Courses

The following prerequisite courses must be completed prior to entry to the graduate OT Program:

  • Anatomy & Physiology I and II (with labs);
  • Physics I (with lab);
  • 9 credits in psychology including Human development and Abnormal Psychology;
  • 3 credits in Sociology or Anthropology
  • Statistics.

Total Credits: 82

Fieldwork Requirements:

Yearly physical examinations, immunizations, and CPR certification are required by fieldwork sites. In addition, many settings require students to be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal history review. Students are responsible for the arrangements and costs of these, as well as for transportation to and from fieldwork settings. A felony conviction may prevent student placement at some fieldwork settings.