A Professional Entry-Level Pathway to Becoming an Occupational Therapist

This graduate program is a perfect fit for career changers and those who have earned a bachelor’s degree in another area of study.
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Graduate with a master's degree and be eligible to take the NBCOT competency exam to become a registered occupational therapist.
Program Details

Our Professional-Entry Level (or PEL) graduate degree is specifically designed to train people who may have a bachelor's degree in another area of study and/or who are career changers who want to be employed as an occupational therapist.

Our program is a great fit if you are interested in:

  • Health and wellness and pursuing a rehabilitation profession
  • Working with people of all ages who need specialized assistance to lead independent, productive, and satisfying lives due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems
  • Supporting people with the "occupations" of self-care, work, and play/leisure activities to increase independence, enhance development, and/or prevent disability
  • Gaining knowledge and skills across the lifespan, with an opportunity to focus in on specialty areas of practice  
  • Providing community and population based services to meet the needs of our changing society

In just over 2 years of successful study at Ithaca College, you will graduate with your master's degree and be eligible to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) competency exam to become a registered occupational therapist.

Apply Today!

The application cycle for 2024 entry is now open! Information on applying for your master's degree in occupational therapy and how to complete your application is available here. You must apply via the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). To learn more about OTCAS, please visit OTCAS Help.

The application deadline is March 31 for regular admission. We begin application review in October and early application is strongly encouraged.

Interested in Learning More about the Professional Entry-Level M.S. in Occupational Therapy?

Three virtual information sessions for the OT PEL program will be hosted by Amie Germain, Ed.D, MOTR/L, current Graduate Chair of the department. Find out more information and ask questions all in one session! 

The dates times, and registration links are below:

January 10, 2024 from 5-6pm: https://connect.ithaca.edu/register/?id=90896b5b-d8b0-49ce-8b5a-fdb224874905

February 1, 2024 from 5-6pm: https://connect.ithaca.edu/register/?id=6903680e-b4af-4dcb-bf2e-6ebee13f0372

March 1, 2024 from 9-10am: https://connect.ithaca.edu/register/?id=90665481-eb4c-4503-9b69-eb6a8e48730c

Apply to the OTD Starting in Fall 2025

Ithaca College is excited to announce that we will be transitioning our Professional Entry Level Program master's program to a doctoral program, with the first class entering in January 2026. We will continue to offer our Professional Entry Level master's program until then; you can apply through OTCAS and the application deadline is March 31! Please reach out to otgrad@ithaca.edu with questions.

Admissions, Application, and Finances

Admissions Criteria
Learn more about the admissions criteria for the PEL master's degree.
Review Criteria
Application Process
Beginning with the 2022-23 cycle, Ithaca College will be using OTCAS to apply to our program.
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Graduate Assistantships
Maximize funding to offset the costs of graduate school by working with faculty and staff.
Funding Options
Tuition and Fees
Familiarize yourself with the costs and billing policies for the PEL master's degree in occupational therapy.
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Graduation Rates and Pathways to Practice

The total number of graduates from the IC Professional Entry-Level Master’s in Occupational Therapy program during the 3-year period of 2021-2023 was 18, with an overall graduation rate of 94.7%. 

Graduation Year Students Entering/Graduating Graduation Rate




2022 No PEL class n/a
2021 11/10 91%
Total 19/18 94.7%

Program results from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) are available online.

Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Exam for the Occupational Therapist, administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). The NBCOT exam can be individually scheduled for you once you have completed all degree requirements, including fieldwork, and the thesis if applicable.

After successful completion of this exam, the graduate will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. A felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to sit for the NBCOT Certification Examination or attain state licensure.

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy
One Bank Street, Suite 300
Gaithersburg, MD 20877-4150
(301) 990-7979

To practice in most states occupational therapists must pass the national certification examination to become certified, and apply for a license to practice occupational therapy in the state or states where they intend to work. These are two separate processes and organizations.


The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) administers the certification program and can be contacted at:

National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy
800 S. Frederick Avenue, Suite 200
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20877-4150
Telephone: 301-990-7979


State licensure varies in each state. In New York, licensure is administered by the New York State Education Department (NYSED):

New York State Education Department
89 Washington Ave.
Albany, NY12234
Voice Response Phone Number: 518-474-3852

Licensure and certification exist to protect the public. When you apply to take the NBCOT exam or apply for a license you will be asked whether you have a criminal record. This can prevent you from becoming a practicing occupational therapist. If you have concerns about this you may contact these agencies for a preliminary review prior to enrolling in the program.

Job postings are primarily managed by the college's Center for Career Exploration and Development. They can also also assist you in creating a professional resume, drafting personal statements, and preparing for interviews.


PEL Graduate Program: OT Office
321 Smiddy Hall
Ithaca College
953 Danby Road • Ithaca, NY 14850
Fax: (607) 274-3055