Program Overview

The Master of Science program in Occupational Therapy (MSc(OT)) is a full-time two-year course-based Master degree. The program prepares students to be eligible to practice as occupational therapists, and meets professional accreditation and practice standards.

The minimum expectations will be for the completion of all course work across two extended study years:

  • September to July (Year 1)
  • September to September (Year 2)

Year 1 introduces students to the fundamentals of contemporary Canadian occupational therapy practice, and provides an overview of occupational therapy theories and processes.

Year 2 provides opportunities for developing more complex skills and preparing for entry to practice as a conscious, autonomous professional.  Throughout the program, students will gain experience with many client populations and multiple settings.

Have questions about student life in Occupational Therapy? Contact and ask to be connected with an OT Student Ambassador.

Educational and Professional Conceptual Frameworks

The McMaster Occupational Therapy Program is based on conceptual frameworks grounded in the professional practice of occupational therapists (professional conceptual frameworks), and educational preparation of health professionals (educational conceptual frameworks). The conceptual frameworks are integrated into a single model, fondly referred to as the Steps and Pillars.

An image representation of the Conceptual Frameworks, all information can be found in the text items below.

Educational Philosophies

The pillars of the Steps and Pillars model are reflections of the educational philosophies, theories and approaches that are drawn upon in the Occupational Therapy Program. There are five distinct pillars, although they are highly inter-connected. Each is described briefly here:


1. Self-Directed Learning (SDL)
2. Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
3. Inter-Professional Education
4. Experiential Learning
5. Inquiry-Based Learning

Courses offered in the McMaster Occupational Therapy program frequently draw on many of the principles and approaches of the pillars simultaneously. Therefore, in the Steps and Pillars Model, the threads that spiral around the pillars represent each of the various courses in which students enrol. The courses bring together the competencies from the OT Profile and the other components of the Professional Conceptual Framework, draw on the educational conceptual frameworks of the pillars, to ensure that by the time they graduate, students have become competent entry-level occupational therapists. The arrow at the top of the model indicates that graduates are ready to take the competencies and strategies as life long learners with them as they graduate and enter practice.

Methods of Evaluation

Student performance is evaluated on a regular basis throughout the MSc (OT) Program using a variety of evaluation tools that are consistent with professional and educational conceptual frameworks that guide the program.

The evaluation process can be formative or summative, and as such, it provides valuable feedback to students to enhance their learning. Evaluations are also used to assure faculty, students, clients, and society that graduates possess the required knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours to function as competent professionals. Evaluation presents a challenge for any curriculum. As no single evaluation method can assess all domains of learning or competence, and students have varying strengths and approaches to learn and demonstrate their learning, various methods are used to evaluate students’ progress and achievements. The choice of the evaluation tool is based on its educational value (e.g., formative or summative), its measurement properties (e.g., reliability, validity, generalizability), and its feasibility (e.g., time needed, resources required, costs).

Some of the student evaluation tools used in the OT Program are described below:

Tutorial Performance
Written Exams
Direct Observation
Oral Presentations
Practicum Evaluation

Dual Degree Option Doctoral and Professional Degrees

Master of Science (Occupational Therapy) and Doctor of Philosophy (Rehabilitation Science) OR Master of Science (Physiotherapy) and Doctor of Philosophy (Rehabilitation Science)

The McMaster Rehabilitation Science Dual Degree program allows students to obtain the established Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (OT) and Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science (RS) OR the Master of Science in Physiotherapy (PT) and Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science (RS) offered within the School of Rehabilitation Science (SRS) in 5 years.

The Dual Degree option will provide students with advantages through integrated scholarship training and professional development and stream-lined time efficiency.  Completing the two degrees, an OT or PT professional degree and Ph.D., concurrently rather than sequentially will develop clinician scientists who have an understanding of the issues facing the professions, the potential contributions they can make and research expertise to undertake these roles.

The program will provide research training for individuals who will pursue leadership roles in areas including integrated research initiatives, interdisciplinary and knowledge translation health research. The graduates from this program will be leaders in advancing the contribution of rehabilitation science towards examining health outcomes within a broader scope.

Please visit the Rehabilitation Science Dual Degree page for more information.

Terms at a Glance

Year 1 - September to July




Term 1

Wellness, Health & Occupation

This term provides students with opportunities to gain specific skills in identifying health and wellness issues in relation to occupation. Students will be introduced to theories of occupation and the application of OT models and frameworks in practice. They will explore concepts of clinical reasoning, ethical reasoning and critical appraisal. This term will set the foundation for practice through understanding the health care system and the OT’s role within it.


4 weeks
November - December


Term 2

Person, Environment & Occupation

Students continue to learn about interactions between person, environment and occupation. Students begin to explore and critically appraise assessments commonly used by OTs. Process frameworks receive attention, including the Occupational Performance Process Model (OPPM) and Canadian Practice Process Framework (CPPF).


8 weeks
March – May 


Term 3

Disability & Occupation

The term provides students with opportunities to gain specific skills in understanding disability as a social and health construct; to explore disability across the life span and the relevance to occupational therapy practice in the home, community and institutions. Students critically appraise evidence related to commonly used interventions. Students continue to increase their knowledge related to OT assessment, treatment planning, intervention, discharge planning, and follow-up at a basic level.

Year 2 - September to August



4 a & b

Complexities of Practice I: Children, Youth and Adults

This term focuses on theory and practice through a developmental lens. Students will explore in greater depth, complex issues in children, youth and adults. Advanced clinical reasoning skills and evidence-based decision-making will be highlighted, as well as consideration of health systems issues. Coursework will include professional reasoning and skills and inquiry courses and once weekly problem-based tutorials. An evidence-based practice course will begin in Term 4 including large group sessions, seminar groups and the initial stages of the evidence-based practice projects.


8 weeks
January - March


5 a & b

Complexities of Practice II: Older Adults & Transition to Practice

This term will continue the exploration of the developmental continuum by addressing the impact of aging on the identities and occupations of adults and older adults. As the last academic term, there will be emphasis on the integration and consolidation of the knowledge, skills and professional behaviour that students have acquired throughout the OT Program in preparation for transition to professional practice. Coursework will include professional reasoning and skills and inquiry courses and once weekly problem-based tutorials. The evidence-based practice course will include large group sessions, independent team work and a symposium. There will be enhanced opportunities for independent learning and interprofessional education throughout the term.


8 weeks
June - August

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