About Us History

OT student doing research with child


Main Office

Occupational Therapy
School of Education
2120 Medical Sciences Center
1300 University Avenue
MadisonWI  53706-1691

Tel: 608/262-2936
Fax: 608/262-1639

Email: otoffice@education.wisc.edu
or by contact form
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Program History

History of the UW-Madison Occupational Therapy Program

The Occupational Therapy Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison began in 1943 when academic courses prepared students to work in the areas of mental health, tuberculosis care, general medicine, pediatrics and orthopedics. At that time, the Medical School and the School of Education jointly administered the program. In 1945, 150 students were enrolled in the program and Miss Caroline Thompson accepted the position of Technical Director of the program. She would serve as the overall program coordinator for 31 years.


By the mid-1950s the Occupational Therapy Program grew to become the second largest in the country. Curriculum improvements included the addition of the first research methods course in 1964 and a broadly based course in OT theory for those in the junior year of the program. Increasing enrollment, however, made it difficult for the program to adequately meet the needs of the students. By the early 1970s, enrollment caps were in place and students were required to meet minimum standards for admission.

In 1985, a post-professional master's degree in Therapeutic Science (MS-TS) was started for individuals holding an undergraduate degree in occupational or physical therapy, and in 1996 the Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology, Therapeutic Science Track (Ph.D.) was established. To meet the increasing needs of graduate-level students, and the academic standards of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Occupational Therapy Program faculty members now hold doctoral degrees and have active research programs. Many of the faculty are nationally and internationally recognized experts within the occupational therapy profession.

After a 60-year history, the Occupational Therapy Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison phased out its Bachelor of Science degree to meet the educational standards of the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). Beginning in 2007, all entry-level occupational therapists must be prepared at the post-baccalaureate level. The Occupational Therapy Program is especially well-suited to meet the challenges of offering an entry-level master's degree program with its emphasis on research and critical thinking skills. The University of Wisconsin-Madison began accepting graduate students for admission into the Master's in Occupational Therapy (MS-OT) Degree Program in 2005.

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