Student Smiling in OT Discussion group

Master of Science (Occupational Therapy) Program

Occupational Therapists work collaboratively with people to enable them to participate in the occupations that give meaning and purpose to their lives. Occupations are everything that people do to look after themselves, to enjoy life and to contribute to the social and economic fabric of their communities.

Students at Splinting Workshop


The mission of the MSc (Occupational Therapy) Program is to prepare graduates with requisite knowledge, skills and professional behaviours to practice as entry-level occupational therapists in a range of institutional and community settings throughout Canada and the international community.

Students will achieve an understanding of the influence of family, society, culture and physical environment as they explore the concepts of occupation and health across the lifespan within the context of client-centered practice.  Graduates will be prepared to function as independent practitioners, as members of interdisciplinary teams, as critical consumers of research, as agents of change, as leaders in their profession, and as lifelong self-directed learners.

Questions about the program? Please contact us at

Are you an Occupational Therapy clinician who is interested in contributing to the Occupational Therapy program at McMaster University? If so, please click here for more information.

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 any questions about students' life in Occupational Therapy? Contact our Ambassador (scroll to OT ambassador in the list).

2019-2020 OT Program Handbook

Clinical Education

Students participate in 4 clinical education placements during the program the length of which varies from 4 to 8 weeks. Clinical Education placements are available in: hospitals, private practice, industry and community. Students are evaluated by regulated occupational therapists who share their professional and clinical expertise to support student occupational therapists to prepare for professional practice.

Clinical Education provides students with:

  • Experience and training in real practice environments
  • More hands-on learning opportunities
  • The opportunity to learn practical skills in both clinical and research environments, locally, across Canada and internationally

Click here for more information on OT Clinical Education

Course Listing

Click here for the course listing located within the McMaster Graduate Calendar.

Curriculum Design

The curriculum is offered as a full-time, two-year, entry-level master's program. The curriculum is divided into five university-based terms of study with four practica courses integrated throughout the 24-month period.
Each term has a particular focus and is organized to integrate our educational and professional conceptual frameworks.

Northern Studies Stream

The Northern Studies Stream (NSS) was established in 1991 to specifically address the shortage of OTs and PTs in Northwestern Ontario through various recruitment and retention initiatives.

With 25 years of documented success, the current NSS is focused on providing clinical education opportunities for students across northern Ontario. Approximately 50% of students in the OT/PT Program will have the opportunity to participate in clinical education placements in northern Ontario.

The goals of the current NSS are threefold:

  1. To increase student awareness and knowledge of the health determinants that are unique to northern and rural communities;
  2. To increase student awareness of Aboriginal health issues, culture and health practices relevant to the First Nations people living in northern and rural Ontario; and
  3. To increase student skills in addressing professional practice issues while engaging in clinical education and living in a northern and/or rural community.

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.

Steps and Pillars

Steps: Professional Conceptual Framework
The steps of the conceptual frameworks illustrate the major foci of the program in terms of professional conceptual models. These include theories, models, frameworks and bodies of knowledge that students need to understand and be able to apply upon graduation. The foundational step is a focus on philosophy of health which includes definitions and determinants of health. It also includes foundational information about factors that contribute to health, including biological sciences (anatomy, physiology) and social sciences (psychology, sociology). The second step focuses on concepts of occupation, which refer to the theories and approaches to practice to help us understand the occupational issues experienced by clients. Occupation is a central concept in occupational therapy that “…refers to groups of activities and tasks of everyday life, named, organized and given value and meaning by individuals and a culture. The third step further assists students to consider how to view or consider occupation and occupational issues through various lenses. The McMaster Lens for Occupational Therapy is introduced early in the program, and helps students consider the many layers through which we can consider a client or population to understand occupation and how occupational therapists can provide services. For example, clients can be viewed through a developmental lens by asking questions about what are typical occupations for someone at that age and stage of life. The top step is called Process frameworks and refers to the models that help guide occupational therapists in their interactions with clients from referral to discharge. The most common process frameworks are the Occupational Performance Process Model (OPPM), and the Canadian Practice Process Framework (CPPF).

The final aspect of the Steps to consider is the carpet which lays across the top of the steps. The design on the carpet represents the Profile of Occupational Therapy Practice in Canada (“OT Profile”) (CAOT, 2012). Within the OT Profile, a model of essential competencies for the occupational therapy profession is depicted (see image below). The seven key areas of competency have been identified within our educational program as key learning outcomes.

Profile of Occupational Therapy in Canada Image

The Pillars: Educational Conceptual Frameworks
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), as outlined by Knowles (1975), clearly assigns the major responsibility for learning to the student. Within the framework provided by the goals and objectives of the program, students should be able to determine their own learning goals, how best to achieve their objectives, how to select learning resources, and how to measure their own progress. Faculty facilitate learning by asking questions, stimulating critical thinking, challenging the students' point of view, providing feedback, and evaluating student performance. Students are encouraged to think and discover during the process of gaining new knowledge, and not simply memorize facts.  Self-directed learning is a component of life-long learning, which is now a clear expectation for all occupational therapists as practitioners within a regulated health profession. Self-directed learning provides students with the essential skills needed to work within changing practice contexts.

2.  Problem-based learning (PBL), as a conceptual framework, contends that knowledge is best remembered in the context in which it is learned, and that acquisition and integration of new knowledge requires activation of prior knowledge. In contrast to the common approach of using a problem for application after learning has taken place, problem-based learning requires that the learner encounter a problem first as the initial stimulus for learning. The learner thus becomes actively involved in the learning process, can shape it to meet personal needs based on prior knowledge and experience, can engage in independent study appropriate to his/her unique learning style, and can integrate information from many sources, including student peers, into a conceptual framework for use in dealing with future problems.

Small group learning is a natural extension of problem-based learning. To maximize small group learning, we believe it is important to bring students from various educational and work experience backgrounds together so that the heterogeneity of the group itself becomes a valuable learning resource. The transfer of knowledge is enhanced through the use of problems that encourage students to not only learn content, but also to develop strategies to recognize the ‘analogy' or ‘principle' that can then be transferred to new problems and contexts.

3.  Inter-Professional Education is an emerging approach to professional preparation of health professional students. IPE is defined as “occasions when two or more professions learn with, from and about each other to improve collaboration and quality of care” (The Center for Advancement of Interprofessional Education (CAIPE), 1997). The occupational therapy program offers opportunities for students to achieve inter-professional competencies through the formal curriculum. Student occupational therapists are also encouraged to further their development of these competencies through offerings within the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University has developed PIPER (Program of Interprofessional Education and Research) to encourage students to develop strong collaborative and team skills for future practice. Our occupational therapy program has firmly placed interprofessional education as a mandated activity for all students. The PIPER model provides students with four IPE competencies and three levels of activities from which they may choose to meet the mandatory requirements.

4.  Experiential Learning is another important pillar of the McMaster Occupational Therapy Program. Students are engaged in numerous “hands on” learning experiences throughout their education. This includes classroom and community-based sessions that are part of university-based terms; in addition, clinical education offers rich experiential learning opportunities over 28 weeks of practica experience in four different settings. An important component of experiential learning is reflection; it is only through reflection on what was done, accomplished, observed or learned that a student can more readily generalize and build on the learning. Throughout university-based and practica courses, students are expected to engage in reflections which support them to consolidate and generalize their development as professionals.

5.  The final pillar of the educational conceptual framework is Inquiry Based Learning, which is a student-centred, active learning approach focusing on questioning, critical thinking and problem solving. Although it shares features with problem-based learning, the approach is most often used in the McMaster Occupational Therapy Program in large-group classes. Students are engaged in learning that may begin with lecture or presentation by faculty, but readily moves into group discussions, team-based learning, or student presentations to support competency development.

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.

Process Frameworks:

Click here to view the Process Frameworks Presentation;  an overview of the Occupational Performance Process Model (OPPM) and the Canadian Practice Process Framework (CPPF).

If you would like transcripts of the videos found within the process frameworks presentation, please contact

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 of the group as a whole and of each of its members (including the tutor) is evaluated on a regular basis throughout each term. The final student mark is based on knowledge, use of learning resources, group participation and facilitation, clinical reasoning, critical appraisal skills, and evaluation skills (i.e., self-assessment, peer-assessment, and tutor evaluation).

Written exams provide opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of foundational knowledge and/or clinical reasoning and use various formats including multiple choice, short or long answer formats. They may also include timed exercises that involve documentation of clinical observations or interactions.

Essays are used to evaluate knowledge, critical appraisal skills, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills. The essay demonstrates a student’s understanding of principles or relationships, and fosters independent thinking and learning. Furthermore, it is used to develop and evaluate writing skills. Essays are assessed on content, organization, style, and mechanics. A problem write-up which focuses on a particular case scenario/client problem is a variation of the traditional essay, as are clinical or consultative reports.

Direct Observation techniques are used primarily to evaluate technical, behavioural and/or clinical skills. This type of practical examination might be used to evaluate interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and/or use of therapeutic interventions. Direct observation is frequently used in clinical practica as well.

Oral presentations are also used throughout the Program. A health care professional must be articulate, able to defend an opinion or position, and able to present information and ideas in an organized and clear manner. To help the students develop these skills, individual and group presentations are used as evaluation components in most terms. Poster or podium presentations are used to present results of students' evidence-based practice projects.

Practicum Evaluation: The Competency Based Fieldwork Evaluation for OccupationalTherapists (CBFE-OT) (Bossers, et al., 2007) is used to evaluate student performance during all practica experiences and guides remedial work. The use of the CBFE-OT which incorporates both visual analogue scale (VAS) and student learning objectives, reinforces the student’s role as an active participant in the process of learning rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, the CBFE-OT allows the student to meet the Program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives. CBFE-OT is a document drawn up by the student and negotiated and approved by the practice preceptor or faculty member. It specifies seven essential competencies, what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The CBFE-OT reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the Program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to individualize his/her own way of achieving personal learning objectives, and to measure the progress towards achieving them. Objective measurement of the attainment of essential competencies through the integration of skills, knowledge and professional behaviours is also guided by the competencies from the Profile of Occupational Therapists in Canada.

Accreditation and Regulation of Practice


In 2016, the MSc (OT) was granted an accreditation award for a period of seven years (until 2023) by the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT).

Regulation of Practice:

All occupational therapists in Canada must be registered with the appropriate provincial regulatory organization in order to practice in that province.

Each regulatory body has a separate and distinct registration process, but in all circumstances, a degree in occupational therapy and successful completion of the CAOT national certification examination are required.

In Ontario, graduates from the MSc (OT) will be granted a provincial practicing certificate of registration by the College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario (COTO) until they write and pass the CAOT examination, at which point a general practicing certificate is granted.

CAOT Website (The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists)
COTO Website (The College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario)

A Day in the Life of an OT

Occupational Therapists work in a variety of roles, settings and industries. You will see OTs working in hospitals, school boards, workplaces and private clinics. OTs work with clients from across the life span (infant to elder) and help their clients in areas such as rehabilitation, mental health, accessibility, motor skills, and much more. Each role is different, and each client is different, but I'm sure you've asked yourself "what does a day as an Occupational Therapist look like?"

Angela Everest

Angela Everest Headshot

Please tell me about your current role and your workplace environment/setting.
I am employed in a hospital the area of mental health. I work with patients who need support to resume roles that have been disrupted due to their illness. I practice as an OT/psychotherapist using a variety of modalities, such as CBT, behavioral activation.

What made you want to become an OT?
I enjoy working with people, solving problems, and having a set of professional skills that are in demand.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Seeing clients get better is a very rewarding experience. Also my job can evolve as I am able to continually learn new modalities/ techniques to enhance my professional skills.

Although every day, and every client is different, what would you say a “typical” day is like in your role?
My job involves running psychoeducation groups, doing individual psychotherapy, charting on my interactions with clients, and liaising with other team members. I conduct assessments, establish treatment plans, and develop discharge plans.

What skills and attributes do you think lend themselves best to the practice of Occupational Therapy?
I think being curious, thinking critically and creatively, being a good listener, and knowing why you are using a particular approach or modality are Important skills and attributes. Strong verbal communication and writing skills are essential. OTs, in my opinion, are practical and good problem solvers.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing Occupational Therapy as a career?
Connect with an OT and find out about their job. Check out the College of Occupational Therapists' website to see what it means to be a regulated health care professional.

What do you do to stay current in the field of Occupational Therapy?
I take courses related to my job, read information provided by the College of Occupational Therapists and the Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists, keep up with current standards, and connect with other OTs.

Raelene Corbin

Please tell me about your current role and your workplace environment/setting.
I currently work in early psychosis intervention with individuals who have experienced a first episode of psychosis. My clients are typically young adults ranging in the ages of 16-35 years old. It is an outpatient setting where clients are supported by a variety of clinicians. We have occupational therapy, psychiatry, psychology, social work, recreation therapy, peer support, addiction specialists and nursing staff. I mainly support clients with goals related to school, work and behavioural activation. Most days I am in the clinic where clients will meet with me, but I also do community visits and outreach. I also help plan, organize and facilitate many of our monthly groups for clients and I am a member of various committees at the hospital and outside of the organization.

What made you want to become an OT?
I had learned about the profession through a friend who was a new OT at the time. I intrigued by the other services I could offer as an OT.

What is the most rewarding part of your role?
Seeing my clients achieve their goals, despite the barriers along the way, and getting back to what they enjoy.

Although every day, and every client is different, what would you say a “typical” day is like in your role?
I am always assisting clients with identifying their goals and making plans. This includes connecting clients with available supports and resources and advocating on their behalf. This can involve contacting employers and schools, assisting with retroactive withdrawals, return to work planning, setting up appropriate accommodations, employment readiness (resume building, interview skill development, job search, bus training...etc.). I also can be out in the community or facilitating a group and encouraging clients to engage in specific skill development or activities. Providing education is another part of my role.

What skills and attributes do you think lend themselves best to the practice of Occupational Therapy?
Certainly being able to identify the person's strengths and barriers, in addition to considering the environmental and occupational factors. Learning how to be a self-directed learner has also been very important when moving into a new role. With so many unique opportunities, one can not assume the training they will receive will cover everything they need to know. There is always more learning to gain over time.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing Occupational Therapy as a career?
Have an open mind when thinking about what you would like to do after graduation. Don't get stuck thinking you'll only want to be working in a specific area. There are so many areas of practice and unique roles in which OTs are working. Take some time to explore these areas and speak to OTs who are currently practicing to learn more. Volunteer! shadow! continue with professional development.

What do you do to stay current in the field of Occupational Therapy?
Each year I sign up for workshops and/or look for new learning opportunities. I have also been striving to complete additional training to further my professional development and expand my skill set. I have a goal to try and take at least 1 student OT each year and stay connected with my colleagues within and outside of the workplace.

General Information

Mailing Address:

School of Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
Institute of Applied Health Sciences,
Room 403, 1400 Main St. W. Hamilton, ON L8S 1C7


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