Occupational Science Degree (BHS) - Pre-OT Program

Occupational Science Degree (BHS) - Pre-OT Program

Become an Occupational Therapist

In the fall of 2017, GMercyU launched our Occupational Science program that can serve as a dual degree program to give qualified GMercyU students a way to earn both a Bachelor of Health Science (BHS) in Occupational Science and a Master of Science (MS) in Occupational Therapy* without having to apply to graduate school or take a graduate school entrance exam. The BHS in Occupational Science and MS in Occupational Therapy can be completed in about 5 years.

The Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy majors are housed in the Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Program within the Frances M. Maguire School of Nursing and Health Professions.

Program Summary

124 undergraduate credits for BHS in Occupational Science (with 40 additional credits for MS in Occupational Therapy)
3 years of pre-professional liberal arts education, 2 1/2 years of professional Occupational Therapy education
Occupational Science program launched in the Fall of 2017
First Occupational Science graduating class was in May of 2020



The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its Web address is www.acoteonline.org. Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

Occupational Therapy Career Opportunities

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for occupational therapists is $86,280 (May 2020).  Job growth in the field of occupational therapy is expected to grow 17% through 2030, more than twice as fast than the average for all occupations. And...

What Is Occupational Science?

Occupational Science is a science that focuses on the activities or “occupations” of everyday living. This growing field of study takes a holistic approach to better understanding the meaning, function, and abilities of healthy and disabled individuals to participate in and perform daily activities and live a satisfying life. 

Courses in liberal arts with a strong foundation in the behavioral sciences, particularly psychology, coupled with courses in occupational science will expand your ability to understand how people develop, recover, manage and improve essential skills for daily living.

What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?

Occupational therapists focus on improving a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks and activities (occupations) – from childhood to older adulthood. 

As an occupational therapist, you might:

  • Enable young children with a developmental delay to improve their ability to play or participate in school and other social activities
  • Assist an adult with an orthopedic injury to regain use of his or her hand and arm, allowing him or her to perform daily activities more independently
  • Help older adults who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury perform self-care and household activities so they can return home safely from the hospital or skilled nursing facility
  • Provide strategies to adolescents with severe mental illness to aid them in finding and securing employment in order to live on their own

A developmental delay or other types of disability can alter one’s ability to perform meaningful daily activities.  A registered occupational therapist helps people to cope and manage their daily activities, as well as adapt to environments in a way that best supports their safety and independence.

Program Details

Don’t let the name fool you. GMercyU’s BHS in Occupational Science is less focused on mastering the physical sciences, such as biology, chemistry and physics, and more focused on the science of helping improve the daily lives of others.  

As an Occupational Science student, the bulk of your major courses will focus on the liberal arts, including human development, psychology, and occupational science. These courses will help you develop the knowledge needed to better understand the challenges faced by those with disabilities. In doing so, Occupational Science students are uniquely prepared to enter into our Occupational Therapy Program.

If you are interested in Occupational Therapy or have applied to the OT program, please reach out to Kathy Hosack by email at Hosack.K@gmercyu.edu or calling (215) 646-7300 ext. 21699.


The four-year Occupational Science major includes three years of pre-professional studies with a focus on liberal arts, occupational science, health science, and general education. The fourth year begins the professional phase of the Occupational Therapy Program (at an undergraduate tuition rate). The Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy courses that are offered in this dual degree Program are listed below:

Year 1:
OSC 101: Introduction to Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy (3 credits)

Year 2:
OSC 201: Study of the Form, Function, and Meaning of Occupation (3 credits)

Year 3:
OSC 301: Health, Disability, and Occupation (3 credits)

Year 4:
OSC 402: Neuroscience of Occupational Behavior (2 credits)
OSC 403: Functional Anatomy for Occupational Therapy (3 credits)
OSC 405: Foundations of Occupational Therapy (3 credits)
OSC 406: Creativity and Activity Analysis (2 credits)
OSC 407: Kinesiology for Occupational Therapy (3 credits)
OSC 408: Professional Skills I: Therapeutic Use of Self (2 credits)
OSC 410: Professional Development I: Ethics, Values, and Responsibilities (2 credits)
OSC 411: Health and Medical Conditions: Children and Youth (2 credits)
OSC 412: Occupational Therapy Process: Children and Youth (5 credits)
OSC 413: Occupational Therapy Fieldwork I: Children and Youth (1 credit)
OSC 414: Research Methods I: Evidence-based Practice (3 credits)
OSC 415: Professional Skills II: Mobility, ADL, IADL, and Work (3 credits)
OSC 416: Professional Development II: Health Care, Policy, and Advocacy (3 credits)
OSC 4000: Wellness and Health Promotion through Occupation Capstone

Please note: All professional phase Occupational Therapy students (senior year and beyond) may be required to obtain the following annually –background check, physical, current CPR certification, PPD testing, health insurance. Students will be required to have a laptop, have transportation to and from fieldwork, and expected to hold student memberships to the American Occupational Therapy Association and Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association. 

Additional Occupational Therapy course listings can be found on the MSOT degree page.

Course Listings

OSC-101 Intro Occupational Science/Therapy (3): This course presents students with an introduction to the academic discipline of Occupational Science and the profession of Occupational Therapy. Students will learn about the concept of occupation, how health is influenced by occupational performance and participation, and how the therapeutic use of occupation can influence the development and/or recovery of persons with disabling conditions. The evolution of Occupational Science and the current and emerging practice areas in Occupational Therapy will be reviewed.

OSC-201 Form, Function, & Meaning of Occupation (3): This course reviews some of the complex and diverse nature of daily occupation, including the observable aspects (form), purpose (function), and meaning of occupation. Students will be encouraged to reflect on their own patterns of daily occupation and its influence on identity.

OSC-301 Health, Disability, and Occupation (3): This course will review the literature on varying perspectives of health, disability, and its effects on occupational performance and participation.

OSC-402 Neuroscience of Occupational Behavior (2): Covers body functions and structures of the nervous system, including the impact of nervous system impairment on occupational behavior.

OSC-403 Functional Anatomy for Occupational Therapy (3): In-depth study of the body functions and structures of the human body with major emphasis on functional anatomy within the domain of concern for occupational therapy. Includes a practice lab.

OSC-405 Foundations of Occupational Therapy (3): Introduction to the foundations of the occupational therapy profession including its history, philosophical base, professional terminology, theory development, frames of reference, and the varied scope and roles of the occupational therapy practitioner.

OSC-406 Creativity and Activity Analysis (2): Exploration of the historical and contemporary use of creativity in the promotion of health through client-centered activities to promote health and recovery. Emphasis on the analysis, grading, and managing of complexity of therapeutic activities. Includes a practice lab.

OSC-407 Kinesiology for Occupational Therapy (3): Focus on the understanding and analyzing typical, atypical, and compensatory human movement across the life span. Includes a practice lab

OSC-408 Professional Skills I: Therapeutic Use of Self (2): Exploration of human behavioral theories and practice of therapeutic use of self within individual and group therapeutic contexts. Focus on understanding the occupational needs of individuals and groups, teaching-learning process, appraisal of effective communication, empathy, mindfulness, and building of rapport to foster effective therapeutic relationships.

OSC-410 Professional Development I: Ethics, Values, and Responsibilities (2): Examines the ethics and values of the profession of occupational therapy including the ethical standards of occupational therapy practice and review of scenarios to solve ethical dilemmas. Includes professional development regarding the acquisition of professional membership, knowledge, and skills expected of students in a professional program while beginning to develop a plan for lifelong learning.

OSC-411 Health and Medical Conditions: Children and Youth (2): Examines development and the prevailing health and welfare needs of children and adolescents with or at risk for mental and/or physical disabilities and chronic health conditions. Focus on varying medical conditions that can impact occupational performance and participation of children and youth.

OSC-412 Occupational Therapy Process: Children and Youth (5): Integrates theories and the occupational therapy process of evaluation (including assessment), intervention, and targeted outcomes with children and adolescents. Includes a practice lab.

OSC-413 Occupational Therapy Fieldwork I: Child and Youth (1): Immersion experience into a therapeutic service delivery context with children or youth.

OSC-414 Research Methods I: Evidence-Based Practice (3): Review of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, appraisal of professional literature and levels of evidence, and the influence of clinical expertise and client values in supporting best therapeutic practices.

OSC-415 Professional Skill II: Mobility, ADL, IADL, and Work (3): Review and practice of a wide array of healthcare and practice skills that include infection control, safety, body mechanics, wheelchair and mobility device use, ADL training, IADL training, and ergonomics to improve work performance. Includes a practice lab.

OSC-416 Professional Development II: Healthcare, Policy, and Advocacy (3): Focuses on understanding healthcare, policy, and reimbursement that influence access to occupational therapy practice across multiple practice areas. Review of intra-professional and inter- professional roles, and the laws and regulations that influence occupational therapy practice. Promotion of occupational therapy to other professionals, service providers, consumers, third-party payers, regulatory bodies, and to the public.

OSC-4000 Wellness & Health Promotion Through Occupation (2): Exploration of occupation and diversity factors that influence health and wellness. Review of community-based and institutional-based practice areas in the promotion of health and wellness in individual, group, and population-based contexts. Create a scholarly proposal designed to improve the wellness, health promotion, and/or occupational participation needs of a targeted community group.

Student Occupational Therapy Association

Gwynedd Mercy University’s Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) is an active and productive student organization that is primarily comprised of occupational science and occupational therapy students. SOTA serves to enhance the public understanding of the occupational therapy profession through professional development, fundraising, social media, community service, and social activities. To meet the current SOTA Executive Board and to learn of past and upcoming SOTA events, please visit the SOTA homepage.

Academic Progression into Occupational Therapy Master’s Program

Occupational Science majors are guaranteed entry into the MSOT program the summer after their junior year if the following criteria are met: cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.1 or greater, combined GPA of 3.1 or greater in prerequisite courses, (General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Sociology, Anatomy and  Physiology I and II with lab, and Statistics), earn a “C” or better in all non-prerequisite courses prerequisite courses completed at Gwynedd Mercy University, have 50 hours or more of documented occupational therapy observation or work beginning in the fall of their freshman year to the spring of their junior year, and attest to meeting the Essential Functions of Occupational Therapy Practice.

Graduation Requirements

Occupational Science majors are required to complete 124 credits to earn a Bachelor of Health Science (BHS) in Occupational Science.

Students are eligible to re-take up to 2 courses in the Occupational Science curriculum that are not an OSC 400 level course. If a student earns less than a “C” in one or two 400 level courses, they cannot progress into the Occupational Therapy Master’s Program their senior year. These students will need to retake the course or courses over the following year and earn a “B” or better in the course or courses in order to earn a BHS and enter into the Occupational Therapy Master’s Program. If a student earns less than a “C” in three or more 400 level courses, they may be disqualified from entry into the Occupational Therapy Master’s Program. Disqualified students can change their major and complete program and bachelor degree requirements of a different major offered at Gwynedd Mercy University.

Meet the Faculty

Thomas Mernar, PhD, OTR/L

Position: Associate Professor and Program Director, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Did You Know? Dr. Mernar founded the OS and OT programs at GMercyU. He has been a licensed occupational therapist (OTR) for more than 20 years, with experience working clinically in acute and sub-acute traumatic brain injury units, sub-acute skilled nursing, long-term care, and assisted living facilities.

Learn More

Michele Peterson, MS, OTR/L

Position: Instructor and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator, Occupational Therapy
Did You Know? Professor Peterson has been licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR®) for more than 20 years with experience working in pediatrics, specifically school-based, preschool age, birth to three, and pediatric in-patient and out-patient settings. She holds a specialty certification in the Sequential Oral Sensory Approach to feeding.  

Learn More

Mindy MacRone-Wolton, DSc, OTR/L

Position: Assistant Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Did You Know? Dr. Wojton has been a licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR®) for more than 20 years. She has spent most of her career as a school-based therapist, working with and advocating for students with attention deficit disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, emotional disturbance, genetic disorders, learning disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. 

Learn More

Sharon Montgomery, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, CEAS

Position: Assistant Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Did You Know? Dr. Montgomery has been a registered and licensed Occupational Therapist (OTR®) for more than 30 years. She has spent her career working in a hospital setting providing both adult inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, and she holds a specialty certification in Hand Therapy.

Learn More


Paths of Entry

There are three paths of entry into the dual degree program in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

First, a select number of high school graduates will enter as freshmen. High school seniors must hold a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.1 (based on a 4.00 scale), 1080 combined Math and Verbal SAT or at least a 22 on the ACT with no subsection under 20. CLEP or AP credits are not accepted for courses in Anatomy and Physiology, General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Sociology/Anthropology or Statistics. Due to the limited number of spaces available in the BHS in Occupational Science (Pre-OT) program, first-year students are strongly encouraged to submit a completed application no later than December 1.  The Admissions team will review all completed applications for the Occupational Science program in December and begin issuing admissions decisions in January. Students who apply after the December 1 deadline will be considered for admission based on their qualifications and available spots.

Second, a select number of undergraduate students enrolled at GMercyU can apply to change their major to Occupational Science. To be eligible for a change of major to Occupational Science, GMercyU students must have completed 24 or more credits at GMercyU by the end of the spring semester, maintained a cumulative GPA of a 3.1 or greater, submit the internal student change of major application to Dr. Thomas Mernar, Program Director of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Programs at mernar.t@gmercyu.edu between April 1 and May 1, and conduct an in-person interview with Program faculty members in May/June. Having earned an overall GPA of 3.1 or greater does not guarantee acceptance of a change of major to Occupational Science. Your academic transcript will be reviewed (including spring semester grades) in order to determine your change of major eligibility. If you meet the GPA requirements after spring grades are posted, the Program Director of the Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Program will contact you for an interview.

Third, pending the current cohort size, a limited number of students from other academic institutions may be eligible to transfer directly into the Occupational Science major if they have completed an undergraduate Admissions application, completed 24 or more credits, maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.1 or greater, complete an external student transfer application that includes a written essay, and conduct an in-person interview with an Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy Program faculty member. No more than 35 credits completed within the last 5 years could be transferred into the education requirements required of an Occupational Science major. 

Requirements for Entry into Occupational Therapy Program

Occupational Science majors are guaranteed entry into the Occupational Therapy Program the summer after their junior year if the following criteria are met:

  • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.1 or greater.
  • Prerequisite courses (General Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Sociology, Anatomy and Physiology I and II with lab, and Statistics) combined GPA of 3.1 or greater and earn a “C” or better in all non-prerequisite courses.
  • Completed and documented 50 hours or more of occupational therapy observation beginning in the fall of their freshman year to the spring of their junior year.
  • Attest to being able to meet the technical standards for occupational therapy practice. Students entering into and engaged during the full course of the Occupational Therapy Master’s Program must possess essential skills (observation, communication, motor function, intellectual-conceptual abilities, integrative and quantitative abilities, and behavioral and social attributes) to perform all educational (classroom, laboratory and clinical), fieldwork, and experiential preceptorship tasks in an accurate, safe, and efficient manner, to the satisfaction of the faculty, with or without reasonable accommodation. 


  • Normal or corrected visual ability sufficient for client observation and assessment to ensure safety and accurate measurement.
  • Ability to obtain information from written documents, videotaped data, graphic images and measuring devices accurately and within a reasonable time frame. 
  • Ability to sufficiently monitor and assess health needs of clients. 


  • Interact with others in a professional, courteous, and collaborative manner while using good judgment for confidentiality.
  • Demonstrate respect for the dignity of each person.
  • Maintain integrity in word and deed with others.
  • Read, speak, and write in English effectively using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Motor Function

  • Assume a variety of body postures that can include continuous sitting, standing, walking, bending, reaching, pulling, lifting, stooping, kneeling, and crawling.
  • Demonstrate manipulation skills to effectively carry and use therapeutic equipment (i.e. assistive devices, weights). 
  • Demonstrate movement and mobility skills that are required for safe handling of persons of various sizes in order to perform safe transfers and guarding during functional mobility with and without an assistive device.
  • Pushing and pulling in order to provide resistance for the purposes of maneuvering and transitioning persons such during bed mobility, using a wheelchair, and for sitting and standing balance activities.
  • Demonstrate eye-hand coordination, postural control, strength, endurance, and integrated function of the senses (vision, hearing, smell, and touch) during the therapeutic process.

Intellectual-conceptual Abilities

  • Demonstrate verbal and written insight into one’s own academic and clinical performance.
  • Demonstrate the mental capacity to understand, problem solve, and make judgments in order to promote ethical reasoning.
  • Demonstrate ability to collect, document, and analyze evaluation data and implement client-centered and occupation-based interventions. 

Integrative and Quantitative Abilities

  • Demonstrate the mental capacity to understand, problem solve, and make judgments in order to promote safety.
  • Intellectual capacities to measure, evaluate, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize information specific to client care.
  • Demonstrate ability to apply information learned from the classroom to a therapeutic practice environment.

Behavioral and Social Attributes

  • Demonstrate mature and professional behaviors with other students, faculty, colleagues, and clients.
  • Be receptive and open to mentor feedback about academic or fieldwork performance and adherence to academic and fieldwork policies and procedures. 
  • Establish and maintain a therapeutic relationship with clients.
  • Ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively with others.

Students should review the Technical Standards for the MSOT program carefully and identify if additional supports are needed for any portion (didactic and clinical) of the MSOT program. Students are encouraged to contact the Student Accessibility Services Office to arrange an individualized consultation to discuss any support services or accommodations they may need. 

Please note: Students enrolling in this program must have the ability to obtain a U.S. background check and other clearances for placement in a U.S. clinical/school setting. U.S. citizenship or permanent residency is also a requirement for licensure within certain academic programs. International students and students who are under DACA status or are undocumented should carefully review the licensure requirements in their state before enrolling in a degree program that leads to licensure. Additional information can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures website

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At GMercyU, we strive to make a quality education accessible to all through financial aid, scholarships, and grants. As a military-friendly university, we welcome service members and participate in all VA educational benefits programs. 

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Start your journey to becoming an occupational therapist. Apply to GMercyU's BHS in Occupational Science today!