Occupational Science Degrees: Associate's, Bachelor's & Online Class Info

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Associate's and bachelor's degrees in occupational science can lead to careers in and out of the healthcare field. Get the truth about requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Occupational Science: Degrees at a Glance

At the associate's degree level, 'occupational science' refers to a type of degree. At the bachelor's degree level (as well as at graduate degree levels), occupational science is an interdisciplinary field of study that combines healthcare, behavioral psychology and sociology and, because of that, is closely related to occupational therapy. Associate's degree programs prepare you to work in a specific occupational field, such as dental assisting, pharmacy technology or fitness training, while bachelor's degree programs can prepare you to work as a medical supply sales representative. To work as an occupational therapist, you need a graduate degree. Dual bachelor's and master's degree programs are available if you want to work as an occupational therapist.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals seeking to complete the educational requirements for entry-level positions in technical, medical and business fields Individuals interested in becoming occupational therapists or working in other healthcare positions
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary information) - Dental assistant ($70,000)*
- Pharmacy technologist ($30,000)*
- Fitness trainer ($45,000)*
- Medical sales representative ($86,000)*
- Occupational therapist ($75,000)*
Time to Completion - Up to 2 years of full time study - 4 years for bachelor's degree
- 5-6 years for dual degree
Common Graduation Requirements - Coursework - Coursework
- Fieldwork required in most programs
Prerequisites - High school diploma - High school diploma
- Minimum GPA on prerequisite occupational coursework
Online Availability Online availability depends on the focus of study Some programs may offer elective classes online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011).

Associate's of Occupational Science Degrees

Associate's of occupational science (AOS) degree programs provide you with the training and instruction required to work in your chosen field. For instance, an AOS program in computer network management teaches you about the fundamentals of networks, routers, security issues, disaster recovery and help desk skills, and prepares you for entry-level jobs in the tech field. Although the exact nature of these degree programs differs based on the field of study, there are some commonalities among them: they are usually skill-oriented programs, they typically emphasize practical as well as didactic training and their intended aim is to produce a technician or technologist proficient in their vocation.

Pros and Cons


  • Programs usually require two years or less of full-time study
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certain careers for which these degrees prepare you, such as radiologic technology, are expected to experience higher-than-average job growth (28%) over the coming decade
  • Normally, graduation prepares you to work anywhere in the country in your field


  • Programs do not prepare you for a career in occupational science
  • Owing to the specific occupational nature of these programs, they may not provide you with the same educational benefits you receive in a more general degree program, such as completing general education coursework
  • Healthcare careers, such as pharmacy technician or dental assistant, often require employees to work evening and weekend hours

Courses and Requirements

Because these programs are vocationally focused, the courses you take in them depend almost entirely on the area of study. Some careers in which these programs focus include:

  • Surgical technology
  • Dental assistance
  • Business administration
  • Medical practice management
  • Radiation therapist

Usually, program curriculum include lecture and lab work. Internships are usually not required.

Online Class Info

Not all fields of study offered under the title of 'occupational science' are offered online. Generally, fields of study that have a significant clinical component, such as many of the medical fields, are not offered completely online. On the other hand, fields of study that are sufficiently technology driven may be available online. For example, programs in computer network management and other technological fields are offered online.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To stand out from other job applicants, consider honing your technical skills. Technology and the Internet play a large role in most careers, and being proficient in technology may make it easier for you to get ahead with your degree. For example, aspiring physical fitness trainers and massage therapists may want to learn web design skills so that they can set up a website and advertise their skills. Therefore, these individuals may want to consider taking classes in HTML and Web design.

Bachelor's Degrees in Occupational Science

At the bachelor's degree level, the study of occupational science is often related to the field of occupational therapy. Completing a 4-year bachelor's degree program in occupational science does not prepare you to work as an occupational therapist, occupational scientist or teacher. For the former, you need a master's degree and, for the latter, a doctorate. Dual bachelor's and master's degree programs in occupational science are designed to prepare you to sit for the licensing exam that all states require of occupational therapists.

Pros and Cons


  • The BLS states that job opportunities for occupational therapists are expected to increase 33% during the 2010-2020 decade
  • A career in a healthcare field allows you to increase the well-being and healthfulness of your patients
  • This type of career path allows you to conduct a nationwide job search, which permits you to live and work anywhere in the United States


  • Depending on the program, this degree may not prepare you for a career as an occupational therapist
  • Dual degree programs typically require at least six years of study
  • According to the BLS, occupational therapists are often required to lift heavy objects and work irregular hours

Courses and Requirements

In a bachelor's degree program students complete a curriculum that includes anatomy and physiology, statistics, conflict management, abnormal psychology and intercultural communications. Your coursework is divided between traditional classroom lectures and lab work.

In a dual-degree program, you complete an interdisciplinary set of courses drawn from fields such as psychology, natural science and kinesiology. In addition to your core occupational science courses, you complete elective classes like English, public speaking and topics in information technology. In most programs you also complete a set number of hours working in the field as an occupational therapy assistant.

Online Degree Options

Online bachelor's degree and dual-degree programs do not exist at this time. Both types of programs feature a lab or clinical component, which is impossible to administer in a distance-learning format. If you want to study occupational science at the bachelor's or master's level, you must attend a campus-based program.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To get ahead with your bachelor's degree, consider completing as many practicums and internships as possible during your studies. Being familiar with every type of field in which occupational science may come into play may expand your list of potential employers, which may make it easier to find a job after graduation.

To stand out with your dual-degree, you should consider pursuing occupational therapist certification. As opposed to the mandatory licensure process, certification for occupational therapists is voluntary. The process consists of passing an exam and taking continuing education credits to maintain your certified status. Upon completing these steps you are eligible to refer to yourself professionally as 'Occupational Therapist Registered'.

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