Master of Occupational Therapy


Online with a compulsory block course per year

18 months full time; eight years part-time

Online with one compulsory block course in Dunedin (two to three days) at the beginning of the research process.

February and July
By 31 January or 1 July (domestic); 1 January or 31 May (international)
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Distance
    1 February 2021
    28 June 2021 - 16 July 2021
  • Distance
    12 July 2021
  • Distance
    1 January 2022

Are you keen to develop your professional practice and research skills to a very high level? Do you want to gain an in-depth understanding of a specific aspect of occupational therapy knowledge?

The Master of Occupational Therapy is a qualification of excellence which will provide you with the knowledge and skills that are relevant for international practice. With appropriate experience, you may enter higher positions of responsibility in occupational therapy or become involved in areas of policy or research. Alternatively, you could pursue an academic career in occupational therapy education or apply for enrolment into PhD programmes to take you to the top of your field. 

With a strong practice and research focus, this programme will enable you to build a broad range of knowledge to justify your practice. Gain the confidence to not only share current research in your practice area with other members of health teams, but to systematically plan and carry out detailed research to internationally-recognised standards. Choose to complete your qualification through coursework and a smaller project or by the research thesis option.

Both domestic and international students will study online and have the opportunity to interact regularly through a weekly online group forum. This gives everyone the chance to fit their study around other commitments. Domestic and international students will also enjoy the chance to interact with each other at the compulsory Masters School held in Dunedin in February and July.

Please note: If you already hold a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma, then your costs are only for the Level 9 project or thesis.

Entry requirements

To enter the first year of the Masters:

  • You must hold a Diploma OR Bachelor of Occupational Therapy from a World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) approved programme (OR equivalent), OR a Certificate of Registration (New Zealand).
  • If you hold a Diploma or Certificate of Registration, you must also provide evidence of commitment to further education and two confidential referees attesting to your ability to manage postgraduate study.
  • You must provide evidence of registration as an occupational therapist (Annual Practising Certificate), although this can be waived in certain circumstances.

To enter the second year of the Masters of Occupational Therapy:

  • You must hold a Postgraduate Certificate in Occupational Therapy or Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy Practice OR equivalent, with a B grade average across a total of 60 credits
  • You must have successfully completed a Research course 
  • OR you must have successfully completed a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy with Honours endorsed second class, OR equivalent.

To enter both the first or second year:

  • International students will be individually assessed to ensure they meet entry requirements.  
  • If English is not your first language, you must provide:

If you need to improve your English Language skills, we offer a wide range of English programmes.

COVID-19 vaccination

If you want to apply for this programme, we’ll need to see evidence of your Covid-19 vaccinations (including types and dates). You need to have had three doses. We’re legally obliged to collect this additional information from you as this programme is covered by the Covid-19 Public Health Response (Vaccination) Order 2021. 

Please just complete our online application process as normal. As part of the application process, you’ll be asked to provide your vaccination record. 

The Government have advised that the only proof of vaccination that we can accept is a vaccination record PDF from your My Covid Record. 

Find out how to get your vaccination record here >

Additional documentation

You must supply certified copies of proof of identity, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate) and curriculum vitae.

Selection procedure

Applications for this programme are screened by the Masters Coordinator against the entry criteria. Should the number of applicants who meet the entry requirements exceed the available places, applicants will be placed on a waiting list in date order.

Additional costs

You must have access to a personal computer, printer and internet connection. You will make extensive use of websites and the electronic library so must budget for the cost of printing reference material, as well as ordering inter-library loans.

You will also need to consider the costs of carrying out your research which could include payment for transcription, copying and posting out of surveys. You are expected to attend a three day Master's School (once a year) and are responsible for any costs associated with this including transport, accommodation and food. 

Domestic students: You will study  

The Master of Occupational Therapy has a strong practice and research focus. Draw on advanced knowledge to critically evaluate current professional trends in occupational therapy and critique service delivery from a sound theoretical basis. Your involvement in research and scholarship should contribute to a broad understanding of occupational therapy practice in New Zealand.

The Master of Occupational Therapy has two options in terms of pathways. If you are enrolling from a bachelor’s degree, you are required to complete either two Level 8 courses offered in the Postgraduate Certificate programme followed by Masters by research thesis level 9; or four Level 8 courses offered in the Postgraduate Diploma programme followed by the Masters by project level 9.

Year one

Complete 60 credits Level 8 courses. This may be within the structure of a Postgraduate Certificate offered by Otago Polytechnic or another university.


Complete 120 credits Level 8 courses. This may be within the structure of a Postgraduate Diploma offered by Otago Polytechnic or another university.

Year two

Masters by project

Includes two courses (Level 8) of 30 credits each and one 60 credit project (Level 9)


Masters by thesis

One course equivalent to 120 credits (Level 9).

Please note: Most people complete this qualification on a part-time basis, alongside full-time employment.

International students: You will study

If you are an international student interested in studying with us, please contact the School of Occupational Therapy by emailing

Your workload

Domestic students - Level 8

At Level 8, each course is worth 30 credits equating to approximately 300 study hours. If you are completing one course a semester, you should allocate approximately 18-19 hours per week for attendance at fortnightly teleconferences, online discussions and reading, as well as research for your assessments.

Domestic students - Level 9

At Level 9, you will have selected either the Research Project OR the Research Thesis. For either option, you will need to be guided by the number of hours - with the project being approximately 600 hours and the thesis 1,200 hours.

Domestic students: Qualification structure

Year one

Please consult the Postgraduate Certificate in Occupational Therapy Practice or Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy Practice information sheet.

Elective programmes

(Coursework option= select 180 credits/ Thesis option= select 120 credits)

SMS Code

Course Name





Reasoning in Fast Paced Environments



Research for Practice



Negotiated Study




Negotiated Study




Supervision for Helping Professions




Cognitive Approaches Across the Life Span




Motivation and Behavioural Change




Therapeutic Use of Self




Using Sensory Processing Principles with Diverse Populations




Specialty Practice




Vocational Rehabilitation




Low Vision Rehabilitation




Adventure Therapy




Trauma Informed Care



Year Two

You are required to complete a Level 8 research course (of at least 30 credits) before embarking on the second year of this qualification. This research course provides you with the theoretical knowledge required to complete a research project or research thesis.

Depending on your choice of pathway, you will then complete the research thesis OR the research project (both at Level 9).

Postgraduate academic staff

Sian Griffiths - Principal Lecturer/Honours Coordinator/Postgraduate Programme Lead

Jackie Herkt - Academic Leader

Helen Jeffery - Senior Lecturer

Debbie Davie - Administrator, Postgraduate Programmes

Dr Rita Robinson - Principal Lecturer

Dr Ema Tokolahi 

For more details, please visit our staff page.

Examples of thesis titles
  • Should I stay or should I go? Factors influencing retention of occupational therapists working in mental health services New Zealand
  • Occupational therapists understanding of autonomy for people with dementia when making placement decisions
Examples of Masters' projects
  • Changing the delivery of chronic pain management education: an action research study
  • Social Media and Mental Health: A Narrative Literature Review
  • Occupational Therapy in Primary Palliative Care; Understanding the here and now
  • Self-regulation, scooters and low vision: The practice of self-regulation by older adults with low vision when they use a mobility scooter
Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Want your existing skills recognised?

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.

Links to useful websites

Looking for a job as an occupational therapist? Check out New Zealand Careers or Health Careers.

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