Concordia University Wisconsin’s occupational therapy students have achieved a 100-percent first-time pass rate on their national certification exam—nearly 20 points ahead of the national average.

The 2017-18 national average for first-time test-takers of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) Exam was 81 percent. The NBCOT is the requisite exam for anyone wishing to practice professionally in the field. All those who pass the exam within a year after registering are counted among a program’s NBCOT score, even if it takes the individual multiple attempts within that time frame.

“We’re thrilled that we were able to help our students achieve this high level of success,” said OT Department Chair Carrie Jo Scheel, EdD, OT-L, CPE. “Our students have gained a reputation within the community as being well-prepared as entry-level clinicians and these results further support that fact.”

The OT cohort joins the company of CUW’s physician assistant and physical therapy programs. Earlier this academic year, both programs received word that their most recent graduates had achieved a 100 percent first-attempt pass rate on their national certifying exams. It’s the second year in a row that both the PA and PT programs have accomplished this feat.

Scheel says Concordia’s hands-on curriculum is largely to thank for the success. For years now, Concordia has operated a campus-based clinic where members of the community are able to come to CUW to receive free services from upper-level OT students.

This year, Concordia’s OT students have started to take their clinical services out into the community instead. Concordia has partnered with Portal, Inc. in Grafton, and Granville Lutheran in Milwaukee, to offer two new community-based clinics. Portal, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that serves adults and youth with developmental disabilities. Granville is part of the Lutheran Urban Mission Initiative, Inc.

Concordia is also in the process of building a new clinic on campus, the Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic, which will be located in The Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise building and will be utilized by OT students as well. The building is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2019-20 academic year.

“We do a significant amount more hands-on work with clients in the community than other programs out there,” Scheel said. “It’s a hallmark of our program. Not only does it help our students graduate more prepared for the work force, it fulfills an important mission of the university—that is to serve others.”

Learn more about Concordia’s occupational therapy program here.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.