What is Occupational Science?

Occupational science (OS) is the study of human occupations. It is a basic science dedicated to the understanding of human occupation, using both qualitative and quantitative methods of inquiry.

OS is an interdisciplinary field that evolved in the late 1980s when anthropologists, geographers, public health researchers, occupational therapists, and others began to focus their research on human occupation. The term "occupational science" was coined by a group of academic occupational therapists at the University of Southern California under the leadership of Elizabeth Yerxa.

Some initial research questions in occupational science were:
  • What are occupations?
  • Why are occupations associated narrowly with work?
  • How do we conceptualize occupations?
  • What do various occupations mean to various groups of people?
  • How do we learn to engage in occupations? 
  • How do occupations affect our lives? 
  • How do occupations affect our health and well-being? 
  • What determines whether occupations are valued economically or socially? 
  • How do occupational routines compare amongst women and men in similar and different cultural groups?