University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Post-Professional On-Campus Master of Arts Degree | Curriculum and Requirements

The on-campus core curriculum provides a solid grounding in occupational science, qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, evidence-based practice, clinical reasoning, and the traditional values and ethics of occupational therapy practice. In addition, you will be able to individualize your education with your elective choices.


The electives you select are the building blocks for your preparation in a specialty area. To fulfill your elective units, you can take courses offered by the Chan Division or by USC’s other professional schools, or you can design your own elective course.

Chan Division Electives include:

  • OT 500abc Clinical Problems in Occupational Therapy
  • OT 555 Seminar: Implementation of the Advocacy Model
  • OT 560 School-based Practice
  • OT 564 Sensory Integration Theory
  • OT 571 Assistive Technology
  • OT 572 Ergonomics
  • OT 573 Hand Rehabilitation
  • OT 574 Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
  • OT 575 Dysphagia Across the Lifespan: Pediatrics through Geriatrics
  • OT 576 Universal Design
  • OT 578 Therapeutic Communication for the Healthcare Practitioner
  • OT 583 Lifestyle Redesign®
  • OT 590 Directed Research

View all Course Descriptions.

Other USC School Electives (400 level classes and above)

You can also choose to take one course in another school at the university, such as the USC Marshall School of Business or the USC Davis School of Gerontology. You can select from a wide array of specialties that are pertinent to your area of study, such as:

  • Test development
  • Neuroscience
  • Advanced research methods
  • Home modification
  • Business management
  • Public policy
  • Entrepreneurism

To further tailor the curriculum to your career goals, you may be granted the option of taking more elective coursework in other USC schools in lieu of division electives.

OT 610 Sensory Integrative Dysfunction

OT 610 is a graduate-level four-month training course in sensory integration theory and intervention as originated by Dr. A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR in 1977.  OT 610 fulfills requirements for certification in sensory integration and draws many students, both domestic and international, to study at USC.  This course is not included in the fall or spring semester, but may be taken in summer.  Note that students who choose to take this course must pay a separate 4 units of tuition for the summer session.  Read more about OT 610.

Master’s Thesis or Comprehensive Exam Option

In the master’s program, you have the choice to pursue either the master’s thesis option or the comprehensive examination option.

Master’s Thesis Option

With the appropriate coursework and guidance of our faculty, the master’s thesis option provides you with the opportunity to:

  • Conduct and report on an original piece of research
  • Develop considerable expertise in a specialized area of occupational therapy
  • Acquire strong scholastic, research and analytical skills

This option requires:

  • Six core courses
  • Four units of electives, either in or outside the Division
  • Four units of thesis (OT 594)
  • A minimum of 28 units to graduate

Thesis work typically begins during the third semester, and usually takes an additional two or more semesters to complete.

Comprehensive Examination Option

This option enables you to:

  • Complete the master’s program in two semesters
  • Take an additional eight units of electives which can be used to enhance your specialty focus and/or to participate in an extended research project with faculty

This option requires:

  • Six core courses
  • 12 elective units in one of two ways:
    • Complete three elective courses within the Chan Division
    • Combine eight units of elective coursework with four units from another USC school

Upon completion of the six required occupational therapy courses, you are eligible to take the comprehensive examination, which is based on course content and assigned readings. The examination* is given at the end of the fall and spring semesters each year. A minimum of 32 units is required to graduate with this option.

*A student who fails the comprehensive exam may re-take it a second time. A student who fails the exam twice will be terminated from the program.

Requirements for Graduation

In order to graduate with a Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy on the thesis track, you must have completed:

  • 20 units of required OT coursework
  • 4 units of electives from either in or outside the Chan Division
  • At least 4 units of thesis coursework
  • GPA of 3.0 or better (both applied and overall)
  • A master’s thesis accepted by both your committee and the thesis editor of the graduate school

In order to graduate with a Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy on the comprehensive examination track, you must have completed:

  • 20 units of required OT coursework
  • 8 units of OT electives
  • 4 units of electives from either in or outside the Division
  • GPA of 3.0 or better (both applied and overall)
  • The comprehensive examination with a passing score


Upon successful completion of all courses and passing the comprehensive examination or having the graduate school accept your thesis, you will be awarded your Master of Arts (M.A) degree in Occupational Therapy. Your graduation ceremony will occur in May, although if you begin the program in January you will not complete all requirements until December. Most comprehensive examination option students will have met all requirements for graduation after two semesters. Thesis students typically require one or two additional semesters to complete their thesis.

Important Note for International Students

Students seeking to improve their English language skills are encouraged to apply to the Summer Occupational Therapy Immersion program, a four-week workshop providing an introduction to occupational therapy practice in the United States and the opportunity to strengthen English fluency and proficiency needed to succeed at the master’s degree graduate level.

If you plan to apply for OTR certification through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT®) in order to practice as an occupational therapist in the United States after the completion of your studies, please view the following website for more details: Select the international tab, then find the Occupational Therapy Eligibility Determination (OTED) handbook and the Certification Exam Handbook. Review the document requirements and the forms to be filled out and note that the processing of documents can take up to six months after you apply. A felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT® certification examination or attain state licensure. Be aware that NBCOT® may request additional coursework or materials to process your application.

WASC Accreditation

USC has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of six regional accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, since 1949. View the student learning outcomes (PDF) for our academic programs.