Entry-Level Professional Master of Arts Degree | Admissions Process
Please read all of the information on this webpage carefully. We will post the most up to date information here.
Our entry-level master’s degree program begins with a summer session in mid-June each year.
Applications are not reviewed on a “first submitted” or “rolling” basis; they are simply reviewed when complete, around the time of the application deadline.
In order to be considered for the Entry-Level Professional Master’s Program at the University of Southern California, you must complete the OTCAS application and the program specific requirements through OTCAS for the University of Southern California. The OTCAS application must be completed and verified prior to the date below. We recommend that you submit your OTCAS application at least three weeks prior to the deadline, as transcripts and other application materials may take three weeks or more to be processed by OTCAS. All application materials, including official GRE score reports, must be received in order for your application to be reviewed. Please plan accordingly. The application deadline is:
- November 30th
Applications received after this date are also welcome and will be processed on a space-available basis.
To apply, you must complete the OTCAS application and choose the University of Southern California, being sure to complete the required program materials for USC, including the following:
- Complete a baccalaureate degree with a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 from an accredited college or university.* Note: If you completed a graduate degree we will consider your graduate GPA instead of your undergraduate GPA. If you have a question about your specific situation, please contact Kristin Nxumalo, who is a member of our Admissions Team.
- Send all of your official transcripts from all colleges and universities you have attended to OTCAS directly.
- If you are an International Student or you completed more than one semester at a foreign institution, please follow the transcript submission instructions provided by OTCAS. The USC Office of Graduate Admission provides admission requirement details by country. Please visit their website to determine what documents (such as transcripts and diplomas) are needed by USC, based on home country. When your verified application is evaluated, please note that additional documents may be requested as needed. If you are admitted to the program, you may also be required to verify your degree via the International Education Research Foundation (IERF). It is not necessary to submit a USC Application for Graduate Admission.
- Complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test within five years of planned enrollment with a minimum score of 153 on the verbal section, a 144 on the quantitative section, and a 3.5 on the analytical writing section.* Official GRE score reports should be sent to the ETS reporting code 1983. This code will send your official score report to USC through OTCAS.
*If you fall slightly below any of the GPA and GRE general test admission criteria, you can be considered for conditional admission. If you have questions about your specific situation, please feel free to contact us.
- Submit three letters of recommendation (evaluations) from professors, therapists, and/or other professionals familiar with your capabilities and achievements. Recommendations (evaluations) should be submitted electronically through OTCAS.
- Submit a personal statement through the USC program specific questions section of OTCAS in response to the following prompt: “Three core values that guide and shape the culture of the Chan Division are:
- Inclusion: Embracing diversity, full participation and health equity.
- Innovation: Cultivating creative thinking and novel methods that positively impact pressing social and health needs.
- Integrity: Fulfilling our commitment to honesty, transparency and accountability for our actions and outcomes. Please select one of these core values and tell a story about when your actions reflected this core value and how you believe this value will influence your future career in occupational therapy.” (max. 3,000 characters, including spaces)
Please note: the USC Admissions Committee will be focusing mainly on the personal statement included in the USC program materials section, written to this prompt, and not on the general OTCAS personal statement that is sent to all programs.
English Proficiency: If your bachelor’s degree was earned in a non-English speaking country and you are not a US citizen or permanent resident, you must submit scores from an official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Please note that even if you are from an English-speaking country, you may still need to submit scores. Scores should be submitted to USC directly prior to the admission deadline for which you are being considered. We require that you have verification of the following scores within two years of your intended enrollment at USC:
- A computer based TOEFL (iBT) score of 90 with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or
- A computer based IELTS of 6.5 with no less than 6 on each band score.
If your native language is English and/or you have a bachelor’s degree from a US college or university, you are exempted from this examination. See the USC Office of Graduate Admission for more information about English-language requirements.
Prerequisite courses may be in progress when you apply as long as one course has been completed with a grade at the time of application. All prerequisites need to be completed prior to the start of the program if you are accepted. When you complete the OTCAS application, you will have the opportunity to identify the course(s) you have taken that you would like the admissions committee to consider for each prerequisite for our program.
You must have completed prerequisites:
- Within five years of planned enrollment.
- For a grade of a C or higher in each course (pass/fail not accepted**).
- With an average grade of a B (3.0 GPA) in all prerequisite courses completed at the time of application.
- From an accredited community college, college, or university.
- Either in a classroom setting or on-line, however anatomy must be completed in a classroom setting. (There are a few exceptions of online anatomy courses that have been approved. Please contact us directly for questions about this.).
- For the equivalent of at least three semester units each (with the exception of medical terminology which may be taken for one or two units or some approved certificate courses) as follows:
- Human Anatomy with laboratory;*
- Human Physiology;*
- Introductory Statistics;
- Developmental Psychology or Human Development (must cover the life span);
- Abnormal Psychology;
- Introductory Sociology or Cultural/Social Anthropology;
- Medical Terminology**.
Four week intensive courses in human anatomy with lab and human physiology are offered from mid-May to mid-June (just prior to the start of the program) if you have been unable to complete them earlier.
If your prerequisites do not meet these criteria, or you would like to verify a course, please submit a prerequisite waiver request.
*If Anatomy and Physiology are combined, you must take either: 1) one combined Anatomy and Physiology course with laboratory worth 6-8 semester units; or 2) two sequential semesters of combined Anatomy and Physiology taken at the same school, totaling 6-8 semester units with a laboratory each semester.
**If Medical Terminology was taken as a certificate course, please email the admissions team with your certificate of completion. Because there is no mechanism on the OTCAS application to submit proof of completion for a certificate course, once the admissions team receives your email with the certificate of completion, this prerequisite will be marked as complete on your application.
Possible Background Checks
The University of Southern California Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy does not require background checks, drug testing or fingerprinting for admission into the Master of Arts program. However, an increasing number of health care facilities require USC students to provide this and other information in order to participate in clinical rotations at their sites. The successful completion of clinical rotations is required for the master’s degree at USC and is a prerequisite for being able to sit for the NBCOT® (National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy®) exam to practice as an occupational therapist. A felony conviction may affect your ability to sit for the NBCOT® certification examination or attain state licensure.
If you are admitted to the entry-level master’s program, you will be required to complete certain health clearances prior to enrolling in the program. These health clearances are required in order to participate in clinical rotations, which are a requirement for the master’s degree. Please see USC Fieldwork Prerequisites for an overview of the prerequisites for these clinical rotations and enrollment in the program.
Please also refer to the Eric Cohen Student Health Center for the health clearance requirements for students enrolled in the professional program.
Please view our Frequently Asked Questions for more helpful information.
If you would like to know more, please use our Request Program Information Form, and we will be happy to send you a brochure about any of our programs. We also provide information sessions, both in-person and virtual, for prospective students interested in our master’s degree programs.