University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Redesigning Lives Globally
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Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy: The Two-Year, Entry-Level Professional Program

Admission Criteria and Prerequisites

All applicants to the Master of Arts program must:

  • 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 email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
  • Complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test within the last five years 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. If the GRE was taken before August 1, 2011, use the GRE Concordance Scale to determine whether your verbal and quantitative scores meet the minimum. *
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from professors, therapists, and/or other professionals familiar with your capabilities and achievements.
  • Submit a personal statement in response to the following prompt: Please describe a significant experience, achievement or personal characteristic that demonstrates why you would be an effective occupational therapist.  Please include your understanding of occupational therapy in your essay. Note: To address this prompt, in the supporting documents, please upload a double-spaced essay which does not exceed 600 words.
  • 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, scores are needed from an official TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Students from some English-speaking countries may also need to submit scores. We require that the student have verification of the following scores within two years of intended enrollment:
    • 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.
    Students whose native language is English and/or students with a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university are exempted from this examination. If you are an international student who has questions about departmental requirements for the TOEFL, please contact Director of Admissions Liz Carley at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

*Conditional admission may be possible if one of the following GPA and GRE criteria is slightly below the requirement: (1) cumulative GPA, (2) verbal score, (3) quantitative score, (4) analytical writing score. If you have questions about your specific situation, please feel free to contact us.

Prerequisite Courses

Prerequisite courses may be in progress when you apply; they need to be completed prior to the start of the program if you are accepted.

You must have completed all prerequisites:

  • Within five years of planned enrollment.
  • With a minimum GPA of 3.0 (pass/fail or grades below a C are not accepted).
  • From an accredited junior college, college, or university.
  • Either in a classroom setting or on-line, however anatomy must be completed in a classroom setting.
  • For three or four semester units each (with the exception of medical terminology which may be 1 or 2 semester units) 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 Introduction to Social/Cultural 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) for those students who have been unable to complete them earlier.

*If Anatomy and Physiology are combined, students must take two sequential semesters with a laboratory each semester.

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 a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT® certification examination or attain state licensure. For additional information, please contact Director of Admissions Liz Carley at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Health Clearances

All applicants who are admitted to the entry-level master’s program 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 this page for an overview of the prerequisites for these clinical rotations and enrollment in the program: USC Fieldwork Prerequisites.

Please also refer to the Eric Cohen Student Health Center for the health clearance requirements for students enrolled in the professional program: Eric Cohen Student Health Center.

Application Deadlines

Our entry-level MA program starts with a summer session in mid-June. In order to be reviewed, the application and required application materials must be received by the Division’s Admissions Committee prior to the below dates.  Submit your application at least three weeks prior to the deadline. Transcripts and other application materials may take three weeks or more to be processed by the Office of Admissions, processed by OTCAS, and then made available to our office. Please plan accordingly. The application deadlines are:

  • November 30th for an early decision (applicants for the early decision deadline should meet the GPA and GRE general test admission criteria and plan to enroll in the program if admitted). The applications from those persons who are not admitted at this time will be carried over to the February 15th deadline.
  • February 15th for those applicants not admitted previously as well as all other applicants.

Applications received after these dates are also welcome and will be processed on a space available basis.

Application Procedures

Please read all of the information on this webpage carefully. We will post the most up to date information here.

*Note* The application for June 2015 will be open in late August 2014 at the earliest. Applications are not reviewed on a “first submitted” basis; they are simply reviewed when complete, around the time of the application deadline.

To apply, please submit an application through both the Centralized Application Service for Occupational Therapy (OTCAS) and the USC Graduate Admissions Application. Please submit the applications and all requested materials at least three weeks before the departmental application deadline to allow adequate time for processing.


Please visit the OTCAS web site to submit your application.

  • You must send all of your official transcripts to OTCAS directly. Also, you will be using OTCAS to submit your three letters of recommendation. Provide contact information for three references by following the directions on their website to do so. Please note that it can take up to four weeks to process.

USC Application for Graduate Admission

Please also visit the USC Application for Graduate Admission to submit your application.

  • On the “Applicant Information” section of the USC online application, please select Semester: “Summer 2015”; School: “USC Independent Health Professions at the Ostrow School of Dentistry”; and Program of Study: “Occupational Therapy (MA) Entry Level Professional”.
  • Within the supporting documents section, submit your personal statement following the prompt: Please describe a significant experience, achievement or personal characteristic that demonstrates why you would be an effective occupational therapist. MA II applicants: Please include your understanding of occupational therapy in your essay. To address this prompt please upload a double spaced essay which does not exceed 600 words.
  • In addition to the application for admission, be sure to complete the supplemental form that relates to occupational therapy and science.  Note that the prompt in question #5 of the supplemental form is referring to the personal statement that should be uploaded in the supporting document section.
  • You do not need to fill out the “Recommendation Provider List” since we will access your References through the OTCAS application.

GRE and Transcripts

  • Have an official GRE general test score report sent to both the USC Office of Admissions (code #4852) and to the Division (code #0618).
  • In addition to sending all of your official transcripts to OTCAS, you will also need to send all official transcripts to the USC Office of Admission, as directed in the online application process, to the following address:
    University of Southern California
    Office of Graduate Admission
    3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915
    *Note: If you received our brochure in the mail, the address listed may be different than the one provided above.  Either address will deliver your application materials to the correct building at USC.
  • A USC transcript is not required for currently enrolled USC students; however, a copy of the StARS report should be sent to the Division at the address below:
    Admissions Committee
    USC Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
    1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
    Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
  • If you are required to submit TOEFL scores (please see above for details), have your scores sent to the USC Office of Admissions (code #4852).

Please view our Frequently Asked Questions for more helpful information.

Contact Us

Our Director of Admissions, Liz Carley, will be delighted to answer your question, schedule a visit, or arrange contact with faculty members or students to further explore your interest in our program. You can reach her toll free at 866-385-4250, or by email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). To learn more, please use our Request Program Information Form, and we will be happy to send you a brochure about any of our degree programs.

Thank you very much for your interest in our program! We look forward to receiving your application.