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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Accelerated Master’s to OTD
Curriculum and Requirements

Please note
The Chan Division has initiated the process to transition the entry-level master’s to an accredited entry-level doctoral (OTD) program. This process requires review and approval by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE®) and the transition could occur as early as the 2021 application cycle (program start in fall 2022). We are currently offering admissions information sessions for the proposed entry-level OTD program, but please note that because this program is still in review, only limited information can be provided. Please review the Entry-Level OTD Degree Program frequently asked questions for additional information. Our website will provide the latest updates throughout the transition process as they become available.

The accelerated MA to OTD has four required categories of work: coursework in the Chan Division to continue developing your leadership and professional skills; elective coursework either in the Division or in a different school at USC to broaden your scope of knowledge; a residency to build hands-on skill; and a portfolio to demonstrate what you achieved over the course of study.

Required Coursework (8 units)

OT 620: Current Issues in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
You are required to take an intensive course in current issues in occupational science and occupational therapy during the first semester, which gives you the grounding to understand the complexities surrounding everyday living and social engagement in the world. Additionally, it equips you to conceptualize program innovation, to persuasively articulate the unique contribution occupational therapy makes in meeting societal needs, and to be well informed of the science supporting clinical practice.

OT 621: Occupational Therapy Leadership: Contemporary Issues
During the second core course, you will complete a proposal that describes the innovative project you will implement as part of your program of study. In this course, you are exposed to leadership-related content, business writing, grant and proposal development and implementation, fiscal management, and the design of occupational science-based innovations.

Elective Coursework (4 units)

Most students are required to take 4 units of elective coursework, which is anything at the 500-level or higher offered at any USC school. The coursework must clearly relate to your professional goals and remain consistent with the objectives of the OTD program.

  • For example, a student who developed a Lifestyle Redesign® program to support environmentally sustainable habits took coursework in the USC Marshall School of Business to refine her business presentation and communication skills.
  • Another student, completing his residency in a violence prevention program, took a course on nonprofit organization management.
  • A third student, completing her residency in a Lifestyle Redesign® weight loss program, selected a course from the Keck School of Medicine of USC on health promotion.
  • A fourth, who secured a leadership position in a residential aging-in-place program, took her elective courses in the USC Davis School of Gerontology.

If you wish to pursue more intensive study in occupational science, you may be granted permission to use your elective units to concentrate in Division-based 600-level occupational science courses associated with the PhD program.

Please note that if you took additional elective units in a USC Chan Master’s Degree Program above the required electives for that program, you may have fulfilled all or part of the elective requirement for the OTD program.

Residency Requirement (24 units)

The doctoral residency is a crucial element of our OTD program. We believe that immersion in specific practice contexts (whether they be clinical, policy-related, educational or research focused) gives you the skills and expertise to move occupational therapy forward. As a result, our OTD program involves 24 units taken over three semesters. You will work in carefully selected settings (which may be the one in which you have had experience) with the guidance of a mentor.

For example, you may work alongside a master clinician in lymphedema treatment, interact with a policy think tank, or teach undergraduate students studying occupational science. Generally, students on the policy/administrative track are placed in advocacy organizations, students with a research focus participate on interdisciplinary research teams, and students on the clinical track complete their residency at a center of clinical excellence in their area of interest. One of the many clinical residency options is the Keck Medical Center of USC Physical Rehabilitation Fellowship Program.  The KMC USC Fellowship Program is a dual program in which some students enrolled in the OTD program concurrently participate in the KMC USC AOTA Fellowship Program. And there are many other examples and opportunities for you to create the residency experience that best fits your interests and goals.

An OTD residency placement may be paid or voluntary, depending on the resources of the site. In order to complete a residency out of area, you must complete any in-person course work during your first semester of the program, and then you may relocate out of area for your residency. You may choose to complete your residency requirements at an international location. The same requirements apply to residency, regardless of location.

External Residency Sites

The outreach process to external residency sites is student-driven and typically occurs during the spring semester. Please note, USC Chan assists some external sites with recruitment; you will see announcements for these via your student email list, as they are available.

Residency Site Preceptor

Many of the residency contexts that are selected tend to be emerging areas of practice, therefore an occupational therapist is not required to serve as your preceptor. The preceptor should be knowledgeable and experienced within the particular context chosen and will provide on-site consultation and mentorship to you as needed. The residency site preceptor does not need to have a doctorate degree.

USC Faculty Mentor

Your USC faculty mentor does not need to possess similar experience to the focus of your residency. Your USC faculty mentor will support you in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to: providing consultation as you begin your evidence-based review, reviewing your academic work, offering feedback and guidance as you consider your leadership development and career trajectory, and supporting you through various challenges that may arise.

If you are confirmed for an internal Chan division residency, then a USC Chan faculty mentor will be assigned to you. If you are confirmed for an external residency, in some cases the faculty mentor is also already assigned, based upon established partnerships and/or the given specialty. In other cases, you may have the opportunity to choose your faculty mentor. In this case, you and the potential faculty mentor should accept this upon mutual agreement.

Portfolio Requirement

In the final semester of enrollment, you will submit a portfolio demonstrating competence in your chosen leadership concentration. The final portfolio will include documentation of both written and oral presentation skills and expertise as designated in the residency plan.

Clinical Experience Criterion

Our OTD program is based on customization and your program is designed in accord with your needs and ambitions. We realize that if you have considerable clinical expertise, you may seek to take more coursework and less residency than is typical. However, if you have less than three years of clinical experience as a registered and/or licensed occupational therapist at time of admission, you may be required to complete at least 8 units of clinical occupational therapy courses, which may include:

  • OT 500abc (2-4 units each): Clinical Problems in Occupational Therapy
  • OT 560 (4 units): Contemporary Issues in School-based Practice
  • OT 564 (4 units): Sensory Integration
  • OT 572 (4 units): Ergonomics
  • OT 574 (4 units): Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
  • OT 583 (4 units): Lifestyle Redesign®
  • OT 590 (1-12 units): Directed Research
  • OT 610 (4 units): Sensory Integrative Dysfunction

Read Course Descriptions here.

Important Notes for International Students

If you were educated outside the United States, you must have graduated from a program approved by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). USC maintains additional admissions requirements for international students, including English language competence as measured by the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) examination. Please bear in mind that certification through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT®), which is necessary to practice as an occupational therapist in the United States and is required to be completed by the end of your first semester of the OTD program, can take up to six months. A felony conviction may affect your ability to sit for the NBCOT® certification examination or attain state licensure. Please view nbcot.org for more information.

Financial Support

The USC Chan Division offers two types of financial awards: internal residencies and merit-based scholarships. All awards are contingent upon USC budget approval. USC Chan internal residencies typically cover 24 units of tuition, as well as an additional stipend or hourly pay. A separate application is required for the USC Chan internal residencies. These residencies are awarded based on the merits of your application and may require an interview. Merit-based scholarship awards typically cover 12 units and are awarded on the basis of GRE score, GPA in the Master’s program, and faculty feedback. All applicants to the OTD are automatically considered for merit-based scholarship awards. Merit-based awards may be awarded at any time prior to the start of classes, and sometimes during the academic year itself. Students are also encouraged to visit the Scholarships and Financial Aidpage for additional information and resources.

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 for our academic programs.