Curriculum and Requirements
The three-year core curriculum includes four practice immersions in Pediatrics, Mental Health, Adult Physical Rehabilitation, and Productive Aging and Geriatrics as well as elective options, fieldwork and your Doctoral Capstone Experience. Courses focus on the professional content required for academic program accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE®)*. Topics include evidence-based practice, therapeutic practices, research, technology and innovation, clinical skills and justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Hands-on experiences are introduced early in the program in order to support you in honing basic evaluation and intervention skills and integrating practice with theory.
During the first year, you learn the fundamentals of professional practice, as well as the powerful relationship between occupation and health. You will complete two of the required practice immersion courses and their corresponding Level I fieldwork experiences.
During the second year, you will complete your final two practice immersion courses, each with a corresponding Level I fieldwork experience. You will also take a course in Lifestyle Redesign®, an innovative intervention approach developed at USC Chan, and advanced courses in cognition and medical aspects of occupational performance. During the summer of your second year, you will complete your first Level II fieldwork experience (full-time across one semester).
During the third year, you will complete your second Level II fieldwork experience (part-time across two semesters). You will also complete coursework to prepare for your Doctoral Capstone Experience (DCE) in the fall and spring, before embarking on your DCE full-time in the summer. In addition, you will take courses to prepare you as an occupational therapy educator - for fieldwork students at your future site of practice and/or for graduate students in higher education as a future faculty member. You will also have the opportunity to further specialize your education and training through elective options during the fall and spring.
During your second and third years of the program, you will have opportunities to take additional elective courses to build specialized expertise in areas of your interest. Electives may be taken within or outside of the USC Chan Division.
Division electives include:
- OT 560 (4 units): Contemporary Issues in School-Based Practice
- OT 561 (4 units): Occupational Therapy in Acute Care
- OT 562 (4 units): Advanced Hand Rehabilitation and Certification (PAMs)*
- OT 563 (2 units): Occupational Therapy in Primary Health Care Environments
- OT 565 (4 units): Sensory Integration Interventions**
- OT 566 (2 units): Healthcare Communication with Spanish-Speaking Clients
- OT 567 (4 units): Contemporary Issues in Occupational Therapy in Early Intervention
- OT 568 (4 units): Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration: Special Topics
- OT 571 (4 units): Assistive Technology
- OT 572 (4 units): Ergonomics
- OT 573 (4 units): Hand Rehabilitation*
- OT 574 (4 units): Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation
- OT 575 (2 units): Dysphagia Across the Lifespan: Pediatrics through Geriatrics
- OT 579 (4 units): Occupational Therapy in Adult-Neurorehabilitation
* Contribute toward Advanced Practice Certification by the California Board of Occupational Therapy
**Contribute toward Sensory Integration (SI) Continuing Education (CE) Certificate
Read Course Descriptions here.
Fieldwork provides invaluable hands-on experiences in key practice areas of occupational therapy. USC offers fieldwork placements at more than 850 sites across the United States and internationally. Level I fieldwork is embedded in each of the four practice immersion courses (OT 501: Adult Physical Rehabilitation; OT 502: Mental Health; OT 503: Pediatrics; and OT 504: Productive Aging and Geriatrics) with one fieldwork day a week for a 9-week period. Level II fieldwork consists of one 12-week, full-time experience during the summer of your second year, and one 24-week, part-time experience across the fall and spring semesters of your third year. Your two Level II experiences will be in distinctly different practice areas.
As a distinct, signature element of USC’s entry-level OTD program, your second Level II experience will be in the same setting as your Doctoral Capstone Experience, allowing you to develop in-depth knowledge and skills through a combined, year-long immersion in one setting. Our team of academic fieldwork coordinators will work with you to find placements corresponding with your interests and desired geographic location. Level II fieldwork is required for earning the entry-level OTD degree, and is also required to apply for eligibility to take the NBCOT® certification examination.
Doctoral Capstone Experience
The DCE looks different for every entry-level OTD student because it provides opportunities to create your own 14-week learning plan in order to specialize in clinical practice, research, policy and advocacy, administration or pedagogy. The DCE can be completed remotely, which allows opportunities to travel abroad or domestically throughout your entire third year. As described above, it is intended that your second Level II fieldwork site is where you will complete your DCE; if you wish to travel abroad, you will need to plan in advance and closely coordinate your plans with our fieldwork team.
DCE Site Mentor
Many of the DCE settings are anticipated to be emerging areas of practice; therefore, a licensed occupational therapist is not required to serve as your site mentor. However, the DCE site mentor should be knowledgeable and experienced within the particular context, and is expected to provide on-site consultation and mentorship to you as needed. The DCE site mentor does not need to have a doctorate-level degree.
USC Faculty Mentor
Your USC faculty mentor does not need to possess similar experience or expertise to your DCE setting. Instead, 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.
You may have the opportunity to select your faculty mentor or a mentor may be assigned to you, depending on your DCE site. You will also be participating in “mentoring circles” in association with your third year core coursework.
During your final summer of enrollment, you will submit a doctoral portfolio demonstrating competence in your chosen DCE concentration. The final portfolio will include documentation of both written and oral presentation skills, expertise as designated in your DCE plan and your envisioned future as a leader in the profession.
Requirements for Graduation
In order to graduate with a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree from USC, you must have completed:
- 102 units of required occupational therapy coursework
- GPA of 3.0 or better (both applied and overall)
- Level II fieldwork experiences
- Doctoral Capstone Experience
National Board Certification
Once you have successfully completed all professional coursework including the required number of fieldwork hours and DCE, you are eligible to sit for the OTR® certification examination offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT®). Visit nbcot.org for specific information on the examination process. A felony conviction may affect your ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure. You must pass this examination to earn the designation “Occupational Therapist, Registered” (OTR) and, after ensuring compliance with state licensing regulations, you can begin practicing as a licensed and registered occupational therapist.
*The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® can be contacted at: ACOTE, c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association®, 6166 Executive Blvd, Suite 200; North Bethesda, Maryland 20852-4929, acoteonline.org, (301) 652-2682.
The USC Chan Division has initiated the process to transition the entry-level master’s degree program to an accredited entry-level doctoral (OTD) program. The entry-level OTD degree program has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE®) and we are accepting applicants for the 2021 application cycle (program start in fall of 2022). Please review the frequently asked questions for additional information.