Faculty/Staff Resources Student Resources
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
Twitter Facebook Instagram LinkedIn YouTube

Post-Professional Master’s
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 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 564 (4 units): Sensory Processing and Sensory Integration
  • 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 578 (4 units): Therapeutic Communication: Facilitating Change in Clients
  • OT 579 (4 units): Occupational Therapy in Adult-Neurorehabilitation
  • OT 583 (4 units): Current Applications of Lifestyle Redesign
  • OT 586 (1-2 units, max 6): Clinical Internship with Seminar
  • OT 590 (1-12 units): Directed Research
  • OT 594abz (2-2-0 units): Master’s Thesis
  • OT 599 (2-4 units, max 8): Special Topics
  • OT 610: Sensory Integrative Dysfunction

Read Elective Course Descriptions.

Other USC School Electives (500-level classes and above)
Occupational therapy elective course work may be combined with four units from another school within USC, such as the:

  • USC Marshall School of Business
  • USC Davis School of Gerontology
  • USC Sol Price School of Public Policy
  • USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

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.

Comprehensive Exam or Master’s Thesis Option

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

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.

*If you fail the comprehensive exam, you may re-take it a second time. If you fail the exam twice, you will be terminated from the program.

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.

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 (MA) 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

If you are seeking to improve your English language skills, you 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 nbcot.org 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.