Frequently Asked Questions
1. General Questions
1.1. How do I become a licensed occupational therapist in the United States? show >
Successfully complete your master’s degree in occupational therapy and associated fieldwork requirements. Then pass the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT) examination and complete the necessary paperwork required by your state.
Please note that if you received your bachelor’s or master’s in occupational therapy from an institution in a country other than the United States, you will need to first check with NBCOT to determine whether you will have additional requirements to complete in order to become eligible to sit for the exam.
Please also note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.
1.2. What is the difference between the Bachelor’s-to-Master’s, Post-Professional Master’s, and Entry-Level Master’s programs, and how do I know which program to apply for? show >
The Bachelor’s to Master’s Program is for students who are seeking to receive their undergraduate degree in occupational therapy. This is for students who have not yet received an undergraduate degree, and this program will save you a year of graduate school (after you complete your BS, you will have only one year to earn your MA).
Additionally, we have two Master’s programs. We offer an Entry-Level Master’s Program, for students who are completing or have completed a baccalaureate degree in a field other than occupational therapy. We also offer a Post-Professional Master’s Program, for practicing therapists who received their bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and are seeking a master’s degree.
1.3. What is the difference between the OTD and PhD degrees? show >
The OTD is a 1-2 year program for students who have earned their master’s degree in occupational therapy. The PhD program is a 4-5 year fully-funded, occupational science research immersion that is open to students with a bachelor’s degree, or higher, in any academic background.
The OTD program strategically positions graduates for advanced practice and leadership in clinical settings, while the PhD degree is designed for students interested in pursuing a career in occupational science research, as well as in academia and alternate settings. Both the OTD and the PhD programs offer personalized mentorship to students while learning from USC’s globally recognized faculty. These programs are not mutually exclusive — if you choose to pursue the OTD degree now, you can apply to the PhD program upon completion of your OTD or even at a later point during your career.
1.4. What is the difference between the Research Track in the OTD and the PhD program? show >
The OTD Research Track differs from the Occupational Science PhD program in that it does not qualify individuals to become career scientists at research universities or institutions. However, it does equip the graduate with the knowledge to navigate the landscape of research programs and the skills to participate as a member of a research team and implement evidence-based studies in clinical settings and collect clinical outcomes data. On the OTD Research Track, students complete three semester-long residencies in ongoing interdisciplinary research programs, and coursework emphasizes occupational science and research methodologies. The PhD program prepares individuals for tenure-track faculty positions in Research-1 Universities, such as USC, throughout the nation and world.
1.5. Is there a limit to how many times I can take the GRE? show >
No. We accept the highest score from each section of the test regardless of how many times you take the GRE.
1.6. Where can I find the tuition and fees for attending USC? show >
The Tuition and Fees section of our website has the estimated costs for each of our programs.
1.7. Are scholarships and financial aid available? show >
You can review USC Chan scholarships and financial aid information for each of our academic programs, as well as student and alumni videos discussing how they financed their education, on our website.
1.8. Is it recommended that students work during the program? show >
Due to the intensive nature of all our academic programs, we recommend working no more than 10-12 hours per week. However, we are aware that this suggestion may not be feasible for everyone in the program. Therefore, we recommend finding employment that is open to flexibility in scheduling so that students can still have time to study and participate in division activities. We also offer student jobs and resources, as well as division awards and scholarships, to help with students’ financial needs. We understand that everyone’s situation is different and we are here to support our students to the best of our abilities.
1.9. How can I find the semester schedule? show >
See USC’s Academic Calendar for the semester schedule including university holidays. Occupational Therapy course sequence information can be found at Academics by clicking on your program of interest within the drop-down menu.
1.10. How can I purchase a parking pass? show >
Go to USC Transportation and click on Parking.
1.11. Do students receive free membership to the on-campus gym? show >
Yes. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, many students utilize the Lyon Recreation Center, located on University Park Campus, and the HSC Fitness Center, located near the Health Sciences Campus. These newly built and newly renovated facilities are free to students and include features such as the Main Gym: 21,800 sq. ft. gym (basketball, badminton, volleyball), an auxiliary gym (basketball, volleyball, wrestling), as well as conference rooms, sauna and jacuzzi, equipment rental and sales, men’s and women’s locker rooms, weight rooms center, cardiovascular equipment, racquetball and squash courts, outdoor basketball courts, a climbing/bouldering wall, multi-purpose weight and stretching areas, group exercise studio and outdoor seating for aquatic events. A variety of workout classes are offered including yoga, Pilates, and cycling. Visit USC Recreational Sports for more information.
1.12. How can I purchase USC Football Tickets? show >
All undergraduate, graduate, and visiting students can purchase a Season Ticket for home football games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Spouse/domestic partner season tickets are also available. Visit the USC Ticket Office for more information.
1.13. Does USC have a student newspaper? show >
Yes, the USC student newspaper is the Daily Trojan.
1.14. How can I find the contact information for a faculty or staff person at USC? show >
The contact information for USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy faculty can be found in our Faculty Directory. Contact information for Chan Division staff members can be found in our Staff Directory. Contact information for other USC faculty and staff can be found using the main USC Directory.
1.15. Is there on-campus housing for graduate students? show >
There is student housing available for occupational therapy graduate students at the OT House, located a short 5-minute bike ride or 15-minute walk from the University Park Campus. There is also a tram stop from which you can take a tram to the Health Sciences Campus, about a 20-30 minute tram ride free for USC students and employees. The tram also stops at Union Station, providing a convenient way to travel throughout Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. On the Health Sciences Campus, there are graduate student apartments at Currie Hall.
1.16. Is there public transportation in Los Angeles? show >
The university provides tram service for students between Union Station, the USC University Park Campus, and the USC Health Sciences Campus, as well as shuttle service to both campuses from the USC Occupational Therapy House. However, a private car is essential for convenient travel throughout Los Angeles. Students also arrange car-pools for commutes and/or special activities and Los Angeles does offer limited bus and subway services at a reduced rate for students. View the USC Tram Schedule.
There are many public transportation options in Los Angeles: Metro Rail lines and Bus routes, DASH bus lines, Amtrak trains, FlyAway shuttles from Union Station to LAX airport, and more. View the following resources:
- USC Transportation’s Public Transit webpage
- Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
- Public Transport feature of Google Maps
2. Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree Program
Please note: USC Chan is in the process of transitioning from an entry-level master’s program to an entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program. This change could impact students as early as the bachelor’s class of 2023. In the event that the Division moves to an entry-level OTD program while you are completing your bachelor’s degree, in order to remain in the OT program at USC you would will need to apply to and complete the OTD program following completion of your bachelor’s degree.
2.1. Can I apply to this program as a freshman? show >
Yes, freshmen applicants may apply to USC and select occupational therapy as their major.
2.2. Can I apply to the bachelor program as a transfer student? show >
No, transfer students are no longer accepted to the Accelerated Bachelor’s to Master’s (BS to MA) Occupational Therapy program. You may still apply to transfer to USC for a different major and/or apply to the Master’s Degree Program upon completion of your baccalaureate degree.
3. Entry-Level Master’s Degree Program
Please note: Currently, USC Chan is reviewing applications submitted to the entry-level master’s program in occupational therapy (program start in 2021), which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE®). The Chan Division has also initiated the ACOTE process to transition the entry-level master’s to an accredited entry-level doctoral (OTD) program. This transition could occur as early as the 2021 application cycle (program start in 2022). Updates will be provided on our website throughout the accreditation process as they become available and our admissions team will be happy to answer questions beginning in late February. Please note that because we are reviewing applications and responding to applicants in our current admissions cycle, we will not be able to address questions about next year's process before then. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
3.1. Does USC offer a part-time entry-level master’s degree program in occupational therapy? show >
No, at this time, our entry-level master’s is a full-time program.
3.2. Is there a minimum score required for the GRE? show >
We no longer have a minimum score requirement for the GRE. These scores are just one of many factors considered in the holistic admissions process. Please refer to the admissions process page for more information regarding the GRE.
3.3. What type of degree will I be working toward if I am admitted to the program? show >
You will be working toward a Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy.
3.4. Is volunteer experience required? show >
We know that geographic and financial considerations limit access for students to gain volunteer experience and we therefore do not require or evaluate volunteer hours for our holistic admissions. We do highly recommend educating yourself about the various practice settings of occupational therapy through readings, videos, volunteering, or shadowing, as you are able. Because volunteer work will not be considered in your application, you do not need to document volunteer hours for the purpose of applying to our program.
We maintain a list of local and national OS/OT observation and volunteer opportunities. This list is not exhaustive, so please feel free to contact other sites in your area.
3.5. Can pre-requisite courses be in progress while applying to the program? show >
Yes, pre-requisite courses can be in progress while applying to the program. However, if you are admitted, all of your pre-requisite courses need to be successfully completed prior to the start of the program.
3.6. When will I be notified regarding whether or not I have been selected to complete a Phase II video for my application? show >
There are multiple rounds of decision-making throughout the admissions process. As soon as a decision has been made, applicants will be informed regarding their application. Our target deadline for Phase II invitations is mid-December in order to release admissions decisions in mid-January. Please be advised that this timeline is subject to change.
3.7. When does the program start? show >
Each year, the program begins with a summer session starting mid-June.
3.8. What is the difference between electives and core courses? show >
Core courses are mandatory for graduation and electives are chosen based on student preference and course availability in a given semester. Please refer to the curriculum and requirements page for more information regarding electives and core courses.
3.9. How much hands-on experience is available to me while I am in the program? show >
Hands-on experience will include Level I and Level II fieldwork, an externship, classroom laboratories and elective courses, which may entail offsite clinical learning opportunities. During each of the practice immersion courses (OT 501 Adult Physical Rehabilitation, OT 502 Mental Health, OT 503 Pediatrics), students participate in weekly experiential learning laboratories as well as Level I fieldwork in that practice area. Level I experiences are one full day/week for ten weeks, with one full-time week in either the fourth or fifth week.
Level II fieldwork typically consists of two twelve-week summer sessions of full-time fieldwork in two distinctly different practice areas, which allows you to experience life as a full-time occupational therapist. Students must complete at least two of the three practice immersion courses prior to Level II fieldwork, and students must have completed the practice immersion course in the area in which they do Level II fieldwork.
Students also complete a two-week leadership externship as part of OT 540 Leadership Capstone during their final semester. These student-driven experiences also include international opportunities, including Ghana, Australia, Denmark, and South Korea.
Elective course opportunities provide students with additional opportunities to extend their clinical skills and gain hands-on exposure in various practice areas, such as a Lifestyle Redesign® group for patients with multiple sclerosis or Enhancing Motor Control for Occupation, a course designed to provide students with an in-depth understanding of remediation of motor control following stroke or brain injury.
3.10. How are fieldwork placement sites chosen? show >
The fieldwork team will make every attempt to place each student in their geographically desired area, either at a site with which we have a current agreement, or through the development of a relationship and an affiliation agreement with new fieldwork sites whenever possible.
3.11. How many hours of fieldwork are required? show >
Each semester of Level I fieldwork consists of one full day/week for ten weeks, as well as a full-time week during the fourth or fifth week of the fieldwork experience.
The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE) standards require a minimum of 24 weeks of full-time Level II fieldwork. This is typically completed during two 12-week summer sessions (between the first and second year of the professional program and following the second year), during which the student engages in full-time fieldwork. Students who do not engage in Level II fieldwork during the summer between the first and second years of the program will complete two Level II fieldwork experiences sequentially following completion of the second year of the program.
4. Post-Professional OTD Degree Program
4.1. Do I need to have a master’s degree in OT in order to apply to the OTD program at USC? show >
Applicants to the OTD program need to have completed an entry-level occupational therapy degree with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 from an accredited college or university, and need to be certified or eligible for certification in occupational therapy in the United States, or have graduated from a WFOT-approved program outside the United States. Conditional admission may be possible if either the GPA or the GRE score is slightly below the requirement. Students enrolled in the baccalaureate or master’s programs at USC may receive admission contingent upon successful completion of all coursework and fieldwork prior to the start of the OTD program.
4.2. Are international opportunities available? show >
You may choose to complete your residency requirements at an international location. The same requirements apply to residency, regardless of location.
Some residents integrate small, focused international learning experiences into their overall residency; typically when the international work is central to the mission of the organization within which they are completing their residency.
4.3. Will I get paid for my residency? show >
Most sites hire residents at a competitive OTR/L rate, or offer financial support in the form of a stipend or scholarship.
4.4. How much time will I be spending at my residency? show >
You are required to dedicate a minimum of 20 hours per week at the residency during your first two semesters of the program. During your third and final semester, you will dedicate 40 hours per week towards residency.
4.5. Is it ok if my residency site hires me for over 20 hours per week? show >
Yes, many residents dedicate more hours than the minimum required.
4.6. Am I allowed to work outside of my residency site? show >
Yes. Many residents choose to dedicate 20 hours per week towards their residency and also obtain a separate part time or per diem position that is separate from the residency.
4.7. Does my residency site preceptor need to be an occupational therapist? show >
No. 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.
4.8. Does my residency site preceptor need to have a doctorate degree? show >
4.9. How do I select my USC faculty mentor? show >
If you are confirmed for an internal Chan division residency, 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.
4.10. Does my USC faculty mentor need to have experience related to the work that is being done within the context of my residency? show >
No, 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.
4.11. Are any OTD courses offered online? show >
While our OTD program has traditionally only offered courses in-person, our courses may be online due to the current environment surrounding COVID-19. For more information, please contact Dr. Sarah Bream.
4.12. May I complete the OTD program on a part-time basis? show >
Yes, there are many pathways through the OTD program. The Program Director will work with you to customize an ideal trajectory that aligns with your specific needs and is tailored to your overall life plan.
4.13. Does the division offer scholarship support? show >
Yes, the Division offers competitive, merit-based scholarship awards. A typical scholarship award covers 12 units. All applicants to the OTD are automatically considered for scholarship awards. Financial awards may be awarded at any time prior to the start of classes, and sometimes during the academic year itself. All awards are contingent upon USC budget approval.
5. Entry-Level OTD Degree Program
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 2022). Beginning in Spring 2021, USC Chan will offer 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 frequently asked questions below for additional information. Our website will provide the latest updates throughout the transition process as they become available.
5.1. Why is USC Chan transitioning to the entry-level OTD? show >
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the general landscape of healthcare professions is moving toward advanced degrees, and at USC Chan we believe that there are significant advantages to starting your career in occupational therapy with a doctoral degree. Many graduates who have a doctoral-level degree are positioned for leadership and management roles earlier in their career, with opportunities to earn higher career-long compensation. The USC Chan entry-level OTD will equip occupational therapy graduates with specialized knowledge and skills in clinical, educational, research and/or administrative leadership to ultimately advance the profession of occupational therapy. Additionally, we have seen tremendous growth in enrollment in our post-professional OTD program since it began nearly 20 years ago. A majority of our post-professional OTD students now come directly from our master’s program.
5.2. What are the similarities and differences between an entry-level master’s degree and an entry-level OTD degree? show >
Both entry-level master’s and entry-level OTD programs prepare students for entry-level practice as a newly certified and licensed occupational therapist. Both programs also include Level I and Level II fieldwork experiences.
A key difference between the entry-level master’s and entry-level OTD programs is your opportunity to work closely with our world-class faculty to gain the knowledge, skills and experience to apply evidence to a specialty practice area, develop new and sustainable programs, and thrive as an effective leader. One of the most enriching aspects of the entry-OTD program is the Doctoral Capstone Experience (DCE) following the completion of core courses and Level II fieldwork experiences. The DCE is a pathway to developing individualized learning experiences in clinical practice, research, policy and advocacy, administration or pedagogy. These signature elements are key anticipated differences between the entry-level master’s and the entry-level OTD degree programs. To achieve these goals, earning the entry-level OTD degree is anticipated to require 36 months.
5.3. What is the difference between an entry-level OTD and a post-professional OTD? show >
Students in an entry-level OTD program come from a variety of educational experiences and have not previously graduated from an accredited occupational therapy program. Students in a post-professional OTD program are current occupational therapists pursuing an advanced degree. USC Chan plans to offer both programs. If you previously obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree in occupational therapy, you would pursue the post-professional OTD, which allows for much more flexibility between advanced academic coursework and continuing to practice as an occupational therapist.
5.4. I am a current USC Chan student; how will the Division’s transition to an entry-level OTD program impact me? show >
Bachelor’s-to-Master’s Degree Students
You will need to apply to and complete the OTD in order to be eligible to apply to take the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.
Entry-Level Master’s Degree Students
You will complete the master’s program as outlined in the USC Catalogue, and upon completion, have the option to pursue the post-professional OTD degree. The entry-level master’s program is slated to admit its last class in June 2021.
Post-Professional Master’s Degree Students
The post-professional master’s degree program will continue to be offered. Upon completion of the master’s program, you will have the option to pursue the post-professional OTD degree.
5.6. Will more scholarships be provided to offset the costs of an additional year of study? show >
USC Chan recognizes the rising costs of higher education, and we are committed to ensure the highest quality preparation of our students in alignment with this financial investment. We are currently working to increase availability of scholarships and will support students in navigating financial aid. Our website will provide the latest updates as they become available.
6. PhD in Occupational Science Degree Program
6.1. What is the minimum requirement for the GRE? show >
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer required for applications to the Chan PhD program.
6.2. What are the current research studies in which the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy is involved? show >
Please view a listing of our Division’s Funded Research Projects.
7. International Students
7.1. What resources does USC Chan provide to support international students? show >
7.2. Do I need to take the TOEFL? show >
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:
- An Internet Based TOEFL (iBT) score of 90 with no less than 20 on each sub-score; or
- An 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.
For more information, refer to gradadm.usc.edu/lightboxes/international-students-english-proficiency.
7.3. What do I need to do after I get admitted to USC? show >
For information regarding applying for your visa, on-campus employment, documents needed, which clothing to bring, etc., please visit ois.usc.edu.
7.4. How is the teaching style at USC different from international schools? show >
The teaching style is mainly interactive. Some of the classes are structured in such a way that learning occurs through group discussion and a portion of your grade may be dependent on your participation in class. Exams, tests and assignments are scheduled throughout the semester for each course and are weighted differently.
Visit the USC Office of International Services website for more information about formal and informal classroom culture.
7.5. What is the H1B Visa and which companies will sponsor it? show >
The H1B Visa is a United States non-immigrant visa. It allows a US company to employ a foreign individual for up to six years and it may lead to a Green Card. The following industries commonly sponsor H1B Visas for occupational therapists: rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), assisted-living facilities, hospice and home healthcare offices.
8. COVID-19 Questions
8.1. How do I receive updates related to COVID-19? show >
Please visit USC’s official website for the most up-to-date information from the University.
8.2. Are classes going to be in-person? show >
Undergraduate courses will be fully online. This includes OT 100 THRIVE, all Occupational Science (OS) Minor courses, OT 260, OT 261, OT 405 (juniors), and OT 440 (juniors).
Entry-Level Master’s Program and Post-Professional Master’s Program courses will be either fully online or hybrid (partially online and partially in-person). Some in-person sessions will be mandatory, required to meet the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE) standards and/or course learning objectives. Other in-person sessions are preferred and may be substituted by fully online learning experiences, upon request by enrolled students.
Occupational Therapy Clinical Doctorate (OTD) courses will be fully online. As of July 1, 2020, OTD Residents were approved to provide in-person services in-context at residency sites. These in-person experiences are contingent upon the sites providing in-person services. Many sites have pivoted quite well to telehealth services.
Occupational Science (OS) PhD courses will be fully online. It is our intention that all PhD research experiences be conducted in as safe a manner as possible. These experiences will follow federal, state, local, and university requirements for remote or in-person social distancing throughout the semester.
Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 changes day-by-day, we are moving towards remote learning for a majority of our courses. We will be following the guidelines set by the University as well as the state of California regarding holding in-person classes. We are coordinating in-person experiences for some of our classes with the professors who are teaching them as we recognize that some components of your education would be supported through in-person learning.
8.3. What does fieldwork look like during this time? show >
Level I fieldwork will be fully remote (as a required component of OT 501 Practice Immersion: Adult Physical Rehabilitation, OT 502 Practice Immersion: Mental Health, and OT 503 Practice Immersion: Pediatrics). However, given that most settings are not accepting students for Level I fieldwork placements in fall, and based upon the flexibility inherent in the 2018 ACOTE accreditation standards allowing for a variety of instructional methods to meet Level I fieldwork requirements, instructors for the 3 practice immersion courses are designing fully remote learning activities for Level I fieldwork, in collaboration with the Chan Academic Fieldwork Coordinators.
At this time, we are continuing to monitor the current situation regarding holding fieldwork experiences in-person. We are continuing to work with our affiliated sites to offer telehealth opportunities. Because we are placing the utmost priority on the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, and affiliates, we will only be giving this as an option if we can ensure that standards regarding a safe opening can be met.
8.4. What platform is USC Chan using for remote instruction? show >
USC is utilizing the Zoom platform for all remote classes and meetings. For help with navigating Zoom, please visit USC IT Services Zoom Training.