Frequently Asked Questions
1. General Questions
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.
What is the difference between the BS, Post-Professional Master’s and Entry-Level Master’s programs, and how do I know which program to apply for? show
The Bachelors program (BS) is for those 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).
We have two Master’s programs. We offer an Entry-Level Master’s program for those students who are completing or have completed a baccalaureate degree in a field other than occupational therapy. We also have a Post-Professional Master’s program which is offered to practicing therapists who received their bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and are seeking a master’s degree.
What is the difference between the OTD and PhD degrees? show
Both the OTD and the PhD degrees offer personalized mentorship to students while learning from USC’s globally recognized faculty. The OTD degree strategically positions graduates for advanced practice and leadership in clinical settings, while the PhD degree is designed for students interested in becoming career research scientists who will generate scientific knowledge and inform the knowledge base of our profession. 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.
The OTD is a one-year program (for students who earn their master’s degree in occupational therapy from USC) with four leadership tracks: advanced clinical practice, pedagogy, policy and administration, or clinical research. The PhD program is a 4-5 year fully-funded immersion in research courses and experiences in which individuals are trained to become independent research investigators.
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.
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.
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.
Who should I contact with financial aid questions? show
Can I work and go to school? show
Due to the intensive nature of the program, BS and Entry-Level Master’s students have little time for work outside of studies. We recommend working no more than 10-12 hours per week. OTD and Post-Professional Master’s students have some time for research and outside work. Many work part-time or as “on-call” therapists.
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.
How can I purchase a parking pass? show
Go to USC Transportation and click on Parking Permits.
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.
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.
Does USC have a student newspaper? show
Yes, the USC student newspaper is the Daily Trojan.
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.
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.
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:
2. Bachelor’s to Master’s Degree Program
Can I apply to this program as a freshman? show
Yes, freshmen applicants may apply to USC and select occupational therapy as their major.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
When does the program start? show
The program begins each year with a summer session starting mid-June.
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. View more information regarding electives.
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.
How are fieldwork placement sites chosen? show
USC has affiliation agreements with over 850 fieldwork placement sites in 39 states and 5 countries. Enrolled students may review information about affiliated sites on our database. Students may also access past student reviews of the fieldwork sites. The fieldwork team considers each student’s request when making placement decisions, but cannot guarantee placement at any particular site.
For Level II fieldwork experiences, students who plan to engage in fieldwork locally (Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties) submit a request list of 20 preferred sites, based on the desired type of practice setting and/or geographical location. Students who wish to engage in Level II fieldwork out of the area, state, or country will submit an out of area fieldwork request form, indicating the geographical area(s) in which they are interested and practice areas to be considered, as well as potential sites. The fieldwork team will make every attempt to place each student in his/her 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.
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® 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. Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) Program
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.
Where may I complete my residency? show
Your residency may be completed in nearly any context, as long as it has been approved by the Program Director. You will select from one of the following leadership concentrations: Advanced Clinical Practice, Research, Policy/Administration, or Education.
May I complete my residency out of area? show
Yes, in order to do so, you must complete all in-person course work during your first semester of the program, and then you may relocate out of area for your residency.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Does my residency site preceptor need to have a doctorate degree? show
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.
Are any OTD courses offered online? show
No. The USC post professional OTD program is currently an in-person, on-the-ground program. However, many interdisciplinary electives are offered in an online or hybrid format.
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.
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. Doctor of Philosophy in Occupational Science (PhD) Program
What is the minimum requirement for the GRE? show
Applicants to the PhD in Occupational Science must have completed Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test within the last five years. While there is no minimum required, the average score PhD cohorts accepted in recent years received an average of 160.8 on the verbal section, an average score of 154.3 on the quantitative section, and an average score of 4.6 on the Analytical Writing section.
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.
6. International Students
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 http://gradadm.usc.edu/lightboxes/international-students-english-proficiency/.
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.
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 to see American Culture Videos, including videos on both formal and informal classroom culture.
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.