University of Southern California
University of Southern California
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Student Ambassador Blog | Antonietta


Five ways to make the OTD more affordable

, by Antonietta · email · comment

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Like I mentioned in my previous blog Choosing a Residency Site, off the bat it seems like a USC affiliate site is the best financial package and the whole prospect of affording the OTD without it seems impossible. I’m here to tell you that is not the case! Yes, the OTD at USC is expensive but here are five steps I took to make it more affordable:

1. The most direct one was finding a residency site that hired me on as an occupational therapist once I got my license. I looked at Glassdoor to get a sense of what entry level pay was like and mine is a few dollars lower because of the mentorship and training that I receive. I can cover about 50% of my Fall/Spring tuition (before any scholarship) by completing 20 hours of residency work per week. This percentage will change over the summer when I’m working full time at my residencies.

2. The next one was a question of weighing pros and cons. First the background: in the Master’s you pay a flat rate for 18 units of tuition and for the Doctorate you pay for each unit you take. During the Fall and Spring of the second year of the Master’s you are not required to take the full 18 units and there are opportunities where you could be. In the Fall, you can do Directed Research (OT 590) for 2 units and during the Spring you can load up on elective credits to reach the full 18. Elective credits taken during the Master’s carry over to the Doctorate and if you do the max units both semester you do not need to take any elective during the OTD. This saves you up to 4 units at approximately $1800 per unit. I found 18 units manageable but it was noticeably more work than my classmates who were not doing it… so consider that as you plan your semester!

3. There are some paid positions in the Division available only to OTD students. I am the classroom assistant for two courses. Since the professors know that you are also a student in an intensive course of study, I have found they are easy to work with and I can adjust my schedule to manage both these positions and my doctoral work. I personally enjoy being connected back to the Master’s program and working with professors that I was inspired by when I was in their classrooms. 

4. Keeping my grades up! There is scholarship from the Division for the OTD based on academic achievement. This includes GPA as well as participation and impact in the Division during the Master’s.

5. Finally, I’ve known since I started the program that I wanted to pursue the OTD, so I did some things to prepare for the expense including working during the Master’s. I picked up 5-7 hours per week and it helped cut down on my expenses during the Master’s which made taking on the financial burden of the additional OTD year slightly less intimidating.

I’m not going to talk about loans or scholarship because it is very similar to the Master’s. There have been some great Ambassador blog posts written about these topics in the past so definitely check those out. I hope that sharing this part of my OTD experience demonstrates that there are ways to make the OTD work financially and for me, it has been worth every penny.

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