Education at USC Chan
Frequently Asked Questions
1. General Questions
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.
An OTD degree prepares graduates as occupational therapists with the in-depth knowledge and skills to practice in various settings, including clinics, hospitals, school systems, or community programs. A PhD degree prepares graduates with the in-depth research knowledge and skills to work as career scientists in various settings including universities, clinical-research institutes or scientific industries. Both degrees prepare graduates for working in academia, albeit for different faculty roles. These programs are not mutually exclusive and USC Chan has created a streamlined pathway for students seeking to pursue both an OTD and a PhD degree simultaneously, which has many advantages for clinical-research careers or in academia.
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.
The Admissions page on this website for each of our programs includes estimated tuition and other fees for the program.
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.
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.
See USC’s Academic Calendar for the semester schedule including university holidays. Occupational Therapy course sequence information can be found on this website, on the Curriculum and Requirements page for each program.
Go to USC Transportation and look in the Parking section.
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.
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.
Yes, the USC student newspaper is the Daily Trojan.
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.
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.
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
- The Public Transport feature of Google Maps
2. Bachelor’s to Doctorate Program
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.
Yes, freshmen applicants may apply to USC and select occupational therapy as their major.
No, transfer students are not accepted to the Accelerated Bachelor’s to Doctorate (BS to OTD) Occupational Therapy program. You may still apply to transfer to USC for a different major and/or apply to the Entry-Level OTD program upon completion of your baccalaureate degree.
Information about the field of occupational therapy can be found on the websites of the American Occupational Therapy Association and the United States Department of Labor. You are not expected to have healthcare-related leadership or volunteer experience when you apply to the program.
3. Entry-Level Master’s Degree Program (no longer accepting applicants)
Current entry-level master's degree students 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 admitted its last class in June 2021.
New Entry-Level OTD Program
The Chan Division has also initiated the ACOTE process to transition the entry-level master’s 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). Updates will be provided on our website throughout the accreditation process as they become available. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
4. Entry-Level OTD Degree Program
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 consider attending an admissions information session for the entry-level OTD program and reviewing the frequently asked questions for additional information. Updates will continue to be provided on our website as they are available.
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.
The entry-level OTD degree program at the USC Chan Division has formally applied for accreditation and has been granted candidacy status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®). The program must have a pre-accreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation, and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to take the national certification examination for the registered occupational therapist, which is administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®). Successfully passing the NBCOT board exam is a pre-requisite to apply for your state’s occupational therapy license. A license to practice is required in all 50 states in the United States.
The accreditation process is required for all occupational therapy education programs. The first year of the entry-level OTD program will include a review process before official accreditation can be granted (and that step cannot be guaranteed in advance). For new programs like this one, accreditation must be officially granted by the time that graduates take their NBCOT board exams in order for them to then apply for a state license in order to be able to practice as a licensed occupational therapist. We feel confident in our program, but it is important to acknowledge that we are still in the approval process, and we will still be during the first year that students are in our program.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No, at this time, our entry-level doctorate is a full-time program.
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.
If you are planning to complete a prerequisite course in the FALL term, we will still accept these courses with your application. You may mark these courses as ‘in progress’ when you complete your OTCAS application. However, you will be required to complete an “academic update” with OTCAS once the course is completed. This is done by sending them your official transcript with the course grade noted (contact OTCAS directly for details). It will be the applicant’s responsibility to notify the Admissions Team once the academic update is complete.
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 February. Please be advised that this timeline is subject to change.
The program begins in the fall semester in August each year.
Hands-on experience will include Level I and Level II fieldwork, doctoral capstone experience (DCE), 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, OT 504 Productive Aging and Geriatrics), 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 nine weeks.
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 and the second Level II experience will lead into your Doctoral Capstone Experience (DCE). The DCE is a 14-week, full-time experience in which you are immersed in a real-world context of advanced clinical practice, research, policy and advocacy or pedagogy.
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.
5. Post-Professional OTD Degree Program
Applicants to the Post-Professional 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 the GPA 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.
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.
It is possible to use your workplace as your residency site. Most sites hire residents at a competitive OTR/L rate, or offer financial support in the form of a stipend or scholarship.
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.
Yes, many residents dedicate more hours than the minimum required.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Post-Professional OTD courses may be taken either in person or online, allowing you to complete the degree in an entirely remote format.
Yes, there are many pathways through the Post-Professional 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.
Yes, the Division offers competitive, merit-based scholarship awards. A typical scholarship award covers 12 units. Applicants to the Post-Professional 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.
6. PhD in Occupational Science Degree Program
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer required for applications to the Chan PhD program.
Yes! Currently, students selected for admission to the PhD program are awarded fellowships or assistantships which cover 12 units of tuition support in fall, spring and summer, an annual stipend of $40,000, and student health and dental benefits.
Please view a listing of our Division’s Funded Research Projects.
Please view a listing of our Division’s Immersions.
No, the PhD in Occupational Science is a full-time, in-person program.
7. International Students
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), IELTS (International English Language Testing System), or PTE (Pearson Test of English). Students from some English-speaking countries may also need to submit scores. We require that the student have verification of their scores within two years of intended enrollment.
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.
For information regarding applying for your visa, on-campus employment, documents needed, which clothing to bring, etc., please visit ois.usc.edu.
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.
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
Please visit USC’s official website for the most up-to-date information from the University.
All undergraduate courses are expected to be fully in-person, with the exception of 3 of the Connection Sessions for OT 100 THRIVE: Foundations of Well-Being.
Entry-Level Master’s program and Post-Professional Master’s program courses are expected to be primarily in-person on the Health Science Campus.
Post-Professional OTD OT 620 will be offered in both fully in-person and fully remote formats, and OT 621 will be offered in a hybrid format in order to accommodate the needs of students engaged in residencies out of the Los Angeles area.
PhD in Occupational Science courses are expected to be fully in-person.
We continue to place utmost priority on the safety and well-being of our community. We will follow and monitor all guidelines set by the University, the Los Angeles County and the state of California.
USC is utilizing the Zoom platform for all remote classes and meetings. For help with navigating Zoom, please visit USC IT Services Zoom Training.