Education at USC Chan
Frequently Asked Questions
Please find on this page answers to many frequently asked questions about the Chan Division, and our academic programs. If you have a question and can’t find the answer here, our Admissions Team will be happy to help.
1.1. How do I become a licensed occupational therapist in the United States?
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 an OTD and a PhD degree?
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.
1.3. What is the difference between the Research Track in the Post-Professional OTD and the PhD program?
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.
1.4. Where can I find the tuition and fees for attending USC?
The Admissions page on this website for each of our programs includes estimated tuition and other fees for the program.
1.5. Are scholarships and financial aid available?
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.
1.6. Is it recommended that students work during the program?
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.
1.7. How can I find the semester schedule?
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.
1.8. How can I purchase a parking pass?
Go to USC Transportation and look in the Parking section.
1.9. Do students receive free membership to the on-campus gym?
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.
1.10. How can I purchase USC Football Tickets?
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.
1.11. Does USC have a student newspaper?
Yes, the USC student newspaper is the Daily Trojan.
1.12. How can I find the contact information for a faculty or staff person at USC?
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.
1.13. Is there on-campus housing for graduate students?
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.
1.14. Is there public transportation in Los Angeles?
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 | Public Transportation
LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Occupational Science Programs
2. PhD in Occupational Science Degree Program
2.1. What is the minimum requirement for the GRE?
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer required for applications to the Chan PhD program.
2.2. Is the PhD program fully-funded?
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 $42,000, and student health and dental benefits.
2.3. What are the current research studies in which the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy is involved?
Please view a listing of our Division’s Funded Research Projects.
2.4. What are the available immersion experiences?
Please view a listing of our Division’s Immersions.
2.5. Is the PhD program offered online or in a hybrid format?
No, the PhD in Occupational Science is a full-time, in-person program.
Entry-Level Programs to Become an Occupational Therapist
3. 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 next application cycle. 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.
3.1. Why is USC Chan transitioning to the Entry-Level OTD?
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.
3.2. What is the accreditation process?
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.
3.3. What are the similarities and differences between an Entry-Level Master’s degree and an Entry-Level OTD degree?
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-Level 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.
3.4. What is the difference between an Entry-Level OTD and a Post-Professional OTD?
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.
3.5. I am a current USC Chan student; how will the Division’s transition to an Entry-Level OTD program impact me?
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.
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.
3.6. Will more scholarships be provided to offset the costs of an additional year of study?
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.
3.7. Does USC offer a part-time entry-level doctorate program in occupational therapy?
No, at this time, our Entry-Level Doctorate is a full-time program.
3.8. Is volunteer experience required?
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.
3.9. Can prerequisite courses be in progress while applying to the program?
Prerequisite courses may be in progress or incomplete while applying to the program. Prerequisite courses must be completed by Spring semester of the year that you plan to start the program. When you complete the OTCAS application, you will have the opportunity to identify the course(s) you have taken that you would like the admissions committee to consider for each prerequisite for our program.
3.10. When does the program start?
The program typically begins in early September, and follows a different course calendar than the University’s general academic calendar because our Entry-Level OTD courses are held year-round.
3.11. How much hands-on experience is available to me while I am in the program?
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.
3.12. How are fieldwork placement sites chosen?
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.
4. 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 initiated the ACOTE process to transition the entry-level master’s to an accredited Entry-Level Doctorate (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 upcoming application cycle (program start in fall of 2023). Updates will be provided on our website throughout the accreditation process as they become available. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
5. Bachelor’s to Doctorate Program
USC Chan is in the process of transitioning from an entry-level master’s program to an Entry-Level 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 will need to apply to and complete the OTD program following completion of your bachelor’s degree.
5.1. Can I apply to this program as a freshman?
Yes, freshmen applicants may apply to USC and select occupational therapy as their major.
5.2. Can I apply to the Bachelor program as a transfer student?
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.
5.3. What can I expect as a student in this program?
We invite you to attend an information session to learn all about the program and application process. You can also speak to our Bachelor’s student ambassador for a student perspective.
5.4. How can I learn more about occupational therapy?
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.
Post-Professional Programs for OT Graduates and Practitioners
6. Post-Professional OTD Degree Program
6.1. Do I need to have a master’s degree in OT in order to apply to the Post-Professional OTD program at USC?
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.
6.2. Are international opportunities available?
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.
6.3. Will I get paid for my 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.
6.4. How much time will I be spending at my residency?
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.
6.5. Is it ok if my residency site hires me for over 20 hours per week?
Yes, many residents dedicate more hours than the minimum required.
6.6. Am I allowed to work outside of my residency site?
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.
6.7. Does my residency site preceptor need to be an occupational therapist?
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.
6.8. Does my residency site preceptor need to have a doctorate degree?
6.9. How do I select my USC faculty mentor?
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.
6.10. Does my USC faculty mentor need to have experience related to the work that is being done within the context of my residency?
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.
6.11. Are any Post-Professional OTD courses offered online?
Post-Professional OTD courses may be taken either in person or online, allowing you to complete the degree in an entirely remote format.
6.12. May I complete the Post-Professional OTD program on a part-time basis?
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.
6.13. Does the division offer scholarship support?
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.
7. Post-Professional Master’s Degree Program
7.1. Do I need a bachelor’s degree in OT in order to apply to the Post-Professional MA program at USC?
The Post-Professional Master’s degree program is designed for the individual who is already a certified or board-eligible occupational therapist, or an international therapist who has completed a baccalaureate degree in occupational therapy from an accredited college or university or a program approved by the World Federation of Occupational Therapy® (WFOT).
If you have a bachelor’s degree in a discipline other than occupational therapy, please see information about our Entry-Level Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program.
7.2. What happens if I do not reach the English Proficiency exam requirements?
The English Proficiency exam requirements are set by the USC Graduate Admissions Office. USC accepts three tests of English Proficiency: TOEFL, IELTS and PTE.
You can learn more about these exams and the required scores at gradadm.usc.edu/lightboxes/international-students-english-proficiency
It is recommended that you reach the required scores for admission. However, if you do not reach the required scores, there are a few options to obtain admission:
- You can study and retake the exam in question in an attempt to reach the necessary scores. This may be the best option if you are only slightly below the requirement.
- If your English language are significantly lower than the required minimums, you may wish to apply to the USC Pre-Master’s program. This program prepares students to meet the English language requirements for our program, in addition to learning more about U.S. academic culture. Our applicants typically need 1-2 semesters of this program, the length of which program is determined by the Pre-Master’s Admissions office and is based on your English Language proficiency scores. If you successfully complete the Pre-Master’s program you are guaranteed admission into the Post-Professional Master’s in Occupational Therapy.
7.3. What is the Pre-Master’s Program?
If your English language scores are significantly lower than the required minimums, you may wish to apply to the USC Pre-Master’s program. This program prepares students to meet the English language requirements for our program, in addition to learning more about US academic culture. Our applicants typically need 1-2 semesters of this program, the length of which program is determined by the Pre-Master’s Admissions office and is based on your English Language proficiency scores. If you successfully complete the Pre-Master’s program you are guaranteed admission into the Post-Professional Master’s in Occupational Therapy.
7.4. Can I transition from Post-Professional MA to the Post-Professional OTD?
For students who are able to maintain satisfactory academic performance during their Master’s Program we offer a Post-Professional MA to Post-Professional OTD pathway with advanced standing. Our master’s degree programs are set up to allow you to continue seamlessly into our Post-Professional Doctorate (OTD) program. With a master’s degree from USC Chan, you will enter the Post-Professional OTD with 24 units of additional credit from master’s degree courses and advanced standing. The program is typically completed in three semesters (one year).
8.1. What resources does USC Chan provide to support international students?
USC Chan Global Initiatives provides a multitude of resources for international students. We also provide scholarship and student worker opportunities.
8.2. Do I need to take an English Proficiency Exam?
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.
8.3. What do I need to do after I get admitted to USC?
For information regarding applying for your visa, on-campus employment, documents needed, which clothing to bring, etc., please visit ois.usc.edu.
8.4. How is the teaching style at USC different from international schools?
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.
8.5. What is the H1B Visa and which companies will sponsor it?
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.
9.1. How do I receive updates related to COVID-19?
Please visit USC’s official website for the most up-to-date information from the University.
9.2. What platform is USC Chan using for remote instruction?
USC is utilizing the Zoom platform for all remote classes and meetings. For help with navigating Zoom, please visit USC IT Services Zoom Training.