Post-Professional Doctorate (OTD)
of Occupational Therapy
For OT Graduates and Practitioners
The USC Post-Professional OTD program is designed with flexibility for the working professional. Coursework can be taken completely remotely either full-time or part-time and your courses and residency experience can be tailored for your individual interests and goals. Intensive mentorship allows you to learn alongside outstanding faculty and to network within the Trojan Family.
The OTD program offers four leadership concentrations / tracks:
- Education: This track equips you with the teaching expertise and other skills necessary to become an outstanding faculty member, particularly in settings such as liberal arts colleges or research-intensive universities with clinical faculty positions.
- Policy and Administration: This track is designed to prepare you as an executive decision maker, public policy advocate, or administrator.
- Clinical Research: This track prepares you to participate as a member of a research team to implement evidence-based studies in clinical settings and collect clinical outcomes data.
- Advanced Clinical Practice: This track resembles the residency model typical of doctoral-level medical professional programs and prepares you to be an expert clinician.
The Post-Professional OTD requires the completion of 60 units beyond the baccalaureate degree, including:
- Required coursework to continue developing your leadership and professional skills
- Elective coursework either in the Division or in a different school at USC to broaden your scope of knowledge
- Residency experience to build/enhance your hands-on skills
- Completion of a portfolio to demonstrate what you achieved over the course of study
If you have a master’s degree in occupational therapy, you may apply for Advanced Standing, which requires 36 units beyond the first graduate degree. If you are not admitted with advanced standing, you may receive partial credit for coursework taken for a previous graduate degree.
The doctoral residency is a crucial element of our OTD program. We believe that immersion in specific practice contexts (whether they be clinical, policy-related, educational or research focused) gives you the skills and expertise to move occupational therapy forward. As a result, our OTD program involves 24 units taken over three semesters. You will work in carefully selected settings (which may be the one in which you have had experience) with the guidance of a mentor. Most returning practitioners choose to complete their residency at their current place of employment.
Residency Site 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. The residency site preceptor does not need to have a doctorate degree or to be an occupational therapist.
USC Faculty Mentor
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.
In the final semester of enrollment, you will submit a portfolio demonstrating competence in your chosen leadership concentration. The final portfolio will include documentation of both written and oral presentation skills and expertise as designated in the residency plan.
Our OTD program is based on customization and your program is designed in accord with your needs and ambitions. We realize that if you have considerable clinical expertise, you may seek to take more coursework and less residency than is typical. However, if you have less than three years of clinical experience as a registered and/or licensed occupational therapist at time of admission, you may be required to complete at least 8 units of clinical occupational therapy courses.
Important Notes for International Students
If you were educated outside the United States, you must have graduated from a program approved by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). USC maintains additional admissions requirements for international students, including English language competence as measured by standardized examination. Please bear in mind that certification through the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT®), which is necessary to practice as an occupational therapist in the United States and is required for students on the Advanced Clinical Practice track, can take up to six months. A felony conviction may affect your ability to sit for the NBCOT® certification examination or attain state licensure. Please view nbcot.org for more information.
If you have a Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy, you may qualify for Advanced Standing. If so, the typical course sequence is as follows:
Fall semester generally begins in late August and continues for 16 weeks.
- OT 620 (4 units): Current Issues in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
- OT 686 (6 units): Part-time Residency
Spring semester begins in January and continues for 16 weeks.
- OT 621 (4 units): Occupational Therapy Leadership: Contemporary Issues
- OT 686 (6 units): Part-time Residency
- Elective Course (4 units)
Summer session begins in mid-May and continues for 12 weeks.
- OT 686 (12 units): Full-time Residency
Additional Foundation Coursework
If you do not qualify for Advanced Standing, the following additional foundation and elective courses are required:
- OT 515 (4 units): Neuroscience of Behavior
- OT 518 (4 units): Quantitative Research for Evidence-Based Practice
- OT 525 (4 units): Qualitative Research for Evidence-Based Practice
- OT 534 (2 units): Health Promotion and Wellness
- OT 538 (2 units): Current Issues in Practice: Adulthood and Aging
- OT 540 (2 units): Leadership Capstone
- OT 545 (2 units): Advanced Seminar in Occupational Science
- Elective Courses (4 units)
Elective Courses (4 units required)
You will take at least one course (4 units) at the 500-level or higher at another USC academic unit outside the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. The coursework must clearly relate to your professional goals and remain consistent with the objectives of the OTD program.
- For example, a student who developed a Lifestyle Redesign® program to support environmentally sustainable habits took coursework in the USC Marshall School of Business to refine her business presentation and communication skills.
- Another student, completing his residency in a violence prevention program, took a course on nonprofit organization management.
- A third student, completing her residency in a Lifestyle Redesign® weight loss program, selected a course from the Keck School of Medicine of USC on health promotion.
- A fourth, who secured a leadership position in a residential aging-in-place program, took her elective courses in the USC Davis School of Gerontology.
If you wish to pursue more intensive study in occupational science, you may be granted permission to use your elective units to concentrate in Division-based 600-level occupational science courses associated with the PhD program.
Please note that if you took additional elective units in a USC Chan Master’s Degree Program above the required electives for that program, you may have fulfilled all or part of the elective requirement for the OTD program.
Completing the OTD on a Part-Time Basis
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.
USC Chan recognizes that the composition of occupational therapists nationwide is not sufficiently representative of the diversity of the healthcare consumers whom the profession serves. Consequently, we strive to recruit superior applicants for all of our academic programs from diverse populations and to provide financial packages that will make it possible for promising students from underserved populations to attend USC Chan. Read more about diversity, access, and equity at USC Chan and our Minority Mentorship Program.
A Day in the Life of a Post-Professional OTD Student
Jodie, a student in the Post-Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy program, shares about daily life as an OTD resident at the University of Southern California.