University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy: The On-Campus Program for Therapists

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The On-Campus 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 graduated from 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 Two-Year Master’s program.

In 1947, the Division officially established the world’s first Post-Professional Master of Arts degree program in occupational therapy, and for over 65 years our faculty have been perfecting the curriculum to meet the highest educational expectations of occupational therapists worldwide. The one-year core curriculum provides a solid grounding in occupational science, qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, evidence-based practice, clinical reasoning and the traditional values and ethics of occupational therapy practice. In addition, you will be able to individualize your education with your elective choices, each providing in-depth education in six specialty focus areas:

Children and Youth

USC has a long history of leadership in pediatric occupational therapy. Faculty members have expertise in sensory integration, family-centered and culturally sensitive care, early intervention and school based practice, programming for at-risk youth, and policy development. One of our key strengths is in the area of sensory integration, the approach founded by Dr. A. Jean Ayres, who was a distinguished professor in our program. Moreover, through our relationships with leading pediatric clinical sites, we offer outstanding opportunities for our students to refine the advanced practice skills they need to meet the needs of families who have children with a variety of disabilities.

Health and Wellness (Life Design)

We conceive of all occupational therapists as life designers. Just as architects build homes, occupational therapists build lives to maximize health, productivity and happiness. Life design involves creating a good match between a person and his or her environment to maximize overall well-being. One aspect of life design that was developed at USC is Lifestyle Redesign®, an innovative occupational therapy approach to prevention. Tested for its effectiveness in the landmark USC Well Elderly Study, the largest occupational therapy clinical trial ever conducted, Lifestyle Redesign has proven to slow declines normally associated with aging and to improve health in the elderly. Currently, Division faculty members are taking the lead in adapting Lifestyle Redesign to address major public health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and cancer.

Mental Health

Our Division is dedicated to expanding and refining mental health occupational therapy practice. The faculty members who teach our mental health curriculum have extensive practice experience in providing occupation-centered services in this field. In furthering occupational therapy practice in mental health, we have developed innovative programs to address community reintegration and post-traumatic stress in redeployed veterans, to reduce family violence, and to enable at-risk youth to overcome the challenges they face daily and live productive lives. In addition, we offer a variety of other opportunities for clinical experience in a broad range of mental health community settings as part of the educational experience in this specialty area.

Work and Industry

Work and industry constitute a growth market for occupational therapy employment. Occupational therapists are becoming specialists in ergonomics, healthy office design, green workplace innovation, and workplace health and wellness. As part of your program of study, you may enroll in related clinical experiences through the USC Occupational Therapy Faculty Practice, take coursework in hand therapy or ergonomics, or take relevant courses offered in other schools at USC.

Rehabilitation, Participation and Disability

Occupational science has much to offer rehabilitation science and provides interventions that help people living with physical disabilities to engage more fully in life. Master clinicians with nationally recognized expertise in a variety of areas of practice including delivery of occupation-centered treatment, Neuro-Developmental Treatment™ (NDT), technology, ergonomics, dysphagia, and hand therapy teach the physical disabilities electives. Laboratory experiences are held in a state-of-the-art facility that includes a complete kitchen, dining room, bedroom and bathroom area with an array of adaptive equipment and environmental modifications. For those students particularly interested in rehabilitation science, electives in motor learning, biomedical engineering and universal design can be taken in other schools at USC. 

Productive Aging

USC has one of the premier programs for developing innovative interventions in gerontological occupational therapy. Known for the USC Well Elderly Studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, our research has paved the way in showing that preventive occupational therapy slows decline and improves health in the elderly. If you want to customize your course of study to emphasize productive aging, you may wish to take Division-based electives such as Lifestyle Redesign® along with coursework in the USC Davis School of Gerontology, or participate in directed research as part of our Well Elderly Studies investigative team. If your interests are technological or environment-focused, you may wish to take coursework in urban design at the USC Price School of Public Policy or in universal design at the USC School of Architecture.

Discover how a Master of Arts degree in Occupational Therapy from USC can support your personal and professional goals by contacting Liz Carley, Director of Admissions, at (866) 385-4250 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

U.S. News Ranks USC #1 Program in the Nation

USC Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
1540 Alcazar Street, CHP 133
Los Angeles, CA 90089-9003
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Phone: (323) 442-2850 · Toll free: (866) 385-4250
Fax: (323) 442-1540
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The USC entry-level master's degree program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education® (ACOTE). ACOTE c/o Accreditation Department, American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.®, 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, (301) 652-6611 x2914, acoteonline.org

Professional program graduates are eligible to apply for certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, Inc.® www.nbcot.org

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