Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy: The Two-Year, Entry-Level Professional Program
The Two-Year Master of Arts degree program is designed for students with bachelor’s degrees in fields other than occupational therapy. If you are already a certified or board-eligible occupational therapist, please see information about our Post-Professional On-Campus Master’s or our Post-Professional Online Master’s degree programs.
In your two years of study, you will complete three practice immersions in Adult Physical Rehabilitation, Mental Health, and Pediatrics to graduate as a general practitioner of occupational therapy. In addition, the elective options offered in the second year are taught by leaders in diverse practice areas and provide you with in-depth education in six potential 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 wellbeing. 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.
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 disorder in redeployed veterans, to reduce family violence, and to enable at-risk youth to overcome daily challenges and lead 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 constitutes a growing 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 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.
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 Sol Price School of Public Policy or in universal design at the USC School of Architecture.