University of Southern California

Independent Health Professions at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry

USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Bachelor of Science

The undergraduate curriculum leads to the Bachelor of Science with a major in Occupational Therapy. Although professional study begins during the junior year, most students apply to the major as incoming freshmen. Students may apply any time prior to May 15 of the sophomore year. Students majoring in occupational therapy can earn a USC master’s degree in occupational therapy with just one additional year instead of the traditional two years, substantially reducing their overall cost of education and preparing them sooner for the National Board Certification in Occupational Therapy® (NBCOT) examination. Successful completion of the Master of Arts degree and successful completion of a minimum of 24 full-time weeks of clinical fieldwork are required for eligibility to sit for the NBCOT examination. Certification from the board and licensure (most states) are required to practice as an occupational therapist. (See here for a description of the M.A. degree program.)

Admission Criteria and Application Procedures for Incoming Freshmen

See the Undergraduate Admission section of this catalogue for admission criteria and application procedures for the university.

Admission Criteria for Current USC Students

After admission to USC, students wishing to add or change their major to occupational therapy should contact the division. Requirements for admission are:

1. an autobiographical statement that demonstrates strong potential to be an occupational therapist as well as an understanding of occupational therapy as a career choice

2. a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher in undergraduate course work

3. a plan for completion of all USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences general education requirements and foreign language requirements by the beginning of the senior year

4. a plan for completion of pre-professional course work by specified deadlines

Application Procedures for Current USC Students

Applications will be reviewed after the application deadline, and once the following materials have been received by the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy:

1. Completed division application form

2. Current copy of the student’s STARS report

3. A personal statement (600 words or less) in response to the following prompt: Please describe a significant experience, achievement or personal characteristic that demonstrates why you would be an effective occupational therapist. Please include your understanding of occupational therapy in your essay.

4. Three letters of recommendation from professors, employers or other professionals, not related to the applicant, sent directly to the division or delivered in a sealed envelope. One letter should be from a professor.

Deadlines for Current USC Students

Sophomores may apply by May 15 to apply for admission to begin the program in the fall of their junior year. The junior year entry option has very limited admissions availability each year and available spaces are not guaranteed.

Program Requirements

A total of 128 units is required for the Bachelor of Science degree. An occupational therapy major cannot count any 300-level OT course toward the B.S. degree.

General Education Requirements

The university’s general education program provides a coherent, integrated introduction to the breadth of knowledge needed to become a well-educated person. This program requires six courses in different categories, plus writing, diversity and foreign language requirements, which together comprise the USC Core. See The USC Core and the General Education Program for more information.

Required Pre-Professional Courses

We recommend that you meet with an admissions counselor within the division in order to determine course work that can be taken at USC or could be transferred and substituted for required course work. Before taking the advanced professional courses you must have completed the pre-professional required courses:

  • Within the last five years
  • With a minimum GPA of 3.0 (pass/fail or grades below a C are not accepted)
  • From an accredited junior college, four-year college or university
  • Either in a classroom setting or online; however, anatomy must be completed in a classroom setting (refer to Course Work Taken Elsewhere)
  • For a total of three or four semester units each (with the exception of medical terminology, which may be 1 or 2 units)

Required Pre-Professional Courses (USC course numbers are noted)

  • Students who wish to transfer credit for courses taken at another institution must gain university approval:
OT 200 Medical Terminology for Health Professions 1
SOCI 200 Introduction to Sociology, or
ANTH 201 Introduction to Social Anthropology 4
OT 251x Across the Lifespan: Occupations, Health and Disability 4
OT 260 Human Functional Anatomy for the Occupational Therapist (with laboratory), or
HBIO 301L Human Anatomy (with laboratory) 3-4
OT 261 Human Physiology for Occupational Therapists, or
BISC 307L General Physiology 3-4
MATH 114 Foundations of Statistics, and 4
PSYC 274L Statistics I, or 4
HP 340L Health Behavior Statistical Methods, and 4
HP 350L Health Behavior Research Methods, or 4
BUAD 310 Applied Business Statistics 4
PSYC 360 Abnormal Psychology 4
A course in Gerontology or adult development (recommended but not required)

Four-week intensive courses are offered by the division in human anatomy (OT 260) and human physiology (OT 261) from mid-May to mid-June (just prior to the start of summer professional courses) for those students who have been unable to complete those courses earlier. These courses are also offered fall and spring semesters.

Students may take OT 405L, OT 406L, OT 440L and OT 441L in the junior year, after having completed Human Anatomy and Lifespan Development. Human Physiology must be completed by fall of the junior year. The remaining pre-professional courses must be completed by the start of the senior year.

Required Professional Courses

Enrollment in professional occupational therapy courses is limited to junior and senior occupational therapy majors only.

OT 405 Foundations: Occupation 2
OT 406L Foundations: Creativity, Craft and Activity Analysis 2
OT 440L Foundations: Kinesiology 2
OT 441L Foundations: Neuroscience 2
Two of the following: OT 501L Practice Immersion: Adult Physical Rehabilitation (8), OT 502L Practice Immersion: Mental Health (8), or OT 503L Practice Immersion: Pediatrics (8) and
OT 511 Therapeutic Use of Self 2
OT 515 Neuroscience of Behavior 4
OT 518 Quantitative Research for Evidence-Based Practice 4
OT 521 Clinical Reasoning 3
OT 523 Communication Skills for Effective Practice 3
OT 525 Qualitative Research for Evidence-Based Practice 4

Scholastic Standards

Undergraduate occupational therapy students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 (A = 4.0) in all required OT courses and successfully complete the Graduate Record Examinations in order to continue into the master’s (M.A.) program. If an undergraduate student’s OT grade point average (GPA) falls below 3.0, or if the cumulative undergraduate GPA falls below 3.0 at the end of the fall semester of the senior year, continuance is not assured.


Advisement is available through the division.

Minor in Occupational Science

The division offers a minor in the dynamic discipline of occupational science. It is one of a select few programs in the world that offers undergraduates the opportunity to explore the fields of occupational science and occupational therapy.

Unlike other creatures, humans are innately driven to fill their time with interesting, meaningful activities, which scholars call “occupations.” That is, humans need to be occupied. These occupations have a profound impact on physical and mental health, one’s sense of well-being and the experience of quality of life. Occupational Science seeks to understand the precise nature and function of occupations and the critical effect of daily activity on human beings. Scientists working in the field examine questions such as: what is the relationship between childhood occupations and adult competency and achievement; what constitutes a healthy balance of work, rest and leisure; what factors contribute to a good fit between a particular individual and his or her occupations.

The minor in occupational science requires a total of 20 units: a gateway course (OT 250) for 4 units plus 16 units of upper-division courses selected from 11 courses. It is open to all majors at USC. An occupational therapy major cannot count any 300-level OT course toward the B.S. degree.

Lower Division: Gateway course required units
OT 250 Introduction to Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy 4
Upper Division: 16 units Units
OT 300 Occupational Expressions of Diverse Identities and Lifestyles 4
OT 310 Creativity Workshop 2
OT 312 Creating a Sustainable Lifestyle 2
OT 320 The Nature of Human Occupation: Form, Function, and Meaning 4
OT 325 The Brain: Mind, Body and Self 4
OT 330 Perspectives on the Daily Life of Families 4
OT 333 Sports Ethics 4
OT 350 Disability, Occupations, and the Health Care System 4
OT 355 Occupational Reconstructions and Social Transformations 2
OT 360 Creating the Self through Narrative: Acts of Life Story Production 4
OT 375 The Narrative Structure of Social Action: Narrative, Healing, and Occupation 4