Occupational Therapy Admission Requirements

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Admission Requirements

The OTD is an entry-level doctoral degree designed for someone who has already earned a baccalaureate with a major in any area. Applicants will be evaluated for admission based upon the following criteria:

  • Baccalaureate from a regionally accredited institution AND all prerequisites completed with a grade of “C-“ or better by the end of the spring term prior to entry.
    • Biology must be completed prior to application and Physics must be completed before the end of the fall term prior to entry.
  • Minimum recommended cumulative GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 semester units. All coursework (including repeated classes) will be averaged.
  • Minimum recommended science GPA of 3.0. All science coursework (including repeated classes) will be averaged.
  • Evidence of 40 to 70 hours (minimum) work or volunteer experience demonstrating an understanding of the occupational therapist's role and maturity in career choice. The hours are recorded in OTCAS in a similar format to a resume. There is no verification process or SMU form to submit.
  • Three letters of reference are required. The first should be from a person who has known you in an academic or professional setting. The second letter must be from an occupational therapist who has supervised you as a paid or volunteer worker in an active clinical setting. The third letter may be from an academic, professional, or clinical source. All letters are to be submitted as part of the application through OTCAS. 
  • Results of an in-person interview as described below.


All prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of "C-" or better. All prerequisites must be completed by the end of the spring term prior to the start of the program, except Biology and Physics which must be completed sooner (see notes below). Additionally, it is recommended that no more than 2-3 prerequisites be in progress during the spring. The department strongly prefers that all prerequisites are completed by the fall term prior to entry. Preferential admission will be given to applicants who have completed all academic prerequisites at the time of the interview.  

We accept online, hybrid and on campus classes from regionally accredited institutions. Classes maybe taken at any regionally accredited institution such as community colleges, CSU, UC or private institutions. In California the accrediting body is WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Please see the Course Resource Guide for helpful information regarding prerequisites.


Semester or Quarter Units

English Composition/Critical Thinking
Any two English courses maybe used to meet this requirement. University writing courses used to meet writing/English general education requirement for bachelor degree are also acceptable.
General Psychology
General or introductory course in psychology is acceptable.
Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal or psychopathology course is acceptable.
Developmental Psychology
Lifespan psychology course is preferred. Course work in child, adolescent, or adult psychology may also be used to satisfy this requirement.
Introductory statistics/quantitative method course offered by any department is acceptable.
Social Science Elective I & II
Any 2 courses in the sociology, anthropology, ethnic studies, psychology, or cultural studies departments are acceptable. For psychology courses- courses already required for admission cannot be used to satisfy this requirement as well.
General Biology
Any biology course is acceptable, lab is not required. Anatomy and physiology cannot be used to meet this requirement. Note: Course must be completed at the time of application.
Introductory or conceptual course is acceptable, lab is not required. Note: Course must be completed no later than the end of fall term of application year.
3-Dimensional skill/craft
One college/university 3 or more unit course in a 3-Dimensional skill/craft in a medium such as woodworking, sculpture, ceramics, sewing, jewelry making, leather work, tile mosaics, crocheting/knitting/macramé, candle/soap making or metal work can be used to meet this requirement. Note: The following skills/crafts are not acceptable: painting, drawing, graphic design, photography, playing an instrument, and other two dimensional areas.
Portfolios are no longer accepted. 
Human Anatomy
Introductory course is acceptable, no lab required. The first course of a combined anatomy & physiology course series can be used to satisfy this requirement. Note: Course is highly recommended, but not required. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed this course at the time of application.
Human Physiology
Introductory course is acceptable, no lab required. The second course of a combined anatomy & physiology course series can be used to satisfy this requirement. Note: Course is highly recommended, but not required. Preference will be given to applicants who have completed this course at the time of application.
Public Speaking
Any speech course is acceptable. Note: Course is highly recommended, but not required.

AP Credit

AP exam scores are only acceptable if the course(s) is clearly notated on OTCAS and/or University transcript.

Challenge Exams

A challenge exam may be taken in lieu of coursework. All challenge exams must be noted on the OTCAS application.


Students are selected for an interview based upon the content of the application they submit to OTCAS. Not all candidates who meet minimum qualifications will be granted an interview. An on-campus interview is required to be selected for admission. Phone or web interviews are not acceptable.

A maximum of 150 applicants will be interviewed each year for the program. Interviews are generally held on two Saturdays in December and January and are held on the Oakland campus.

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing Elisa Laird-Metke at drc@samuelmerritt.edu. Please give as much notice as you can to allow time to set them up. Further information about the Disability Resource Center can be found here

Technology requirement for the program

In the Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program, no courses are taught solely online. Numerous courses include requirements for participation in online discussion forums and to access course learning materials via Course Management Systems (Canvas) and therefore access to a computer is required. All students will be trained in the use of Canvas. Only one course, OT 709 Introduction to Professional Documentation, is primarily delivered online.  This course first meets on campus for four hours, and the remaining nine hours of content (including 30 hours of readings and assignments) is delivered online during the first summer.

GRE Scores

Results from the GRE exam are not required or considered for admission into the OTD program.

Internationally Educated Applicants

Students educated abroad may apply for admission. Regardless of previous professional training and academic degrees earned, Samuel Merritt's OTD curriculum must be completed in its entirety.

If your education was not part of a U.S. based study aborad program, all international academic transcripts must be evaluated by a U.S. evaluation service that is a member of the National Association of Credential Evaluations Services (NACES) for degree, course content, semester unit equivalencies and cumulative GPAs prior to the application deadline. The evaluation must be sent to OTCAS as part of the application.  Information on NACES may be found at www.naces.org.


The need for the Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) will be assessed based on information provided by the applicant on the application for admission. If the TOEFL is required, applicants must achieve a minimum score of 100 (Internet Based Test). Scores must be submitted during the application process.

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