Doctor and Master of Occupational Therapy Programs

Our programs provide a challenging education that delves into the fundamental sciences and occupation-based practice. Students will have the opportunity to work with clients in clinical labs, honing their skills and conducting research. Additionally, they will gain advocacy techniques that empower them to make an impact. Graduates frequently climb the ladder to leadership positions in this exciting field.

Campus Location


  • On Campus

Program Duration

  • Three Years

Upcoming Deadlines

Prepare to Lead in a Vibrant and Rewarding Occupation

Occupational therapists make a significant and positive impact on the quality of life of their clients. In this incredibly rewarding career, you provide services to people of all ages with sensory, cognitive, psychological, and physical difficulties—helping them to develop or regain important life skills. This might mean helping an individual learn to live and thrive independently or assisting someone to return to their daily routine after an injury or surgery.

SMU’s entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) and Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) programs focus on working with the whole person. Our rigorous curriculum combines basic science and occupation-based practice. Starting in your first year, you’ll have plenty of hands-on experiences, including participating in simulation labs and working with clients in the community participant labs. As an occupational therapist, you’ll need to communicate and partner with other health professionals. To prepare you for this collaboration, you’ll share a course with physical therapy students and experience other interprofessional learning opportunities. 

Occupational therapy is a fast-growing, in-demand field with opportunities in settings such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, community agencies, and schools. Our alumni are highly sought after and 100% found employment within a year of graduation in recent years.

Options for Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Occupational Therapy

You can become an occupational therapist by earning either a master's or a doctoral degree from an accredited occupational therapy program. Samuel Merritt University's Department of Occupational Therapy is proud to be fully accredited for both the MOT and OTD degrees. Applicants can determine which program best fits their specific circumstances and can decide which program more fully meets their future goals at the time of acceptance into the program. We recognize that the decision of which program to enter will be based on many factors, and we will spend time during the interview process explaining both options to more fully inform our future students. 

While we recognize the importance of a doctoral degree in the field to develop advanced skills, we understand that each student has different factors to consider in their decision (professional plans, length of program, cost, and personal factors) and that allowing a choice will more fully meet each student's needs as well as the profession's needs.

The majority of the courses will be taken together as a cohort of both MOT and OTD students with some separate courses required for each degree cohort. The OTD students will have one additional semester to meet the requirements of their degree. 

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement

The Occupational Therapy Department of SMU recognizes that the current practices of the occupational therapy profession do not adequately represent or consider the complexities of our diverse societies in the U.S. Our department is determined to rectify these deficits within the profession that marginalize under-represented and vulnerable individuals and populations. We must continuously improve our policies, procedures, and planning to advance equity and inclusion of all people. We will model inclusiveness. We will engage in our own lifelong learning as well as teach and mentor all students about how complex justice issues including racism, social and structural determinants, inequity, and disparity affect health. We aim to identify, create, and implement occupational therapy practices that ensure occupational justice and respect the values of all those we serve.

What We Look For

  • A desire to serve others
  • A curiosity about how other people see and experience things
  • Background in a variety of undergraduate disciplines
  • A strong desire to become an occupational therapist
  • An understanding of how the role of occupational therapy differs from that of other health care professions
  • The ability to articulate why you wish to entrust SMU with your professional education

Featured Events

Requirements and Program Information



Applications available here:  https://otcas.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login

Application deadline: Applications are being accepted for Fall 2024 start and will be reviewed on a rolling admission basis.

Degree and prerequisites must be completed by 5/31/24

Questions:  Contact Anne Seed, aseed@samuelmerritt.edu

Decisions for Fall 2025 will be made on a rolling admission basis.  It is to your advantage to apply as soon as possible!

1st priority:  11/11/24

2nd priority:  2/3/25

Final:  5/5/25


The MOT and OTD programs are entry-level degree programs 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.
  • 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. At least one natural science course (preferably Biology, Physics, Human Anatomy, or Human Physiology) must be completed by the time of application so that the science GPA can be calculated.
  • Evidence of 40 to 70 (minimum) observation hours in an occupational therapy practice/setting. The hours are recorded in OTCAS in a similar format to a resume. There is no verification process or SMU form to submit.  Applicants may use the “Applicant Uploaded Documents” tab in OTCAS for this purpose.  These observation hours are required for those applying to begin the OT program in Fall 2024 and moving forward. 
  • Three letters of reference are required. The first letter must be from an occupational therapist who has supervised you as a paid or volunteer worker in a clinical setting. The second letter should be from a person who has known you in an academic or professional 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.  Applications will not be reviewed until all three letters of reference have been received and attached to your OTCAS application.
  • An interview is required as part of the admission process; interviews will be in December and January prior to the Fall start of the program and will be conducted in a virtual format.
  •  40-70 OT observation hours are required, see further details on the OT Observation Hours (required for all applicants) section. 

OT Admitted Student Profile                                                

                                                                     OT Admitted Student Profile, Fall 2022           

                                 Applicants                                                                                                                172   

                                 Admitted                                                                                                                    92        

                                 Seats Available                                                                                                          42    

                                 GPA, last 60 semester units, average                                                                   3.63  
                              (Range 2.92 - 3.99)

                                 All science GPA, average                                                                                       3.32    
                              (Range 2.53 - 3.93)


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. Additionally, it is recommended that no more than two or three 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 application. 

We accept online, hybrid, and on-campus classes from regionally accredited institutions. Classes may be 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 Prerequisite Course Resources section below for helpful information regarding prerequisites.

Required Prerequisites, Semester or Quarter Units

  • General Biology, Lab is not required. Anatomy and physiology cannot be used to meet this requirement. 3.0
  • English Composition/Critical Thinking, any two English courses may be used to meet this requirement. University writing courses used to meet writing/English general education requirement for bachelor degree are also acceptable, 6.0 Semester or Quarter Units
  • Abnormal Psychology, abnormal or psychopathology course is acceptable, 3.0
  • General Psychology, general or an introductory course in psychology is acceptable, 3.0
  • Life Span Developmental Psychology, content should cover birth to death, ​​3.0
  • Social Science Elective I & II, any two courses in 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, 6.0
  • Statistics, introductory statistics/quantitative method course offered by any department is acceptable, 3.0
  • Three-Dimensional Skill/Craft in a medium such as woodworking, sculpture, ceramics, sewing, jewelry making, leatherwork, tile mosaics, crocheting/knitting/macramé, candle/soap making or metalwork 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 not accepted. The course may be completed at a community college or a four-year college/university. We will also accept a class from a local art center or parks and recreation department; the course should have multiple sessions vs. a one-time class. The rationale is that we are looking for the experience of developing a skill over time. Although we have not ​specified the exact number of class sessions, the expectation is that the chosen course will include multiple class sessions.  Please upload a description of the course and how many course sessions were included to the Applicant Uploaded Document tab in your OTCAS application. 

Recommended Prerequisites, Semester or Quarter Units

  • Human Anatomy, introductory course is acceptable, no lab required. The first course of a combined anatomy and 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, 3.0
  • 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, 3.0
  • Communication or Speech Elective, any speech course is acceptable. Note: Course is highly recommended, but not required. 

AP and IB Exam Credits

AP exam scores of 3, 4 or 5 and IB exam scores of 5, 6 or 7 may be used to meet prerequisite requirements, but are only acceptable if the exams scores are clearly noted on official university transcript. 

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


An interview is required as part of the admission process; interviews will be in December and January prior to the Fall start of the program and will be conducted in a virtual format.  Not all candidates who meet minimum qualifications will be invited to an interview. 

Students who need disability accommodations may request them by emailing the Disability Resource Center at drc@samuelmerritt.edu. Please give as much notice as you can. Further information about the Disability Resource Center can be found here. 

Technology requirement for the program

In the Master of Occupational Therapy and Doctor of Occupational Therapy Programs, no courses are taught solely online. Numerous courses include requirements for participating in online discussion forums and accessing course learning materials via Course Management Systems (Canvas); therefore, access to a computer and the internet is required. All students will be trained in the use of Canvas. Only one course, 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 asynchronously online. 

GRE Scores

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

Internationally Educated Applicants

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

If your education was not part of a U.S.-based study abroad 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.

Samuel Merritt University allows applicants to take classes online provided the courses are from a regionally accredited institution like the institutions listed below. The regional accreditation board for California schools is the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Please verify accreditation with the institution prior to signing up for classes as credit will not be granted from non-accredited schools.

This is a resource shared by multiple programs, please see the program-specific websites for the listing of required courses.

California Virtual Campus: Online database of California College and University online/telecourse offerings. Search by subject or school name.
Course Atlas 
California State University 
University of California Extension Programs 

Southern University of Health Sciences

  • General Chemistry I & II
  • General Biology I & II
  • Physics I&II
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology

University of Minnesota 

University of New England 

  • Microbiology
  • Anatomy Statistics
  • Medical Chemistry I and II (Inorganic Chemistry)
  • Microbiology
  • Organic Chemistry I and/or II
  • Anatomy
  • Medical Physiology
  • Statistics

Louisiana State University 

  • BIOL 1001/102 Biology
  • ENGL 1001 English Composition I
  • PSYC 2000 Introduction to Psychology
  • ANTH 1003 Cultural Anthropology
  • CMST 2010 Interpersonal Communication
  • ENGL 1001, 1002 English Composition I, II
  • SOCIO 2001 Introduction to Sociology
  • PSYC 2070 Lifespan Developmental Psychology
  • PSYC 3082 Abnormal Psychology

UC Berkeley Extension 

  • Intro to Statistics xB2 or xBW2(online)
  • General Chemistry I/Lab x19A and x19.1B
  • General Chemistry II/Lab x19B and x19.1B
  • General Human Anatomy x104 & Human Anatomy Lab x108
  • Introduction to Physiology xB32 or xBW32 & Physiology Lab x406.1 (online)
  • Introduction to Medical Microbiology x111 Microbiology Lab x491.1

Colorado State Online Plus 

  • BMS 300 – Principles of Human Physiology (4 cr.)
  • BMS 320 – Virtual Laboratory in Physiology (2 cr.)
  • BMS 310 – Anatomy for the Health Professions (4 cr.)
  • MIP 300 – General Microbiology (3 cr.)
  • STAT 311 – Statistics for Behavioral Sciences I (3 cr.)

Challenge/College Level Examination Resources

The College Level Examination Program (CLEP) is a group of standardized tests that assess college-level knowledge in several subject areas. Many colleges grant credit to students who meet their minimum qualifying score. Qualifying scores vary by school but are typically 50. The tests are useful for students who have obtained knowledge outside the classroom, such as through independent study, job experience, or cultural interaction. CLEP also offers international and homeschooled students the opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in subject areas and bypass undergraduate coursework. (Information from College Board’s website-see below)

College Board Examinations (CLEP) 

Thomson Prometric DSST Examinations 


Sequential Course Curriculum     Course Descriptions

The OTD program can be completed in three years, including summers. During the second year, you’ll complete a six-month internship.

Sequential Course Curriculum     Course Descriptions

The MOT program can be completed in seven semesters.

You will join a program and an interprofessional health sciences University community made up of a diverse student body and faculty, all dedicated to transforming the experience of health and health care for diverse populations. You will have multiple opportunities for hands-on, active learning during the classroom portions of the curriculum. These innovative learning experiences occur early and often, building on your strengths and challenging your growth as you become an occupational therapist.

Simulation-Based Learning
The Occupational Therapy program uses SMU's accredited Health Sciences Simulation Center (HSSC) for many of these hands-on learning opportunities. Students have lab sessions in the HSSC training rooms to gain familiarity with hospital-based equipment. Simulated clinical encounters with standardized patients (portrayed realistically by trained actors) are strategically placed throughout our curriculum, starting early and continuing often, in order to situate learning in realistic clinical scenarios prior to full-time clinical education experiences. In small groups, students practice patient encounters in a realistic manner, review their interactions via live and recorded video/audio, and debrief the experience with faculty and student observers to learn from their successes and mistakes. Explore SMU’s Health Sciences Simulation Center in more depth. 

Community Participant Labs 

Students have the hands-on opportunity to work directly with members of the community who have diagnosed conditions in our three Community Participant Labs (CPL). These include the pediatric CPL and the Adult CPL. In addition, students work directly with those with psychosocial challenges at community mental health sites, during several off-site rotations embedded into the curriculum of the Psychosocial course. Students contribute to our community’s health as part of your coursework. Learn more about Community Participant Labs at SMU.

Advanced Technology
Our students get a deeper look at human motion in SMU’s Motion Analysis Research Center (MARC). Through the use of motion capture technology and 3D Kinematics, students have opportunities to develop a greater understanding of balance, biomechanics, and the impact of different interventions on movement. Discover all the MARC has to offer students and their learning. 

What is Fieldwork?

Fieldwork is an integral part of the professional education of occupational therapists. During fieldwork, you will have the opportunity to apply and integrate academic learning. You will be supervised by fieldwork educators who are occupational therapists or other professionals, to gain hands-on experience in a variety of settings. Examples of fieldwork sites include hospitals, outpatient clinics, community-based health programs, and schools. 

Fieldwork education at SMU is designed in accordance with the standards established by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). 

Learn more about Occupational Therapy Fieldwork

Application Fees
Application fees are payable to the Central Application Service for Occupational Therapy (OTCAS). Samuel Merritt University does not charge an additional admission fee.

MOT/DOT Application Fee = $155

Non-Refundable Deposits and Fees
Students offered admission pay a non-refundable tuition deposit of $350 to secure their seat in the class. Application fees and tuition deposits are non-refundable, whether or not the student withdraws in the first week of the term.

Master of Occupational Therapy 

For a detailed summary of annual tuition, and all fees for the program visit Student Accounts. 

Academic Year: 2024-2025 

            Per Unit Rate                =          $1,593/unit 

            Program Units               =          76 units 

            Total Cost Estimate*     =          $121,000 

*The total cost estimate does not reflect potential future tuition rate increases. 


Doctor of Occupational Therapy 

For a detailed summary of annual tuition, all fees for the program, and a cost estimator for the entire program visit Student Accounts. 

Academic Year: 2024-2025

            Per Unit Rate                =          $1,517/unit

            Program Units               =          91 units

            Total Cost Estimate*     =          $138,000

*The total cost estimate does not reflect potential future tuition rate increases.

Your Occupational Therapy graduate education at Samuel Merritt University is an important and valuable investment in your future.  Not only will you have the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career in health care, Samuel Merritt University graduates have a loan default rate of less than one percent.  This means that students who borrowed to attend Samuel Merritt University have found employment in their chosen field that allows them to pay off their loans. 

The Occupational Therapyprogram is proud to offer a variety of ways to assist in funding your education including scholarships, work study and student loans. The first step in applying for financial aid at SMU is to submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The OTD program offers scholarships and an assortment of resources for funding opportunities outside of the program. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of financial need. A limited number are awarded for academic merit. Scholarships for Occupational Therapyinclude:

  • Sharon Clark Diaz
  • Employee Campaign
  • Marshall Steele, Jr.
  • Hitchcock Heydman
  • Henry & Bernice Bigge
  • Faculty Scholarship
  • Alumni Scholarship
  • Elks of the Year
  • William Breslin

WICHE – Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.  WICHE grants are available for students from certain geographical areas of the country.  More information is available at the WICHE website, www.wiche.edu.

Your Financial Aid Package at Samuel Merritt University is personalized to you.  We develop your financial aid package using guidelines set by the Department of Education and the estimated costs of each program.

In addition to the cost of tuition, books and fees, financial aid can also cover other indirect educational costs, so the total cost of attendance includes:

  • Books and Supplies
  • Room and Board
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses
  • Other fees as determined by program/college

Once you receive your financial aid package, check this budget against your actual living expenses and we can make necessary adjustments to meet your needs.

Detailed information about financial aid, budgeting, total cost and application processes are available on the webpage.


We realize that the financial aid process can be difficult and overwhelming.  We are here to help.  Financial Aid staff can assist with budgeting, understanding your awards and understanding the process.  The SMU staff is committed to each and every prospective student and enrolled student.  We have an open door policy and are available via phone or email.

finaid@samuelmerritt.edu or 510-879-9200

The Pradip and Reyka Choksi OT Scholarship $4,000 

Available:  5 scholarships (non-renewable), $4,000 each


All applicants who have submitted an OTCAS application by 3/15/24 and whose application has been verified by OTCAS by 3/31/24 will be considered.  Additionally, SMU must have received your FAFSA by 3/15/24.  No other application is needed.


  • Incoming GPAs (60 unit/all science of 3.0 or higher)
  • Evidence of leadership/service/community or college involvement
  • Financial Need (FAFSA must be received by 3/15/24)


OT Immersion Day Grant $1,000



Participants in SMU OT Immersion Day, who apply, are accepted and who enroll in the Occupational Therapy program at Samuel Merritt University, Fall 2024 start, will receive a one-time, non-renewable $1000.00 OT Immersion Day Participation Grant.  This Grant will show as a credit on your SMU student account. This Grant is available for the Fall 2024 start only.


Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination for the Occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).

After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. A felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to sit for the NBCOT Certification examination or attain state licensure. Individuals convicted of a felony may not be eligible for certification or licensing in Occupational Therapy.

Students are urged to contact the appropriate certification or licensure agency for further information. 

The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy
12 South Summit Ave., Suite 100
Gaithersburg, MD 20877-4150
fax: 301-869-8492

Licensure Exams, Graduation, Number of Graduates and Employment Rates

Outcome Data

Master of Occupational Therapy


There were 26 Master of Occupational Therapy graduates for the most recent entering cohorts that have had time to graduate (2019-2020 through 2021-2022), for a three year graduation rate of 100%.

Master of Occupational Therapy

Cohort Entering Year

Number of Graduates

Graduation Rate

















The table below shows employment rates within six months and one year of graduation for  Master of Occupational Therapy graduates by graduating year.

Master of Occupational Therapy

Graduation Year

Employed within six months of graduation

Employed within one year of graduation
















* Based on alumni surveys and externally subscribed databases. 


Doctor of Occupational Therapy

There were 100 Doctor of Occupational Therapy graduates for the most recent entering cohorts that have had time to graduate (2018-2019 through 2020-2021) for a three-year graduation rate of 100%.

Doctor of Occupational Therapy

Cohort Entering Year

Number of Graduates

Graduation Rate














Not graduated yet



The table below shows employment rates within six months and one year of graduation for Doctor of Occupational Therapy graduates by graduating year.

Doctor of Occupational Therapy

Graduation Year

Employed within six months of graduation

Employed within one year of graduation
















* Based on alumni surveys and externally subscribed databases.


Pass Rate for The MOT and OTD Graduates by Calendar Year

(see "Accreditation" tab for 3 year totals)

MOT Program

Calendar YearLicensure Pass Rate on the NBCOT exam (calendar year)Number of student who  passed the examNumber of students who sat for the exam
















2021            100%               5               5 
2022            80%               8               10


OTD Program

Calendar YearLicensure Pass Rate on the NBCOT exam (calendar year)Number of student who passed the examNumber of students who sat for the exam
























National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy program data results for all programs.

These handbooks contain information and policies relevant to OTD and MOT students and are companions to the Samuel Merritt University Catalog and Student Handbook. This handbook contains the policies and procedures for the OTD or MOT program for which you will be responsible.

updated_final_version_2023-2024_otd_and_mot_student_handbook.docx(254.25 KB)

Pass Rate (for the MOT and OTD graduates)

In the OTD program, the total number of graduates who passed the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) certification examination for 2020–2022 was 94 out of 95 students, which is a three-year average pass rate of 99%. During the three-year period, the program had a OTD class graduate with 28 students in 2020, all of whom passed. In 2021 the program had 31 graduates all of whom passed. In 2022 the program had 36 graduates and 35 of them passed the exam.

In the MOT program, the total number of graduates who passed the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy in the past three years was 20 out of 22 students, which is a pass rate of 90.9%. The MOT pass rate in 2020 was 100% (of 7 students, 7 passed). The pass rate in 2021 was 100% (of 5 students, 5 passed) and the pass rate in 2022 was 80% (of 10 students, 8 passed). 

The website for all OT program pass rates is located at: https://www.nbcot.org/Educators-Folder/SchoolPerformance

Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) Address:

7501 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 510E Bethesda, MD 20814





Program                                                                                            Accreditation Status                       Last Visit         Next Visit

Entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)           Full accreditation                                2018               2023/2024

Entry-level Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT)          Full accreditation                                2018                    2027



Students must demonstrate the ability to develop professional values, ethics, appropriate demeanor, and rapport that are essential for professional education and quality patient care. Students must review and acknowledge that they can consistently meet these technical standards, either with or without accommodations.

Cognitive Learning Skills

The student must demonstrate the ability to:

1. Conceptualize a sequential progression of tasks and/or standardized testing and make objective conclusions based on the test results.

2. Apply critical thinking in the creation, development, generalization and implementation of adaptations to normative methods of behavior and function.

3. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic anatomical structures and physiological mechanisms that underlie conditions of human dysfunction and occupational performance.

4. Analyze the sequential steps, cognitive skills and motor performance of specific functional tasks relevant to the safety, environment and developmental life tasks of a patient/client. This analysis should also take into account ethnic background, gender and cultural variables.

5. Select constructive activities suited to an individual's current physical capacity, intelligence level, and interest, so as to upgrade the individual to maximum independence, prepare for activities of daily living and appropriate life tasks, assist in restoration of functions and/or aid in adjustment to disability.

6. Assess and identify cognitive and functional deficits, and determine adaptive or compensatory methods of functioning.

7. Apply critical reasoning and independent decision-making skills.

8. Assess patient/client safety and maintain or create safe environments during specific tasks, to enhance patient/client independence in a variety of potential environments.

Psychomotor Skills

The student must demonstrate the following skills:

1. Sitting: Maintain upright posture.

2. Standing: Student-controlled activity employable during lecture, clinical instruction and laboratory time.

3. Locomotion ability to:

a. Get to lecture, lab and clinical locations, and move within rooms as needed for changing groups, partners and work stations.

b. Physically maneuver in required clinical settings, to accomplish assigned tasks.

4. Manual tasks:

a. Lifting ability sufficient to maneuver an individual's body parts effectively to perform evaluation and treatment techniques.

b. Manipulate common tools used for screening tests and therapeutic intervention of the individual.

c. Demonstrate the ability to safely and effectively guide and facilitate patient/client movement skills and motor patterns through physical facilitation and inhibition techniques (including ability to give time-urgent verbal feed bac).

d. Manipulate or guide another person's body in transfers, ambulation, positioning and assisted or facilitated trunk, head and limb movement.

e. Manipulate bolsters, pillows, plinths, mats, assistive/adaptive devices, and other supports or chairs to aid in positioning, moving, or treating a patient/client effectively.

g. Competently perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) using guidelines issued by the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross.

5. Gross motor ability to participate in recreational or movement activities that may involve tossing, catching, weight shifts, reaching, balancing on equipment, etc.

6. Small motor/hand skill usage ability to:

a. Legibly record/document evaluations, patient care notes, referrals, etc. in standard medical charts in hospital/clinical settings in a timely manner and consistent with the acceptable norms of clinical settings.

b. Demonstrate or complete activities or tests with adequate degree of fine motor dexterity.

c. Sense changes in an individual's muscle tone, skin quality, joint play, kinesthesia, and temperature to gather accurate objective evaluative information in a timely manner and sense that individual's response to environmental changes and treatment.

d. Legibly record thoughts for written assignments or tests.

7. Visual acuity to:

a. Read patient/client charts or histories in hospital/clinical setting.

b. Observe even the slightest aberrations of patient/client motor performance during tasks/tests.

8. Hearing or ability to receive and:

a. Effectively respond to oral requests/instructions from patients and team members.

b. Interpret the language used to communicate lectures, instructions, concepts, narratives, questions and answers.

c. Auscultate for internal body sounds, e.g., heart, bowel, lungs.

9. Communication ability to:

a. Effectively communicate with team members.

b. Articulate detailed instructions to patients, caretakers, family or other clinical personnel.

10. Self care ability to:

a. Maintain general good health and self care in order not to jeopardize the health and safety of self and individuals with whom one interacts in the academic and clinical settings.

b. Arrange transportation and living accommodations for/during off-campus clinical assignments to foster timely reporting to classroom and clinical center.

Affective Learning Skills

The student must be able to:

1. Demonstrate appropriate, affective behaviors and mental attitudes to ensure the emotional, physical, mental, and behavioral safety of the patient/client in compliance with the ethical standards of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

2. Sustain the mental and emotional rigors of a demanding educational program in occupational therapy that includes academic and clinical components that occur within set time constraints, and often concurrently.

3. Acknowledge and respect individual values and opinions in order to foster harmonious working relationships with colleagues, peers, and patients/clients.

What is the purpose of the required OT observation hours? The purpose of the required OT observation hours is to allow the applicant the opportunity to deepen and clarify their understanding of OT by seeing and experiencing the therapeutic process firsthand. The accumulated hours provide the applicant with a snapshot view of what the profession of OT is about and an overview look at the positive difference occupational therapy makes! 

How many hours are required and in what setting? 40-70 OT observation hours are required. The particular setting is up to you, but it does need to be a setting where OT services are provided.  

Can you provide me with a listing of approved sites for my observation hours? SMU does not have a list of sites or locations for these hours; this needs to be part of each applicant’s research. Possible sites include:  local hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation facilities, VA Medical Centers, schools, camps.  Because space availability may be limited in the pursuit of the hours, it is recommended that multiple venues/sites be considered.

Do I need to have observation hours in multiple clinical settings? No, multiple clinical settings are not required, but it may be beneficial to you to gain exposure to a couple of different practice settings.

What is the timeline for the completion of the observation hours?The preference is to have the observation hours completed by the time of application, but it is acceptable for hours to be in progress at the time of application. Observation hours must be completed no later than the end of May prior to the fall start of the program.

Do I need a letter of recommendation from an OT? Yes, one letter of recommendation is required from an Occupational Therapist.  All letters of recommendation are submitted directly to OTCAS as part of the application process.

Are there additional hints/tips as I plan my required OT observation hours? Yes, these sites might be helpful in the initial pursuit of observation hours:  





How do I record/document my observation hours in the OTCAS application? Please see the link below:  https://help.liaisonedu.com/OTCAS_Applicant_Help_Center/Filling_Out_Your_OTCAS_Application/Supporting_Information/02_Observation_Hours

Medical Terminology: To prepare you for the start of the program, we are requiring a Medical Terminology course.  This could be taken at a local community college or as a free/at cost online course.  Prior to the start of class, you will email the OT Program Administrative Assistant an unofficial transcript, a certificate (online, at cost), or snapshots of completed unit quizzes (online, no cost) to verify your completion of this course.  Acceptable Courses range from 10-15 weeks/modules in duration.  The following are some (not all) acceptable online courses:

Des Moines University Medical Terminology Course (free and at cost options):  https://www.dmu.edu/medterms/

Medical Terminology Course (need to subscribe; not all content free)

Why choose SMU's OTD & MOT programs?

You'll be trained in clinical practice, research, leadership, and advocacy.


Projected jobs available each year for the next decade

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Community Participant Labs

SMU's students provide community care to area adults and children in the form of occupational therapy while gaining hands-on learning experience.


Graduates who land jobs in their field within six months.

Make a Difference

Our Doctor of Occupational Therapy program is hands-on from the start. Students build clinical and collaborative skills and engage with the community in ways that change people's lives.  


Our OTD and MOT faculty are dedicated to training students to become occupational therapists who help their patients live healthier and more fulfilling lives. Our faculty are recognized experts in clinical reasoning, functional cognition, stroke care, and the best practices in teaching and learning of graduate health professions students.

headshot mere-cook

Yvette Mere-Cook

Ed.D., OTR/L Department Chair Associate Professor

Chi-Kwan Shea

PhD, OTR/L Professor

Gordon Muir Giles

PhD, OTR/L Professor

Kate Hayner

EdD, OTR/L Associate Professor

SMU Perspectives

Ricardo, '21 OT
My abuela was the one who inspired me to cook. Some of my fondest memories are me waking up to the smell of her pupusas at 6:00 am. While I try to eat out somewhere new each week, I often find myself having the most fun in my kitchen, trying out new recipes. The most important life lesson my abuela had taught me: food is love.

I chose OT because I was inspired by my father, who showed my abuela how amazing life could be outside the confines of her chair. I want to help those like my abuela through meaningful engagement in everyday activities, regardless of any limitations.
Ricardo Trujillo, OTD '21 A grandmother's love
Patricia Fronda, OTD '22
After an injury, I realized there is a gap in healthcare that OTs could fill and serve the community of performing artists. I want to give back to this creative community by helping folks engage in their meaningful activities. My saving grace during COVID is having solo dance parties in my room and going hiking. A fun fact about me: I chose to write on the globalization of Kpop from the 2000s to 2010s for my final research project for my master’s in music.
Patricia Fronda, OTD '22 For the love of music

Occupational Therapy News