Occupational Therapy Schools in California with Degree Summaries

Research occupational therapy degrees in California, which currently has 11 schools offering programs. Read an overview of these programs, tuition info and program options for nine of these schools and decide which program is right for you.

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Essential Information

In California, occupational therapist (OT) programs are commonly offered at the master's degree level. Some master's degree programs are designed for students who have an unrelated bachelor's degree, and these take 2-3 years to complete. There are also master's degree programs designed for existing occupational therapists, and these programs may only take 1-2 years to finish. Doctorates also exist.

Additionally, a dual bachelor's and master's degree program is available and takes five years to complete. In contrast, occupational therapy assistant training (OTA) is offered through associate degree programs, which take approximately two years of study. Undergraduate as well as graduate programs integrate fieldwork experiences so that students can gain hands-on skills in a real-world setting. Depending on the school, some graduate courses may be available online.

Career Requirements

Occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants must be licensed to practice in California. The California Board of Occupational Therapy is responsible for licensing and overseeing OTs and OTAs in the state. To become a licensed OT or OTA in California, an individual must complete an occupational therapy or occupational therapy assisting degree program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association.

The curriculum of this program must have included a fieldwork experience. Aspiring OTs and OTAs must also pass an exam. The exam may be offered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, American Occupational Therapy Association or American Occupational Therapy Certification Board. This article discusses several public and private, non-profit schools that are ACOTE accredited.


California State University-Dominguez Hills

Located in Carson, this school enrolls about 14,000 students. It offers a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program through its School of Health and Human Services. This program, which requires a minimum of 78 credit hours of study, includes six months of fieldwork. Classes in the program cover topics like activities across the lifespan, human anatomy, neurological foundations of occupation and occupation-based assessments.

  • Program Offered: Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $6,095 for in-state and $17,753 for out-of-state students*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; small city

Dominican University of California

The Dominican University of California is situated in San Rafael. The university offers a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy dual degree program that requires five years of study. Courses during the final two years of this program include occupations of adults and seniors, program development and health policy leadership. This program also includes fieldwork experiences.

The university also offers a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy that requires 82 credit hours of study and takes approximately three years to complete. The program's curriculum includes coursework and fieldwork and requires that students write a thesis prior to graduation. Classes cover topics like the psychosocial aspects of occupation, human movement analysis and occupations of children and adolescents.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Science in Health Science and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy dual degree program,
    Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $39,050*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; small city

Grossmont College

Grossmont College is located in El Cajon. It offers an Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant. This 68-credit-hour program includes coursework in assistive technology in occupational therapy, occupational therapy management and the dynamics of human movement. Students in the program also complete fieldwork.

  • Program Offered: Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,387 for in-state and $6,897 for out-of-state students*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large suburb

Loma Linda University

Located in the city of its name, Loma Linda, this school enrolls about 4,000 students. It offers a Master of Occupational Therapy program that requires 33 months of study, including fieldwork experiences lasting six months. In addition to coursework and fieldwork, students in this program must complete 40 hours of observation in an occupational therapy setting.

Loma Linda University also offers a Doctor of Occupational Therapy program that is approved by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This program is mainly offered online and requires that students complete a professional project and research. Classes in this program focus on subjects such as health behavior change, occupational science and education in occupational therapy.

  • Programs Offered: Master of Occupational Therapy,
    Doctor of Occupational Therapy
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $30,408*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb

Sacramento City College

Sacramento City College is located in Sacramento and enrolls about 24,000 students. It offers an Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant that requires a minimum of 63 credit hours of study. Students in this program complete fieldwork as well as classes covering topics like theoretical foundations of physical dysfunction and functional biomechanics.

  • Program Offered: Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,104 for in-state and $7,200 for out-of-state students*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large city

Samuel Merritt University

This university, which is located in Oakland, offers a Master of Occupational Therapy that requires 78 credit hours of study. In addition to coursework, students in this program complete fieldwork and a research project. Classes include occupational adaptations, conditions of human dysfunction and functional neuroscience.

  • Program Offered: Master of Occupational Therapy
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $40,791*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

San Jose State University

San Jose State University is located in San Jose and enrolls about 30,000 students. It offers a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy that is designed for individuals who possess a bachelor's degree in a field other than occupational therapy. This 2-year program includes fieldwork as well as classes covering topics like occupational therapy practice in neurorehabilitation, evaluation in occupational therapy and occupational therapy management.

The school also offers a WASC-accredited Post-Professional Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program that is available online. This program is designed for experienced occupational therapists and requires two years of part-time study to complete. Classes in the program include occupational justice and understanding cultural diversity in occupational therapy.

  • Programs Offered: Master of Science in Occupational Therapy,
    Post-Professional Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $6,852 for in-state and $18,510 for out-of-state students*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, public; large city

Santa Ana College

This college is located in the city of its name, Santa Ana. It offers an Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant that requires a minimum of about 71 credits of study. Classes in this program cover topics like physical function and dysfunction, contemporary models of occupational therapy practice and abnormal psychology. Students in the program also complete fieldwork.

  • Program Offered: Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $1,142 for in-state and $4,910 for out-of-state students*
  • School Type & Setting: 2-year, public; large city

University of Southern California

The University of Southern California is located in Los Angeles and enrolls approximately 38,000 students. It offers a Bachelor of Science to Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program that includes 44 credit hours of professional-level coursework. Students in this program may take one or two years to complete professional coursework. Classes in the program cover topics like kinesiology, neuroscience and adult physical rehabilitation and geriatrics. The program also includes an internship. The 2-year program also requires that students write a thesis.

The university also offers a 1-year Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy program that requires a minimum of 28 credit hours of study. Students in this program must either write a thesis or complete a project prior to graduation.

A 2-year, entry-level Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy is also available at the university. This program is designed for individuals with bachelor's degrees in a field other than occupational therapy. Its curriculum includes coursework and fieldwork and requires that students either pass a comprehensive exam or write a thesis. Students in the program may focus on one of six specialty areas, including children and youth, mental health or work and industry. Classes in the program focus on subjects such as behavioral neuroscience, sensory integration theory and hand rehabilitation.

The university also offers a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy that requires 60 credit hours of study. Students in this program may elect to follow one of four leadership tracks: advanced clinical practice, educational leadership, research expertise or Policy and Administrative Leaders. Offered classes in this program include human behavior in public organizations, Psychophysiology and Health Promotion and Wellness. Students must also complete a residency prior to graduation.

  • Programs Offered: Bachelor of Science to Master of Science in Occupational Therapy,
    Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy,
    Doctorate of Occupational Therapy
  • Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013): $44,463*
  • School Type & Setting: 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Occupational Therapy Programs Offered Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013)
California State University - Dominguez Hills 4-year, public; small city Master of Science in Occupational Therapy $6,095 for in-state and $17,753 for out-of-state students*
Dominican University of California 4-year, private not-for-profit; small city Bachelor of Science in Health Science and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy dual degree program,
Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
$39,050*
Grossmont College 2-year, public; large suburb Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant $1,387 for in-state and $6,897 for out-of-state students*
Loma Linda University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb Master of Occupational Therapy,
Doctor of Occupational Therapy
$30,408*
Sacramento City College 2-year, public; large city Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant $1,104 for in-state and $7,200 for out-of-state students*
Samuel Merritt University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Master of Occupational Therapy $40,791*
San Jose State University 4-year, public; large city Master of Science in Occupational Therapy,
Post-Professional Master of Science in Occupational Therapy
$6,852 for in-state and $18,510 for out-of-state students*
Santa Ana College 2-year, public; large city Associate in Science in Occupational Therapy Assistant $1,142 for in-state and $4,910 for out-of-state students*
University of Southern California 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Bachelor of Science to Master of Science in Occupational Therapy,
Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy,
Doctorate of Occupational Therapy
$44,463*

Source: *College Navigator, National Center for Education Statistics.

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