Degree Overview

The Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) degree is a full-time, entry-level program designed to provide students with fieldwork experience working with individuals from diverse backgrounds. You are required to attend all classes and clinicals in person at our Phoenix Biomedical Campus. This is not a post-professional program.

Successful graduates of the OTD program will become leading practice-scholars in the field.

The OTD curriculum emphasizes:

  • psychosocial change through a holistic approach to individuals and population issues
  • promoting quality of life in self-care, productivity/work, play/leisure and rest/sleep
  • addressing physical, emotional, and social aspects of working with client of all ages
  • promoting health through the interaction between the individual and environmental demands and expectations
  • course work that reflects client-centered engagement in meaningful activities

At this time, the occupational therapy program only offers a doctorate degree, as hiring trends point to a growing demand for OTDs.


NAU has acquired ACOTE Candidacy Status for a developing program:

On April 15, 2014, the entry-level occupational therapy doctoral degree program was granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).  The program is now eligible to proceed to the Initial Review step of the accreditation process.  The Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program at Northern Arizona University, which is located in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, will be included on AOTA's list of programs that hold Candidacy Status and are eligible to admit students. 

As a result of this action, NAU admitted 25 students from its pool of qualified applicants into the first class of the Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program according to the approved timeline beginning in August 2014.

In the ACOTE communication announcing Candidacy Status, the strengths of the NAU application were summarized as follows:

  1. A program director with an exceptional background in occupational therapy education and scholarship.
  2. Existing doctoral-level allied health programs.
  3. State-of-the-art medical facilities.
  4. No other entry-level doctoral programs in the state.
  5. A budget that will support a growing program.
  6. A large state university system to act as a feeder to this graduate level degree.

For a copy of this letter, which addresses the programs strengths and ACOTE areas of concern please contact the department directly. 

Information regarding the program accreditation process and NAU’s current Candidacy Status can be obtained by contacting ACOTE  c/o AOTA at (301) 652-AOTA or online at  ACOTE is located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449.

The program now moves to Step 2 of the Initial Accreditation Process (the Initial Review) and will begin work on the Self Study that is due on or before April 1, 2015.

Applicants should familiarize themselves with accreditation procedures for developing academic programs throughout the application, admissions and matriculation processes. For more information on the accreditation process please review this letter from ACOTE. NAU agrees to be transparent in all communication with prospective students regarding our accreditation status and welcomes questions regarding our developing program.

Once accreditation of the program has been obtained, its graduates 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, most states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure. 

Students must complete all graduation, fieldwork, and experiential component requirements in a timely manner. Students must complete Level II fieldwork and experiential requirements within 24 months following completion of the didactic portion of the program and prior to engaging in the residency component of the curriculum.