Occupational Therapy

Prospective Student Tour

The NAU Occupational Therapy department is holding a special event just for students interested in our OT program and who are returning home to Phoenix for the holidays. Also invited are students who couldn’t make it to the last open house. We have scheduled a tour/presentation specifically for the winter break. The tour/presentation will be held on Tuesday, December 20th at 2pm at our facilities at 435 N. 5th Street in downtown Phoenix.

The event will include a tour of our facility custom-designed for occupational therapy; a presentation about the field and our program by one of our senior faculty members, with time set aside for optional meetings with persons who can answer your questions about program prerequisites.

We ask that you either call or email to reserve a spot on our guest list. You may call 602-827-2518 or email the program at ot.otd@nau.edu. When reserving the spot, please provide the following information:

• Your name
• Your email
• Your telephone number
• The last school you attended (or are attending)
• Your current level of education, e.g., junior, senior, bachelors, etc. (With the latter, please list your current degree)
• The year in which you hope to join us, e.g., 2017, 2018, etc.


If you are unable to make the tour on the 20th, you may be interested in the campus tour on December 14th at 3:00 pm. While the December 14th tour will not include a presentation by senior faculty, it will include a tour of the facility and an opportunity to meet with a representative of the program. Information about the general tours, including the one on December 14th may be found at: https://nau.edu/CHHS/Phoenix-Biomedical-Campus/Tours-Events/

We hope to meet you in December!

About us

Career opportunities in occupational therapy are steadily increasing. Develop the critical skills you’ll need to join this growing healthcare profession with the fully-accredited Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) from Northern Arizona University.

Northern Arizona University is the first public university in the state to establish an OTD program. This intensive, entry-level OTD program features up to six months of fieldwork plus an individualized 16 week residency to prepare for advanced roles in occupational therapy. Upon graduation, you’ll be prepared to work with clients across all stages of life in a wide range of settings.

The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education granted the university permission to accept its first class in fall 2014.  At its April 9-10, 2016 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the Report of On-Site Evaluation (ROSE) regarding the Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program at Northern Arizona University.  All Standards were found to be compliant and ACOTE voted to Grant a Status of Accreditation for a period of 7 years.

The OTD program is based at the 30-acre Phoenix Biomedical Campus, where students have access to cutting-edge technology, facilities, and labs. 

"The NAU OT program will offer first-rate educational, service learning, practice scholar and fieldwork experiences culminating in an individualized 16-week residency to develop occupational therapists. Presenting transformative skills, beyond the generalist level, practice-scholar competencies in the areas of practice, research, administration, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, education, and theory will predominate. As transformative practice scholars, our NAU OT graduates will demonstrate the requisite skills and habits to use and create evidence to support practice, to facilitate change through leadership as well as to think critically and creatively as practice innovators." Patricia Crist, ArizOTA Newsletter November 2013 

NAU Practice Scholars


Founding chair Patricia Crist speaks with conviction about the field’s person-centered philosophy, and she brings experience with establishing a “practice scholar” model at the master’s level. At NAU, she took that approach a step further.

“The profession appears to be pushing toward the doctorate and I wanted to be on that front edge,” Crist said. A practice scholar “is not just a user of evidence but creates evidence in their own context,” she said, emphasizing the dual role of applying and producing research. “We need practitioners who can read deeper into the research, translate observed changes from interventions into outcome studies and show that they’re making a difference in people’s lives.”

According to Crist, occupational therapists fill an important niche in health care by addressing the whole person, physically and emotionally, while considering the environment in which that person lives. While some practitioners are hand specialists and stroke recovery specialists—areas most often associated with the field—most fill wider roles as creative problem solvers. She said the largest employer for occupational therapists is K-12 schools, which use them for readiness skills such as handwriting or behaviors conducive to remaining in the classroom.

“There are a lot of health care fields that do things to people,” Crist said. “Occupational therapists talk about doing things with people, as a coach and facilitator. We want you to be able to do things that are everyday parts of life.”

NAU’s program emphasizes service learning. The program connects with community agencies to give the students experience with people “in their natural context.” “Students need to see people in their lifelong journey adapting to disability, chronic illness or social conditions so that they can choose strategies that will be meaningful in the long term,” Crist said.

In describing students that enter the program, Dr. Crist says, “We value people who love to teach new skills, to seek creative solutions to everyday challenges and to engage in meaningful relationships with clients.”

Applicants must have completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The program is entry-level, which means it is not a post-professional option for practicing therapists. But recruiting shouldn’t be difficult. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for occupational therapy is growing “much faster than average,” with a median salary of more than $72,000 per year. Arizona, in particular, faces a shortage of health care professionals and the deficit is expected to deepen over the next decade.

“NAU’s goal is to provide high-quality health care to the people of Arizona,” Crist said. She emphasized that health care in general is turning to a community participation model, in which wellness, a balanced life and prevention become the focus. Occupational therapy embodies the positive psychology of that approach, she said. “We’re taking sick populations, including environments, and trying to make the whole community sustainably healthier,” Crist said. “We want to find out what people’s strengths are and try to move them forward.”


Program results from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) can be found online at https://secure.nbcot.org/data/schoolstats.aspx.