Occupational Therapy

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Interested in applying to the Northern Arizona University Department of Occupational Therapy? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Application Acceptance: The application cycle for applicants wishing to start in fall of 2018 has ended. 

Interested applicants must submit an application by that date to OTCAS and to the NAU Graduate College in order to be considered for an interview or admission. Be sure to allow time for OTCAS to verify your application.

Change in Prerequisite Requirements: Information about prerequisites may be found on the NAU Occupation Therapy's Prerequisite Requirements page. Questions on prerequisites not answered by our webpages may be submitted to ot.otd@nau.edu. Before advisement, applicants are required to complete and submit a self-assessment worksheet. This form will assist with self-determination of the preparedness for application to the program. It will require providing the official course description (typically found on the applicant’s school catalog) along with the course description from the NAU Catalog.

Beginning with applications for Fall 2018, completion of a GRE and of a physics course are no longer required.

Tours of the facility and a live question and answer period are available each month. Information may be found on our Tours and Events page.  


Northern Arizona University Department of Occupational Therapy has been approved to accept students through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). This program permits students from Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada to attend graduate school with a “support fee” to reduce the cost of the non-resident rate. The PSEP is funded by their home states to encourage their citizens to pursue advanced degrees in occupational therapy. We warmly welcome students from those states to consider attending our accredited doctoral program. For more information, visit WICHE PSEP.
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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 offers 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 predominate. As transformative practice scholars, our NAU OT graduates 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." Dr. Patricia Crist, Founding Department Chair and Professor.

Dr. 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 $80,150 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.