Two students working in the PT room.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists lead fulfilling careers, helping people of all ages adapt to their circumstances and achieve greater independence in their daily lives. Learn through real-world experiences and practical knowledge to deliver high-quality care that changes lives.

Empower others and change lives

Throughout the lifespan, people encounter challenges that impede their ability to navigate everyday activities and achieve their goals. As an occupational therapy student at USD, you will gain the educational foundation you need to address these needs and help people of all ages live full, meaningful lives.

Our program takes a holistic, person-centered approach – one that considers the physical, psychological and social needs of clients and understands the importance of adapting the environment to fit the person. You'll experience real-world learning in state-of-the-art laboratories, community settings and fieldwork sites that will equip you with the confidence you need to thrive in your profession. You'll also learn from professors who know your name and care about your success. With a small student-to-faculty ratio and an open-door policy, our program is committed to providing you with personalized advising and support. The OTD program will prepare you to become an expert, compassionate occupational therapist who creates innovative services for your clients.

Help others maximize their independence in daily life as an occupational therapy student at USD.             

 

Degrees & Offerings

Occupational Therapy (OTD)

Doctorate
  Vermillion Main Campus

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy program equips you with the expertise and person-centered approach you need to empower individuals as they work toward their goals and seek independence. You'll take either the non-specialization route or choose from one of the following specializations: mental health, neuroscience and rehabilitation, pediatrics or rural/underserved.

View Admissions Requirements

Occupational Therapy: Mental Health (OTD)

Doctorate with Specialization
  Vermillion Main Campus

Mental illness is a growing cause of disability and the World Health Organization predicts that it will soon be the most prevalent cause of disability. In response to this trend, this specialization was developed to provide you with the opportunity to focus your research, fieldwork experiences and capstone in mental health treatment and prevention services for children, youth, the aging, and those with severe and persistent mental illness.

Occupational Therapy: Neuroscience & Rehabilitation (OTD)

Doctorate with Specialization
  Vermillion Main Campus

Learn the knowledge and skills you need to understand the challenges faced by those with neurological impairments. Focus your research, fieldwork experiences and capstone in neuroscience and rehabilitation to promote the physical, mental and environmental wellbeing of each unique client.

Occupational Therapy: Pediatrics (OTD)

Doctorate with Specialization
  Vermillion Main Campus

Prepare to become a pediatric occupational therapy practitioner who supports societal needs by providing services to infants, toddlers, children, and youth and their families. By focusing your research, fieldwork experiences and capstone in pediatrics, you will be prepared to work in a variety of settings including schools, clinics and homes.

Occupational Therapy: Rural/Underserved (OTD)

Doctorate with Specialization
  Vermillion Main Campus

There is a shortage of health professionals choosing to work in rural and underserved areas. Through this specialization, students focus their research, fieldwork experiences, and capstone in rural/underserved practice to prepare them for working in rural, clinically diverse settings with opportunities to build programs for rural and underserved communities.

Accelerated Occupational Therapy (B.S./OTD)

Major + Doctorate
  Vermillion Main Campus

This 3+3 program is available to current USD students pursuing a B.S. in health sciences with a specialization in clinical studies; a B.S. in kinesiology and sport management with a specialization in exercise science; or a B.S. in neuroscience with a specialization in cognitive neuroscience. The accelerated track will allow the undergraduate program to count 20 hours of the first year of a Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree toward the electives in the B.S. degree. The student will complete 100 hours by the end of the third year toward the undergraduate degree.

View Admissions Requirements

Program Details

Graduate

College

Department

Contact

Graduate Admissions
 


Start Your Application Today

This graduate program utilizes a specialized CAS online application to complete the admissions process. To learn more about this program's unique application process, requirements and program deadlines, visit Specialty Graduate Program Applications.

Additional requirements exist for international applicants. For more information, visit International Admission Requirements.

 

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 graduate 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.
 

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in occupational therapy.
A faculty member teaching students during a presentation.

Occupational Therapy

Our department facilitates meaningful research and a robust education for future occupational therapists through the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program and an occupational therapy pathway. With state-of-the-art facilities, a small student-to-faculty ratio, hands-on learning opportunities and more, the department prepares students to assist people in achieving their goals, maintaining or rebuilding their independence and participating in everyday activities. 

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Department of Occupational Therapy. Our faculty are experts in their field, contributing research and scholarship in management of chronic disease, the role of OT in dementia care, occupation-based intervention and quality of life with lymphedema, psychosocial rehabilitation, occupational performance measurement, productive aging and gerontology, promotion of childhood mental health and more.
Bio Image for Faculty Member Ranelle Nissen

Ranelle Nissen

Chair, Occup Therapy/Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Shana Cerny

Shana Cerny

Associate Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Mackenzie Feldhacker

Mackenzie Feldhacker

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Marcia Harnois

Marcia Harnois

Program Assistant I
Bio Image for Faculty Member Karen Hebert

Karen Hebert

Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Rita Humphrey

Rita Humphrey

Assistant Admissions Officer
Bio Image for Faculty Member Moses Ikiugu

Moses Ikiugu

Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Whitney Lucas Molitor

Whitney Lucas Molitor

UG Public Health Program Director/Assistant Professor
Bio Image for Faculty Member Allison Naber

Allison Naber

Assistant Professor
A physical therapist having a child do a physical therapy exercise.

State-of-the-Art Facilities

You'll learn in state-of-the-art facilities right here on campus. Our program is located in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, which houses teaching, learning and clinic spaces that are designed for collaboration and hands-on experiences. You'll also take classes alongside other health sciences and medical students in the Lee Medical Building. From human gross anatomy courses to simulation exercises, the opportunities offered in these facilities make your education exceptional. 

A student baking.

Learn by Doing

Throughout your education, you'll learn in real-world settings and serve your community. Here are just a few of the experiences you can look forward to: 

  • Participating in simulations alongside students from a variety of disciplines

  • Having the opportunity to complete fieldwork in the pediatric, physical rehabilitative, psychosocial and other arenas in one of our 175+ partner sites around the nation

  • Attending occupational therapy conferences at both the state and national levels

  • Choosing an area of specialty to explore and research through your capstone experiential project

Group of Occupational Therapy Students in a Classroom

Guarantee Your Seat!

Consider the OT Scholars program at USD if you are currently enrolled in a undergraduate program in South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Montana or Wyoming. You can apply early, during your sophomore or junior year, to guarantee your seat in the doctoral program. Contact us to learn more about this opportunity.
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Health professionals are in high demand

In underserved rural areas, healthcare is crucial and occupational therapists are in high demand. If you are a resident of Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming or the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), you may be eligible to apply for reduced tuition through the WICHE Professional Student Exchange Program.

Learn More
 

2022-2023 Tuition and Fees

Tuition - Graduate Student Rate/Credit Hour
South Dakota Resident $340.15
Minnesota Resident Reciprocity* $599.90
Non-Resident $888.10
University Fees Rate/Credit Hour
General Activity Fee $55.30
Lab/STEM Fee $42.35 per ANAT and PHGY credit hour
School of Health Sciences Special Discipline Fee $103.50 per OCTH credit hour
OT Liability Fee (estimated) $11.00 each fall semester
Estimated Program Total (114 Credits)**
South Dakota Resident $56,302
Minnesota Resident Reciprocity $85,029
Non-Resident $116,428
Other Expenses (Estimated)
Books First Year (Estimated) $2,700
Second Year, Summer (Estimated) $1,100
Second Year (Estimated) $1,300
Third Year, Summer (Estimated) $678
Third Year (Estimated) $500
Vaccinations Hepatitis B Vaccination estimate (1st Year only if you have not completed the vaccination series and a positive titer). Each of the vaccinations in the series is approximately $59 and the titer is approximately $40.
TB (PPD) Blood test $65
Influenza Vaccination $35/year

*Minnesota reciprocity rate for summer 2022. This information may be updated for fall 2022 and spring 2023.
**Number of credits is subject to change.e

Outcomes and Accreditation

The Doctor of  Occupational Therapy program at the University of South Dakota is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). ACOTE is recognized as the accrediting agency for occupational therapy education by both the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

student success story

Rebecca Johnson smiling
I feel like we learned more about all the different OT areas, whereas at some schools, it's mostly adult-driven. We learned about pediatric OT and assistive technologies. But they also taught us grant-writing and other skills you don't get anywhere else. We even got some business education in case we wanted to go that route. The small class sizes meant I really got to know my fellow professors and my fellow students which helped me feel comfortable asking questions," says Johnson. Even though it is a big school, it is a close knit community.

Rebecca Johnson

Occupational Therapy, OTD
Occupational Therapist, Black Hills Pediatric Therapy
Rapid City, SD

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