Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD)

CIP Code

51.2306 .00


The entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program will prepare highly qualified entry-level occupational therapists to support the health and well-being needs of the south Texas region. Through exemplary education in research, service, clinical skills, ethical leadership, and interprofessional engagement, graduates will be grounded in the core values of occupational therapy, evidence-based practice, and active learning. Didactic and experiential learning will create reflective and holistic practitioners who understand the complexity of occupational engagement and systems across a variety of settings, populations, and geography. The OTD program will focus on developing occupational therapists with advanced skills in clinical practice, administration, clinical research, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, education, and theory development. Graduates will be prepared to practice in clinical, research, and academic environments. Graduates will be leaders in health management, maintenance, and promotion. They will be able to address social determinants of health individually as well as part of an interprofessional environment.  They will be able to identify and advocate for the role of occupation across the lifespan.The UTRGV OTD degree program courses are based on the ACOTE Standards for an entry-level doctoral program. 

Admission Requirements

Applicants considered for admission are those applicants who possess the academic and professional promise necessary for development as competent, caring members of the health care community. Within this competitive admission framework, multiple criteria are used to select the most qualified candidates from an applicant pool that exceeds the number of seats available. Interested individuals are advised to complete their application as early as possible to ensure timely consideration. 

Admission criteria for each summer-entry cohort is dependent on satisfactory completion of all pre-requisite requirements before the November 1st application deadline. To be considered for admission to the graduate OTD program in occupational therapy, prospective candidates must first meet all requirements for graduate admission to UT Rio Grande Valley, as well as the other requirements listed below. The ideal candidate for the entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) program will have: 

  1. A Baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university by May 31st (or before) of the year they are applying. A degree in any area of study will be accepted.  
  2. A minimum overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (Applicants whose overall undergraduate GPA is below a 3.0 will be considered if they earned a minimum 3.0 GPA in their last two years of study and across all the pre-requisite coursework).
  3. A 3.0 or higher GPA on all prerequisite coursework.
  4. Completed all prerequisites within 5 years of the November 1st application deadline.  
  5. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within 5 years of the application deadline with minimum scores of: (Applicants whose scores are below the minimum may be considered.)
    1. Verbal ≥ 150 verbal, Quantitative ≥ 145, Analytical writing ≥ 3.5
  6. Clear admission to the Graduate College of UTRGV  
  7. Documented evidence of volunteer, work, or service experiences/hours
  8. Three references /recommendation letters
  9. Personal Statement (Standard Essay)
  10. Application to the Centralized Application Service for Occupational Therapy Schools (OTCAS) 
  11. Criminal Background Check

Applicant must show evidence of satisfactory completion (minimum 3.0 GPA) of the following courses within 5 years of the application deadline:

Anatomy & Physiology I (lecture & lab)  4 hours 
Anatomy & Physiology II (lecture & lab)   4 hours
Biomechanics  3 hours
Basic Statistics (applied or biostatistics) 3 hours
Intro Psychology 3 hours
Human Development across Lifespan* 3 hours
Abnormal Psychology  3 hours
Anthropology or Sociology** 3 hours

*Course that covers human development from birth to death or completing both a child development course AND a gerontology/psychology of aging course.

 **Related to culture, community, or population focus.                           

Recommended elective courses:

Ethics or Social Justice*  
3 hours 
General Physics I (lecture & lab) 4 hours
Technical Writing 3 hours
Medical Terminology 3 hours

*Health care, medical, diversity, or moral reasoning


All coursework must be completed at the college or university-level. Coursework must be semester hours or equivalent from an accredited institution with an earned grade of C or better (C- and below is not acceptable). A grade of "D" or "F" will not be accepted for any prerequisite courses. Students may re-take prerequisite courses. The grades for the courses will be averaged together if they are taken within the 5-year time frame. If more than 5 years has elapsed, then grades outside the 5-year time frame will not be averaged. Advance Placement (AP) credit is acceptable for prerequisite coursework.

Prerequisite Waiver/Substitution

Students may request a prerequisite course wavier and/or substitution via a written petition to the Chair of the Admission Committee via the program email: occtherapy@utrgv.edu. The student must have a signed waiver/substitution form by the OT Admission Chair, OT Department Chair, or OT representative as proof of approval. Course substitutions and waivers are considered on an individual basis and must be approved before the application deadline. Prospective students may get credit for work/life experiences for prerequisite coursework if requested and applicable. Documentation of the work experience would be required and must be approved before the application deadline.

Not every applicant who meets the minimum admission requirements can be admitted, the Department of Occupational Therapy reserves discretion in admission for the most highly qualified applicants. This program is not designed for individuals already licensed to practice as an occupational therapist.

Admission Process

Candidates will be required to submit all application documents to the Centralized Application Service for Occupational Therapy Schools (OTCAS). Application to the Centralized Application Service for Occupational Therapy schools (OTCAS). All required materials must be completed and submitted online by the November 1st application deadline. Check your application status on-line! To view the real-time progress of your file, login to your OTCAS application and select the status options on the right-hand side of the screen.

Required Materials

  1. Official Transcripts:  Official transcripts of all college and university work must be submitted directly to OTCAS at OTCAS Verification Department, P.O. Box 9120, Watertown, MA 02471.
  2. Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Official GRE Scores are sent to UTRGV Graduate College but are self-reported in OTCAS.
  3. Three references/recommendations: Reference letters are to be submitted electronically through the online OTCAS application system (www.portal.otcas.org). Please refer to the OTCAS website for Instructions on submission of the OTCAS application materials.
  4. Volunteer, work, or service experiences/hours: There is no set number of volunteer hours or experiences that you need to complete to be considered for admission into the program, at least three volunteer/experiences are recommended. Nor are you required to complete hours in occupational therapy through work or observation. Volunteer experiences are unpaid work, assistant, or service.  Observations and/or shadowing are not considered as volunteer or experiences. Your volunteer experiences are submitted through the OTCAS application.
  5. Personal Statement (Standard Essay): Use your own words to create a personal essay that responds to the question below. Your personal essay should address a) why you selected OT as a career and b) how an Occupational Therapy degree relates to your immediate and long-term professional goals. Describe how your personal, educational, and professional background will help you to achieve your goals. Do NOT make your essay program specific as the same essay will be sent to each program that you applied to.  You are limited to approximately 1 page (7500 characters, including spaces).
  6. Application Verification: OTCAS will process your application once you submit your completed application, required fee, and all official transcript(s) to the Service. OTCAS processing may take up to 4 weeks once all required materials are received. Once your application is complete, OTCAS will verify the accuracy of your application materials, compare your original transcripts to the self-reported course information on your application, calculate your OTCAS GPA's, and submit your application to each of your designated OT institutions. You will receive an automatic email once your file has been verified and your GPA's are available to you online. It is your responsibility to review the GPA's for accuracy. 
  7. Personal Interview: Applicants may be required to participate in a personal interview with the Occupational Therapy Admissions Committee. If required, the Chair of the Admissions Committee will notify the applicant via phone, email, or letter for an interview.

Additional requirements for domestic applicants who attended foreign universities:

TOEFL or IELTS Language Proficiency Test with minimum scores: 550 on paper-based, 213 on computer based, or 79 on internet-based for the TOEFL; 6.5 for the IELTS. TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for 2 years. Learn More about TOEFL / IELTS.

English translation of educational records.

Transcript Evaluation by the Foreign Credentials Service of America (FCSA) or the World Education Services (WES). Learn more about FCSA.

Additional requirements for international applicants:

  • TOEFL or IELTS Language Proficiency Test with minimum scores: 550 on paper-based, 213 on computer based, or 79 on internet-based for the TOEFL; 6.5 for the IELTS. TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for 2 years. Learn more about Additional requirements for international applicants.
  • English translation of educational records.
  • Transcript Evaluation by the Foreign Credentials Service of America (FCSA) or the World Education Services (WES). Learn more about FCSA and WES.
  • Financial Documentation showing sufficient funds (minimum of $25,000) to cover all expenses (living and academic) for the first year of study. Read more about the financial documentation needed.
  • Immigration documents, including a current copy of your valid passport. Read for more about the international admissions requirements.

Criminal Background Check

Applicants who acknowledge a felony conviction should be aware that the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) might bar persons with a felony record from taking the certification examination. The Texas Board of Occupational Therapy Examiners (TBOTE) may deny persons with a felony record a state license to practice. For information regarding their requirements for certification following graduation, please contact:

The College of Health Professions requires a criminal background check before admission to the program.  Some personal information may need to be disclosed during the educational experience. For example, the information may be required by a clinical education site or licensing board. Prior notification will be given to the students.

Selection and Notification Process

The Occupational Therapy Admissions Committee meets as soon as possible after the deadline to review each application. If required, the Chair of the Admission Committee notifies the applicant via phone, email, or letter for an interview. No information regarding the status of an applicant is given over the phone. The Admission Committee will communicate with the applicant through OTCAS.  The Official admission offer will be made only by the Office of Graduate Studies. The UTRGV Graduate College will send notification to all applicants indicating whether they have been accepted into the OT Program.

Program Progression/Benchmark Requirements

Maintaining Graduate Status

OT Grades

Graduate students in Occupational Therapy are expected to maintain an overall 3.25GPA in all OT coursework. A graduate OT student is ineligible to continue and will be dismissed from the program if:

  • A student receives a failing grade “F” in any course.
  • A student receives a grade of “C” in three courses in the program. (Even if the course is repeated and a higher grade is received, the higher grade does not alter the “C” rule.)
  • A student receives a grade of “C” in Applied Clinical Kinesiology & Biomechanics (ODTE 8401), Applied Clinical Neuroscience (OTDE 8305), or any of the OT intervention & treatment courses (OTDE 8402, OTDE 8309, OTDE 8403, and OTDE 8310) and does not make a grade of “B” or better on the repeated course. Even though the student has no prior grades of “C”, the student must repeat that course and earn a grade of “B” or better.  If the student is not successful in making a grade of “B” or better on the repeated course, the student will be dismissed from the program.
  • A student fails two Level II Fieldwork (OTDE 8601/OTDE 8602 or OTDE 8312/OTDE 8313,) or Capstone Experiences (OTDE 8603/OTDE 8604 or OTDE 8316/OTDE 8317).  If a student fails one Level II Fieldwork or Capstone Experience, the course must be repeated and will be scheduled at the discretion of the program.

If a student gives evidence of unsafe and/or ineffective health care practice, the faculty of the Occupational Therapy Department reserves the right to refuse the opportunity to the student to care for patients or perform evaluation/testing procedures. A student may not render care, tests, or evaluations when under the influence of prescribed or over-the-counter medication which may affect judgment or if the student imbibes and/or is under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. A student who is deemed to demonstrate unsafe practice will fail the course and be dropped from all clinical courses in which she/he is enrolled at that time. The student may be dismissed from the program.

Any student whose overall OT GPA falls below 3.0 or placed on academic probation by the Graduate College must meet with his or her academic advisor to develop a remedial action plan. This plan must be submitted to the program chair for final approval. If the student does not restore his or her OT GPA to 3.0 by the end of the next semester, the student will be terminated from the OT program.


At the end of the academic course work and fieldwork Level II, the students will be administered a comprehensive assessment to determine their understanding of OT principles and knowledge. Should a graduate OT student fail to obtain the required passing score on the departmental academic competency, the student will not be allowed to proceed.  The student may repeat the competency up to 3 times, to achieve a passing score; afterward, the student may be required to repeat selected OT coursework and/or activities. If the student is still unable to achieve the passing score after 3 months the student may be dismissed from the program.

Should a graduate OT student fail to achieve the required passing score on a designated OT professional practice exam, the student will not be eligible to proceed to the doctoral capstone experience. Student may repeat the practice exam as many times as needed prior to the end of the semester until the required passing score is achieved.  

Maximal Length of Time to Completion

The maximal length of time to complete the Entry Level Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program is 5 years. This includes successful completion of all academic coursework and requirements as well as fieldwork experiences.

Students have 24 months after completion of academic coursework to complete Level II fieldwork requirements as declared by ACOTE. Students must complete and pass the equivalent of a minimum of 24 weeks full time Level II fieldwork before proceeding to the doctoral capstone.

Required Practicum, Fieldwork, and Capstone Experiences

Fieldwork education and doctoral capstone experiences are a crucial part of the professional preparation and is integrated as a component of the curriculum design. Each student must complete three Level I practicum, two Level II fieldwork (the equivalent of 24 weeks), and one doctoral capstone (14 weeks) experience. Students should expect to take at least one experience outside the Rio Grande Valley. These experiences will provide the student with opportunities to work with a variety of clients across the lifespan and in a variety of settings. They will learn to carry out professional responsibilities and in-depth exposure to OT concepts and practice.

Program Foundation

Required Courses - 75 Hours

OTDE 8101Scholarly Research I


OTDE 8102Scholarly Research II


OTDE 8103Scholarly Research III


OTDE 8104Scholarly Research IV


OTDE 8105Practicum I: Population and Community-Based


OTDE 8106Practicum II: Pediatrics


OTDE 8107Practicum III: Adults/Elderly


OTDE 8108Capstone Proposal


OTDE 8109Scholarly Research Dissemination


OTDE 8110Doctoral Capstone Project


OTDE 8111Doctoral Capstone Project


OTDE 8201Human Conditions


OTDE 8202Quantitative Research in OT


OTDE 8203Health Policies & OT Ethics


OTDE 8204Motor Learning & Cognition


OTDE 8205Assistive Technology


OTDE 8206Psychosocial OT & Group Processes


OTDE 8207Health Services & Management


OTDE 8208Leadership in Education & Healthcare


OTDE 8301Foundations of Occupational Therapy


OTDE 8302Occupation Analysis & Clinical Reasoning


OTDE 8303Occupational Therapy Theories


OTDE 8304Qualitative Research in OT


OTDE 8305Applied Clinical Neurosciences


OTDE 8306Evaluations and Assessments in OT


OTDE 8307Health Promotion, Prevention & Interprofessional Practice


OTDE 8308Population, Community & Culture


OTDE 8309OT Skills in Pediatrics


OTDE 8310OT Skills in Adults & Elderly


OTDE 8311Population Health Research & Biostatistics


OTDE 8314OT Special Topics



OTDE 8315Specialty Fieldwork


OTDE 8401Applied Clinical Kinesiology & Biomechanics


OTDE 8402OT Intervention I: Pediatrics


OTDE 8403OT Intervention II: Adults/Elderly


OTDE 8314 and OTDE 8315 are equivalent courses. Students cannot earn credits for both courses.

Fieldwork/Capstone Coursework

ACOTE allows Fieldwork Level II to "be completed on a part-time basis, as defined by fieldwork placement in accordance with the fieldwork placement's usual and customary personnel policies, as long as it is at 50% of an FTE at that site" (ACOTE Standard, C.1.10).  The Doctoral Capstone "may be completed on a part-time basis and must be consistent with the individualized specific objectives and capstone project" (ACOTE Standard D.1.5). 

Full-time - 24 Hours

OTDE 8601Level II Fieldwork A


OTDE 8602Level II Fieldwork B


OTDE 8603Doctoral Capstone Experience A


OTDE 8604Doctoral Capstone Experience A


Part-time - 24 Hours

OTDE 8312Level II Fieldwork C


OTDE 8313Level II Fieldwork D


OTDE 8316Doctoral Capstone Experience B


OTDE 8317Doctoral Capstone Experience B


Total Credit Hours: 99