Doctor of Occupational Therapy: Entry Level - OTD

Program Description

Recognized as scholars and leaders in occupational therapy education for over 75 years, St. Catherine University continues this tradition by offering entry-level education to the profession adding the entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree to the entry-level degree options.  The entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD EL) Program is a 100-credit entry-level clinical doctorate. 

Occupational therapy practitioners are credentialed professionals who work with individuals and organizations, using occupation in all its forms to help them develop to their fullest potential. Occupations are skills for the job of living, including care of oneself and others, work/education, social participation, and play/leisure. Occupational therapy practitioners work with people of all ages and ability levels in a variety of health, educational, and community settings, providing individual, group, or population based services. For more information on the profession, visit the American Occupational Therapy Association website at

Graduates of the OTD EL program are prepared for dynamic careers as occupational therapists in a range of settings with individuals, groups, and populations of all ages.

OTD-EL Program Mission

Consistent with the missions of the University, the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, the Graduate College, and the Department of Occupational Therapy, the Doctor of Occupational Therapy [OTD] and Master of Arts in Occupational Therapy [MAOT] Programs prepare occupational therapists to lead and educate in community, clinical, and emerging practice areas with grounding in evidence-based research, critical thinking, ethics, and social justice.


The OTD EL curriculum flows from the Department of Occupational Therapy curriculum design. The program provides doctoral-level education that prepares graduates to meet emerging challenges in the complex and rapidly changing healthcare environment. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Vision 2025 identifies core tenets of future practice (AOTA, 2017) considered necessary to meet future healthcare needs including:

  • Accessible: Occupational therapy provides culturally responsive and customized services.
  • Collaborative: Occupational therapy excels in working with clients and within systems to produce effective outcomes.
  • Effective: Occupational therapy is evidence based, client centered, and cost-effective.
  • Leaders: Occupational therapy is influential in changing policies, environments, and complex systems.

The core tenants, embedded within the OTD EL curriculum design and student learning outcomes (below), prepare graduates who are practice-ready in all entry-level contexts. Note: Program Student Learning Outcomes with an * before them indicate expected learning outcomes that are beyond that required for entry to practice as a generalist.

Leadership and Collaboration

Develop leadership competencies through participation in professional associations, conferences, and curricular and co-curricular activities.

Collaborate on intra- and inter-professional teams.

*Advocate for policies, programs, and services across healthcare, education, and social service systems.

Ethics and Social Justice

Demonstrate personal and professional conduct consistent with the AOTA Code of Ethics, St. Catherine University Policies, and other related documents.

Demonstrate ethical decision making and behaviors in classroom and experiential learning.

*Apply understanding of social determinants of health and social justice to address health and social inequities.

Diversity and Global Perspectives

Use person-centered approaches to meet occupational performance and participation needs of all persons, groups, and populations.

Identify international contributions to occupational therapy scholarship and practice.

*Apply diverse and global perspectives to improve health equity for underserved and marginalized individuals and populations.

Critical and Creative Inquiry

Demonstrate competency in information search, critical analysis, synthesis and application of evidence to occupational therapy practice.

Apply clinical reasoning in evaluation, interventions, and discontinuation of occupational therapy services in a variety of practice settings.

*Identify, synthesize, disseminate, and implement evidence to influence system change.

Effective Communication

Demonstrate professional written, oral, virtual, and non-verbal communication.

Demonstrate therapeutic use of self with individuals and groups.

*Use effective communication to achieve personal, client, and team goals in practice, policy, education, and scholarship.

*Adapt communication to the health literacy level of the audience.

Discipline-Based Competence in Occupational Therapy

Describe human occupation across the lifespan, for persons, groups, and populations.

Evaluate personal, environmental, and contextual factors that support or limit occupational performance and participation.

Develop and implement intervention plans to address the occupational performance and/or participation needs of persons, groups, and populations.

Evaluate the outcomes of occupational therapy services at the person, group, and population level.

Apply, evaluate, and critique underlying models, theories, frames of reference, and core concepts for occupational therapy practice.

Analyze the influence of healthcare, education, and social service systems and policies and their influence on occupational therapy practice.

*Demonstrate advanced knowledge in a focused area of study in occupational therapy or related area.

Purposeful Life-Long Learning

Create a plan of life-long learning and professional development.

*Document and organize professional development and scholarship activities.

Program Philosophy

The philosophy of the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Graduate OT Programs (MAOT and OTD) regarding human beings and how they learn is consistent with the philosophical base of the occupational therapy profession; that human beings learn through engagement in meaningful occupations. The department’s and program’s philosophy is published in the OTD EL Program Student Handbook.


St. Catherine University is an accredited institution through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Department of Occupational Therapy has received Candidacy Status for the OTD EL program by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Blvd, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its Web address is

The OTD EL program must go through pre-accreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation, and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy 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, all 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.

St. Catherine University anticipates its on-site evaluation of the OTD EL program will be done in Fall of 2020 with initial accreditation received by December 2020/January 2021.


The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) conducts a national certification program. To be certified as a registered occupational therapist (OTR), a person must be a graduate of an accredited program and must pass a national certification examination, which is administered by NBCOT. Completion of all academic, fieldwork, and capstone requirements is necessary for eligibility for the examination. When graduates apply to take the certification examination with NBCOT, they will be asked to answer questions related to the topic of felony convictions. A student who is concerned about whether something in his or her background could affect eligibility to sit for the national certification examination can request an Early Determination Review directly from NBCOT. For more information, visit the NBCOT website at

To continue to use OTR, occupational therapists must renew their registration every three years following the procedures established by NBCOT. Continued NBCOT certification is required for licensure in some, but not all, states. If one chooses not to renew one’s NBCOT certification, then one simply uses the credential OT after one’s name.

For more information, you may contact NBCOT at

800 South Frederick Avenue, Suite 200
Gaithersburg, MD 20877-4150
(301) 990-7979

Degree Requirements

Academic Course Work

Students must complete 100 graduate credits in occupational therapy courses, fieldwork credits, and capstone credits. Students will typically take 13-16 credits in fall and spring terms, 1 credit in January term, and 6-10 credits in summer terms. Students must be prepared to do additional work outside of class time.


Fieldwork provides opportunities for students to experience working with a range of ages, conditions, and in a wide variety of settings. Students complete two types of fieldwork. Level I Fieldwork is attached to two Seminar courses in the first two years of the program. Level II Fieldwork (10 credits) occurs following the majority of academic course work. It involves six months of full-time clinical experiences in the field. Students may elect to take an additional (4 or 6 credits) Level II Specialty Fieldwork experience in a specialty area of interest.


The doctoral capstone provides students with an in-depth exposure beyond the generalist level to clinical practice, research, administration, leadership, program and policy development, advocacy, education or theory development in a chosen area of practice. The doctoral capstone consists of two primary components: 1) a 14-week full time Capstone experience, and 2) a Capstone project.

Years to Complete the Program

St. Catherine University's OTD EL program courses are offered in traditional face-to-face, hybrid, and fully online formats. Students will take courses in all 3 formats within the program. The program takes approximately 3.25 years to complete, but must be completed within five years. All OTD EL students have up to five years from the initial term of enrollment to complete all program requirements for a graduate degree. Level II fieldwork must be started within one year of the date of the last course in the curriculum. The two required level II fieldwork experiences must be completed within 18 months of the start of the first level II fieldwork.

Transfer Credits

Requests for transfer of credit are considered on an individual basis and only graduate courses will be eligible. Students must request a review of previous course work upon admission to the program if they wish to receive credit for previous work.

Progression Policy

Standards for Progression

In order to successfully complete the OTD EL Program, the student must fulfill the following:

  1. Maintain a 3.0 grade point average in the OTD EL Program
  2. Earn a grade of C or better in each graduate course
  3. Successfully complete each Level I fieldwork assignment
  4. Successfully complete Level II fieldwork requirements
  5. Demonstrate satisfactory professional attitudes and behaviors as defined by the program
  6. Successfully complete the Capstone requirements.

Conditions for Academic Probation

Students are placed on academic probation by the OTD EL program if:

  • A grade of C has been earned in any OTD EL course
  • The grade point average for an academic term falls below 3.0
  • The overall GPA for the OTD EL Program is less than 3.0
  • The student fails one Level II fieldwork experience

The OTD EL Program Director, in consultation with the faculty, will identify the written conditions of academic probation. Failure to meet the written conditions for academic probation by the end of the next semester/term may result in automatic dismissal from the program under ordinary circumstances.

Removal from Academic Probation

Students will be removed from academic probation if the conditions are met by the end of the following semester/term. Failure to meet the written conditions for academic probation or to bring the next semester grade point average or the graduate program overall GPA to 3.0 by the end of the next semester/term may result in automatic dismissal from the program.

Academic Conditions for Program Dismissal

Students are automatically dismissed from the program for academic reasons if:

  • A grade of C- or below is earned in any OTD EL course
  • More than one grade of C or lower is earned in any OTD EL course
  • Conditions for removal from academic probation are not met
  • Overall GPA in the OTD-EL Program is less than 3.0 by the end of the semester/term on probation
  • Failure of one Level I fieldwork experience
  • Failure of two Level II fieldwork placements
  • Failure of the capstone experience or project
  • Under extraordinary circumstances, you may petition in writing to repeat a course or fieldwork, but you may not take the next courses in sequence unless the petition has been approved and you agree with the conditions for continuance.

Other Conditions for Probation or Program Dismissal

Students may be placed on academic probation or dismissed from the program for the following violations:

  • Violation of the Code of Ethics of the American Occupational Therapy Association
  • Violation of the Institution's policy on academic integrity
  • Violation of the Institution's policy on student conduct

The policies and procedures for these violations are outlined in the OTD EL Student Handbook. Students may appeal an academic probation or dismissal from the OTD EL program by following the Student Complaint Process identified in the OTD EL Student Handbook.

OCTH 5010Human Occupation3
OCTH 5200Mental and Behavioral Health3
OCTH 5210Mental and Behavioral Health: The OT Process3
OCTH 5410Children, Adolescents, and Families3
OCTH 5450Children, Adolescents, and Families: The OT Process3
OCTH 5500Neuroscience3
OCTH 5560Participation and Technology3
OCTH 5600Kinesiology for Rehabilitation3
OCTH 6000Foundational Skills for Occupational Therapy Practice3
OCTH 6010Seminar A: Entering the Profession1
OCTH 6020Seminar B and Level I Fieldwork - Psychological and Social Factors Impacting Performance1
OCTH 6030Seminar C and Level I Fieldwork Practice Reflection1
OCTH 6040Seminar D: Readiness for Level II Fieldwork1
OCTH 6060Physical Assessment and Intervention Planning3
OCTH 6310Evidence Based Practice3
OCTH 6410Foundations of Research3
OCTH 6610Rehabilitation Concepts3
OCTH 6615Rehabilitation Practices3
OCTH 6620Ethical Management3
OCTH 6700Older Adults in Context3
OCTH 6710Older Adults - The OT Process3
OCTH 7100Social Determinants of Health1
OCTH 7200Critical Issues1
OCTH 7700Level II Fieldwork5
OCTH 7710Level II Fieldwork5
OCTH 7900Doctoral Orientation Camp1
OCTH 8005Essential Knowledge and Competencies for Leadership3
OCTH 8010Evolution of Ideas in Occupational Therapy3
OCTH 8020Educational Methods3
OCTH 8030Program Evaluation3
OCTH 8040Organizations and Systems3
OCTH 8050Advanced Practice3
OCTH 8060Scoping Review Project3
OCTH 8080Doctoral Capstone Project Proposal1
OCTH 8100Doctoral Capstone Experience A3
OCTH 8150Doctoral Capstone Experience B3
OCTH 8250Doctoral Capstone Project3
OCTH 8300Doctoral Capstone Footprint1
Total Credits100