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Requirements for the Doctoral Degree, OTD

Type: University Requirements
Effective Date: 10/12/2022


The policy provides guidance on the following aspects of the OTD Doctoral Degree, including definitions related to:

1. General degree requirements;
2. Requirements for a student to obtain an OTD at NAU: 

  • academic requirements; 
  • professional development requirements; 
  • application and admission/designation requirements; 
  • time parameters to complete the degree


The policy guides students, faculty, staff, and administrators in the development and provision of doctoral degrees at the university.


  • Curriculum and Assessment Office
  • Graduate Advisors
  • Graduate College
  • Graduate Deans
  • Faculty
  • IRA
  • Office of the Registrar


  • Curriculum and Assessment Office
  • Graduate Advisors
  • Graduate College
  • Graduate Deans 
  • Faculty
  • IRA
  • Office of the Registrar
  • Students


ABOR Policy


candidacy: a period in a doctoral student’s studies when they are deemed ready to undertake independent and original research resulting in a dissertation after meeting certain academic milestones
dissertation: a document presenting a student's original research and findings submitted as part of academic requirements for a doctoral degree 
residency: a period of time of on-the-job training that is part of a formal educational program


The following general requirements pertain to all students pursuing the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree. Additional program and discipline-specific requirements not addressed by this policy may be found in the program/department/school graduate handbook as well as the Academic Catalog

1. General Degree Requirements – Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD)

Doctoral degrees at NAU require the successful completion of a minimum of 60 units in a course of study, and many degrees require more units for completion of the degree. In addition to coursework, all doctoral degrees require their graduate students to engage in extensive and rigorous research, scholarship, practicum, and/or clinical experiences and to prove a high level of competency in their field. The Doctor of Occupational Therapy is a practice-scholar model doctoral plan that emphasizes didactic study (lecture, reading, practice skill labs, community experiences), mentored scholarship of practice apprenticeships fieldwork, and an individualized capstone. This degree emphasizes the development of competencies in examination, evaluation, diagnosis, interventions, leadership, and evidence-based practice including implementing practice-based research. Graduates become not only entry-level clinicians but able to engage in outcome studies and practice leaders as practice-scholars. The OTD degree requires a minimum of 135 units. Prerequisite courses are not included in this total. The degree is designed to be completed in 33 months of full-time study. This plan does not require a dissertation. However, it does include a capstone project and 14-week capstone.

Individuals who wish to enter into the occupational therapy profession must complete this degree, which is known as the “entry-level doctoral degree.”

2. The following requirements must be fulfilled for a student to graduate with an OTD degree:

2.A. Academic Requirements

Students must complete all courses in an approved Program of Study (POS) totaling the number of units specified for the program and meet all academic requirements and standards set by the academic unit for the doctoral program. The POS must be approved by the student’s major advisor and other appropriate academic unit administrators designated by the program. 

All graduate students must adhere to the academic requirements and criteria outlined by their program, the Graduate College, and NAU. See NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate for more detailed information. 

Graduate students must, at a minimum, meet the “Academic Requirements for Continuation in a Graduate Program” found in NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate, in order to graduate. To begin the graduation process, please see NAU Policy 100334: Applying for Graduation, Graduate Students. 

2.B. Professional Development Requirement

NAU’s professional development requirement provides doctoral students the benefit and opportunity to engage in and contribute to the full spectrum of educational and professional opportunities provided by faculty and other students within their program and across the university. The Graduate College and the University Graduate Committee concur that the doctoral professional development requirement at NAU may be met in a variety of ways, some of which fit the ethos of a particular discipline or type of cohort engaged in a particular program. 

When considering appropriate standards for professional development, graduate program faculty are expected to encourage, design, provide, and monitor the professional development activities in which their doctoral students acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values appropriate to their discipline. These activities extend beyond the required coursework and may include, but are not limited to: attending and presenting at professional conferences; participation and active engagement in presentations of scholarly work, seminars, and events; assisting and engaging in various funding efforts to support research, scholarship, and creative work; and active participation in professional development opportunities offered by programs and the Graduate College. 

A minimum of 5 hours of professional development activities is required between matriculation in the program and completion of the 14-week capstone.

Graduate program faculty have the responsibility of identifying and approving how the specific professional development requirement for their program will be met, in consultation with the dean of the Graduate College. Details regarding the OTD program’s professional development requirement are listed on the program of study and verified prior to submission of the final Program of study.

2.C. Application and Admission/Designation
Minimum Admission Requirements 

  • Baccalaureate degree with an overall GPA of at least 3.0;
  • Two letters of recommendation, with one letter from a licensed occupational therapist;
  • Medical Terminology and Occupational Therapy competencies;
  • Forty hours observing two different occupational therapists each practicing in a different type of setting with different age-groups (minimum of 20 hours in each setting);
  • Forty hours in at least two different community settings (e.g., agencies, programs, camps) serving vulnerable, disabled or disadvantaged individuals or populations that address health, rehabilitation, disability, quality of life or community issues or sustainability initiatives. 

Before beginning the program, students must have:

  • Must have completed approximately 27 units of undergraduate course requirements in biology, anatomy and physiology, abnormal and developmental psychology, statistics, sociology, and ethics or social justice (some of these requirements may have been part of the student's bachelor's degree);
  • Complete and submit the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) application.
  • Complete and submit the Northern Arizona University Graduate College application.

Application for and Admission to Candidacy
There is no discrete candidacy stage associated with this degree.

2.D. Time Parameters to Complete Degree

Students who are admitted to the OTD program have six years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. The six-year period starts with the student's first semester of doctoral study at Northern Arizona University. If the student does not complete the degree in six years, the student may petition the Graduate College for one extension of this time limit.


Academic Requirements

Program faculty are responsible for creating and updating graduate programs, courses, and requirements in line with discipline-specific standards and university policy; for approving updates to Programs of Study; and for approving completion of degree requirements.

The Graduate College is responsible for updating and maintaining Programs of Study, confirming academic requirements and criteria and adherence to continuous enrollment, confirming completion of degree requirements, and conferring degrees.

Office of Curriculum and Assessment is responsible for supporting program faculty in articulating and defining program and course curricula and student learning outcomes and in accurately publishing curricular requirements in the academic catalog.

Professional Development Requirement

Program faculty are responsible for identifying and approving how the specific professional development requirement for their program will be met, in consultation with the dean of the Graduate College.

Related policies:

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