Doctor of Occupational Therapy

Focused on occupation-based, person-centered, inter-professional client care

Study at a University dedicated to health sciences education and improving lives. Occupational Therapy education began at St. Ambrose in 1989 and offers the first accredited, entry-level doctoral program in Iowa.

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program uses an innovative hybrid delivery model where students take courses online and on campus. This very interactive program includes two years of online and on-campus courses. Students can participate in on-campus courses at St. Ambrose University in Davenport or at Loras College in Dubuque. The third year of the program is onsite in a variety of practice settings.

Experiential and interactive learning takes place in labs, during community outreach, and in fieldwork experiences. OT students also partner with students in other St. Ambrose health science programs with a focus on occupation-based, person-centered, inter-professional client care.

Our faculty combine clinical experience with passionate dedication to their students, clients, and profession. Proof of their commitment is in our students who have an excellent NBCOT certification exam pass rate.

Our graduates work at hospitals, healthcare facilities, rehabilitation centers, and many others.


The entry-level occupational therapy doctoral degree program at St. Ambrose University is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). ACOTEONLINE.ORG

Ambrose Advantages

  • Accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)
  • Generalist Curriculum
  • Outreach and Assistive Technology Services

OT lab

two students

2 students in OT lab

Study where strong clinical relationships support experiential learning! The OT Department has relationships with clinicians and clinics in the local community, region, country, and abroad. Multiple community outreach experiences allow for additional opportunities. Throughout the curriculum, experiential is emphasized so students can connect classroom study with real-world observations as they develop knowledge and skills.

Read our Doctor of Occupational Therapy fact sheet (PDF)

Outreach and Assistive Technology Services

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Outreach and Assistive Technology Services

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More Information on the Occupational Therapy Program

What will I learn?

You'll begin coursework learning the Professional Foundation. This includes the domain and process of occupational therapy and the science of the human body that support occupational performance. Students advance to applying their knowledge during classroom and laboratory experiences.

The following semesters emphasize Occupational Engagement: A Fit between Person and Environment. These include courses that examine the client and environmental factors that impact occupational participation, including evidence that guides assessment and intervention strategies that promote occupational engagement considering typical development, as well as the impact of disease, injury, or illness.

The next step is engaging in Fieldwork that allows application of and practice of principles from the classroom followed by guided reflection activities.

The final year culminates in a transition from student to practitioner with a culminating project, comprehensive exam, and experiential component. This supports the Bridge to Professional Practice

Doctoral Project

Students completing the OTD Program will develop a strong professional identity and advanced knowledge linking theory to practice in one of the following areas: practice, research and scholarship, service, administration, leadership, advocacy, education or theory development.

See examples of their work on the Outcomes page.

Students develop an individualized path of study, in collaboration with a faculty mentor, in a focused area of interest beginning at the end of their first year and extending through the Doctoral Project Proposal and Doctoral Project courses. This includes exploration of literature and evidence and concludes with a project that has the potential to inform the profession and practice in a way that supports participation in occupation. 

Learn how our program – and students – focus on occupational justice.

Experiential Component

As informed by the student's doctoral project, a 14-week Experiential Component will be planned where a student is able to put elements of their project into action. This could involve work with clients and clinicians in traditional or emerging areas of OT practice.

The 14-week Experiential Component is the final element of the OTD curriculum. As with Level II Fieldwork, tuition, housing, and other related costs may be involved. 

What are some possible job outcomes?

As a graduate of the SAU OT program, you'll enjoy the perks that such an education and affiliation brings. ALL graduates are currently employed, and 85% of them are working at their first job choice.

  • SAU Occupational Therapy graduates become health and rehabilitation professionals who work with individuals across the entire life span in a variety of practice settings.
  • OTs often work on interdisciplinary teams with teachers, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, speech therapists and social workers.
  • OT treatments are individualized to help clients rebuild functional skills and live healthier lives.
  • OTs respond to emerging social needs among growing populations, from premature infants to older adult clients, helping all achieve their highest level of function in the face of chronic health problems or other threats to long-term wellness.     
Study Abroad

The OTD Program offers study abroad opportunities for one of their two Level II fieldwork experiences (12 weeks) and their Doctoral Capstone Experience (14 weeks). These opportunities are chosen very selectively and after analysis to ensure the learning experience meets all Level II fieldwork objectives or Capstone Experience objectives for the program and accreditation. Students have completed experiences in Ireland and Germany in the past.

For more information, contact the OTD Program or the Study Abroad Office at You can click here to search our study abroad programs.


Two levels of fieldwork are required of occupational therapy students enrolled at St. Ambrose University. The fieldwork curriculum is comprised of 24 weeks plus a 14-week experiential component.

Click here for details on Fieldwork I, Fieldwork II, and information for Fieldwork Educators

What will this program cost?

Students in the OTD Program will be included in the St. Ambrose University One Price Tuition Plan. The One Price Plan ensures tuition costs remain at one rate throughout the normal course of full-time graduate study. Additionally, the cost is consistent across semesters, making financial planning easier.

The One Price Tuition Plan includes all tuition, course fees, liability insurance, technology fees, graduation fees, and some other costs incurred by occupational therapy students (such as background checks required for fieldwork experiences).

While this plan covers major expenses of the OTD Program, there are additional costs not included such as:

  • Room and board
  • Textbooks
  • Immunizations
  • Loan fees
  • Additional fieldwork costs that vary based on clinical site placements
  • Students will need to purchase a laptop or a tablet (iPad or Windows Surface Pro) that runs on a Mac, Windows, or iPad operating system. Tablets that run on Chromebook, Android, or Linux will NOT work with required software in the program. More details on the minimum system requirements for devices can be found here. We are a paperless program and students will receive all handouts and assignments electronically and testing will be conducted through a software called ExamSoft.

For the cohort of students entering the OTD Program in Fall 2024 and graduating in May 2027, the total yearly tuition is $45,044. The total tuition cost of full-time enrollment in the 3-year OTD Program will be $135,132. Costs to enroll in our program are the same for students entering as undergraduate or graduate students, Iowa and out-of-state residents.

Contact the OTD Program with questions about the current One-Price Tuition Plan rate and details. Policies and published fees are subject to change.

St. Ambrose University is committed to helping students from all financial backgrounds achieve their dreams of gaining a quality education. Learn more by calling your Admissions counselor, the Financial Aid Office at (563) 333-6300, or reviewing the Financial Aid Office website.

Undergraduate Scholarships and Institutional Aid for Students Beginning OTD Coursework in Senior Year of Undergraduate Study

Students following a 3+3 plan of study and beginning the OTD Program cannot use undergraduate scholarships and institutional aid awarded from St. Ambrose University toward tuition and fees associated with the first year in the OTD Program. That includes athletic scholarships and funding through the faculty/staff tuition remission and exchange programs. Other state/federal grants and private scholarship could still be used during the first year in the OTD Program. 

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are an excellent way to gain valuable work experience while helping to pay for your graduate education.

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy Program at St. Ambrose University seeks four graduate assistants each academic year. To learn more, contact Lori Parker at 563-333-6413 or

In addition, a number of other student service departments offer graduate assistantships.

Cost Breakdown

Estimated costs below relate to the academic year 2023-24 and are subject to change.

OTCAS Application – $159 to apply to one program; $69 for each additional program

Acceptance Fee – $200

Books and AOTA Memberships – $1100-1250

Fieldwork/Medical Site Requirements – $250

Certification Application – $500-800

Graduate Fees

2023-24 Fees

Graduate level students taking 9 or more credit hours $280/yr. ($140/semester)
Graduate level students taking 8 or less credit hours $140/yr. ($70/semester)

Faculty and Staff

Jill Schmidt, OTD, MS, OTR/L, Professor, Program Chair and Director

Cherie Blackwell, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, Clinical Assistant Professor and Academic Fieldwork Coordinator
Shelli Engelbrecht, MBAH, Lecturer
Jenni Green, MOT, OTR/L, Visiting Lecturer
Roxanne Freeman, Academic Advisor and Recruiter
Kami Holst, OTD, OTR/L, CBIS, Asst. Professor
Brenda Hughes, DrOT, OTR/L, CAPS, Professor and Doctoral Capstone Coordinator
Julie Jones, OTD, OTR/L, BCP, Asst. Professor
Lynn Kilburg, DHSc, MBA, OTR/L, Professor and Dean
Rhonda Lane, Office Clerk
Anne Lansing, OTD, MOL, OTR/L , Assoc. Professor
Angie McCombs, OTD, OTR/L Senior Lecturer
Lori Parker, Administrative Assistant
Jennifer Petersen, DrOT, OTR/L, C/NDT, C/SI, Asst. Professor
Stephanie Phares, MOT, OTR/L, Instructor

Degree Requirements

Requirements for the OTD program are on the Curriculum page.

Ready to Apply?

Take the next step toward your Doctorate in Occupational Therapy and apply today!

Ellen Joerger '17, '20 OTD, OTR/L

"I was able to complete my undergraduate degree one year earlier than expected, accelerating my entrance into the OTD program. As a practitioner, I understand the importance of lifelong learning that was established in the OTD program." Joerger currently works as an Occupational Therapist for Spring Lake Park Schools in Minneapolis, Minn.

Ellen Joerger
ellen joerger ellen joerger

Ellen Joerger

Doctor of Occupational Therapy,Occupational Therapist,Class of 2020

The transition from student to practitioner can be challenging. Luckily Ellen Joerger '17, '20 OTD, OTR/L, had at her fingertips the expertise and mentorship that the St. Ambrose OTD program faculty provides. The experiential knowledge Joerger received while at SAU acted as the ultimate guide to help discover her professional identity.

See My Story

Apply Visit Info


Jill Schmidt, OTD, Program Chair and Director

Occupational Therapy
Center for Health Sciences Education
518 W. Locust St.
Davenport, IA 52804

So, what's next?

Are you ready to take the next step? Click on the visit button below to learn more about our virtual and in-person visit options.