SAU announces occupational therapy doctoral program


DAVENPORT — St. Ambrose University’s reputation as one of the Midwest’s health science education leaders is growing with the announcement that its long-standing Occupational Therapy program will move to granting a doctoral-level (OTD) degree. Currently, just seven OTD programs are offered in the U.S. The new program is SAU’s third doctoral-level academic program, and the second in the health sciences, joining the Doctor of Physical Therapy.

SAU-logo-color-2013“St. Ambrose was the first university in Iowa to offer an accredited program leading to an entry-level occupational therapy degree,” said President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ. “Being able to advance this degree to the doctoral level is an exciting development and an indication of the strength of our health science programs.”

Evidence of the OT program’s strength includes last year’s stellar OT graduating class, which achieved a 100 percent first-time pass rate on the national licensing exam, and realized a 100 percent job placement rate in the field.

“Such success is a testament to the excellence of our OT program faculty and staff and the quality of students enrolled in the program,” said Sandy Cassady, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “With a first-time exam pass rate consistently above the national average and the knowledge that fulfilling, good-paying jobs are waiting, prospective students and their families are very interested in St. Ambrose.”


Occupational therapy studies at SAU began as a bachelor’s degree program in 1987 and developed into a master’s degree in 1998. More than 800 students have graduated from the OT program, moving on as occupational therapists filling a critical need for highly trained health care professionals.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of occupational therapists is projected to grow 27 percent by 2024. In 2014, TIME listed occupational therapist as one of “The Five Most In-Demand Jobs Right Now,” and included occupational therapy on its “The 19 hottest jobs for 2016” list.

The OTD program will begin admitting students in August 2016 having received candidacy status from the American Council for Occupational Therapy Education. A decision on full accreditation is anticipated in April 2018. The generalist curriculum requires three years of coursework that includes fieldwork and internships, emphasizes occupational justice and occupational participation for people of all ages and abilities, and includes a capstone doctoral project.

For more information on St. Ambrose’s health science programs, call (563) 333-6000 or go to

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