Admission into the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program is a two-step process:
- Candidates are eligible to enter the general education phase of the OTA program as “OTA students” by meeting South University’s General Undergraduate Admission Requirements.
- Candidates must complete prerequisite coursework and meet all requirements outlined below to be eligible for admission to the professional phase of the OTA program.
Students may transfer prerequisite courses into the program before entering the professional phase if approved by the registrar. The coursework that is transferred to South University must permit the student to obtain a 2.85 CGPA by the time the student applies for admission into the OTA professional phase. Students who transfer coursework into South University but cannot mathematically attain a CGPA of 2.85 by the time they would enter the professional phase will not be admitted to the OTA program.
Transfer credit will not be accepted for South University courses with an OTA prefix.
Note: This policy does not apply to South University OTA students (in good standing) transferring between campuses.
Admission Requirements for the Professional Phase of the Occupational Therapy Assistant Program
Applicants must apply for admission into the professional phase of the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program. Applicants must submit a complete application packet and meet all admission requirements as stated below to enter the ranking process. The professional phase slots will be filled by applicants with the greatest academic potential for success as determined by the ranking process. Applicants with the highest numerical ranking will be admitted to the professional phase of the program.
The criteria to determine admission to the OTA program include:
- Application must be submitted seven (7) weeks prior to the start of the professional phase of the program.
- Applicants must meet the Essential Functions of the OTA program.
- Applicants must have a minimum grade of ‘C’ or above in all prerequisites, except for the following course, in which students must achieve a minimum grade of ‘B’ or above: OTA1003 Introduction to Occupational Therapy Assistant. (OTA1001 Introduction to Occupational Therapy is an acceptable substitution.)
- Applicants must achieve a minimum CGPA of 2.85 or greater in prerequisite coursework. All prerequisite coursework must be successfully completed prior to entry into the Professional Phase of the OTA program.
Applicants must have successfully completed the following courses in the past seven years from the intended start date of the Professional Phase of the OTA program: Medical Terminology, Anatomy and Physiology I (lecture and lab) and Anatomy and Physiology II (lecture and lab). Applicants must have successfully completed OTA1003 Introduction to Occupational Therapy Assistant in the past two years from the intended start of the Professional Phase of the OTA Program. (OTA1001 Introduction to Occupational Therapy is an acceptable substitution.)
Ranking of Applicants for Admission into the Professional OTA Curriculum will be based upon the following criteria:
- Cumulative GPA in required prerequisite coursework (2.85 or greater required).
- Science GPA (2.0 or greater required). Science coursework will not be accepted if greater than 7 years old.
- AHS1001 Medical Terminology
- BIO1011 Anatomy and Physiology I
- BIO1012 Anatomy and Physiology I Lab
- BIO1013 Anatomy and Physiology II
- BIO1014 Anatomy and Physiology II Lab
NOTE: If a qualified student is not accepted or if a student is unable to matriculate into the Professional OTA Curriculum, they may use that same application to apply into the next cohort on that same campus within one year from the date of application submission. After that time, the student must apply as a new student.
Essential Functions for the OTA Program
The following are considered to be essential functions related to the profession of occupational therapy to be successful in the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program and in future employment as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA).
It is the responsibility of the OTA Program at South University to inform students considering a career as a COTA about the essential functions required both in the academic program and in the workforce. Factors and requirements will vary, depending on the specific area of practice and work setting.
Students must demonstrate safe and continuous application of these essential functions or of any and all others that are integral to the success of the OTA student and future occupational therapy practitioner. Students will display professional behaviors, assess their own performance with respect to the behaviors, and be ready to make behavioral changes as directed by academic and clinical faculty.
In addition, the OTA Progressions Committee may become involved in issues related to a student's performance of the essential functions. The OTA Progressions Committee may make recommendations to the OTA Program Director that result in, but are not limited to, a lower course grade, the creation of a remediation plan, exclusion from a course, dismissal from a Level I or Level II Fieldwork experience, professional behavior probation or dismissal from the OTA program and/or South University.
Both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C.A. Section 794, and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination against "otherwise qualified" persons with a disability. South University provides accommodations to qualified students with disabilities. The Disability Services office assists qualified students with disabilities in acquiring reasonable and appropriate accommodations.
All students must demonstrate competency in the following essential functions related to the profession of occupational therapy:
Adaptation: The ability to respond with flexibility to change or difference.
Emotional Stability: The ability to control one's own emotions, differentiate between different emotions and identify each appropriately; use emotions to guide thinking and direct behavior.
Interpersonal Skills: The ability to interact effectively with others.
Safety: Maintain the well-being of others in compliance with policies and procedures.
Ethics: The ability to distinguish between right and wrong, to comply with authority and with policies and procedures.
Professional Behavior and Appearance: The ability to adjust behavior and appearance in response to given circumstances.
Critical Thinking: The ability to define and resolve issues by asking questions, gathering and analyzing information.
Time Management: The ability to identify and prioritize tasks to be accomplished and maintain work pace appropriate to given work load.
Math, Reading Comprehension: The ability to apply basic math functions, calculate time and simple measurements; comprehend written words.
Perception: The ability to be aware of things in relation to others and to discriminate between those relationships.
Verbal: The ability to speak using the English language, clearly communicating and clarifying information.
Written: The ability to communicate legibly and concisely in English, using proper grammar, punctuation, spelling, style and formatting.
Listening, Comprehending, Responding: The ability to hear, understand and respond appropriately to what was communicated.
Hearing: The auditory ability to detect sound within 10 feet away, sufficient to monitor clients and interact with others.
Touch: The ability to come into physical contact with something and perceive that it is there.
Vision: The ability to look at and see something or someone close-up and from a distance greater than 20 feet, noting verbal and nonverbal postures or behaviors.
Fine motor dexterity: The ability to coordinate small muscle groups during movement, usually involving coordination between the hands, fingers and eyes to manipulate small objects.
Gross motor skills: The ability to coordinate large muscle groups to move and to stabilize the head, trunk, arms and legs to reach, lift, push, pull, stand, balance, walk, run, bend, kneel and crouch; possess minimum grip strength of 30 pounds in one or both hands, and the ability to stand up to 30 minutes at a time, push up to 250 pounds and lift/transfer up to 250 pounds.
Mobility: The ability to independently move easily from point A to point B.
Endurance: The ability to exert self and remain active for a long period of time (e.g., 45 minutes); stamina.
Working conditions: The ability to recognize, avoid and prevent safety and health hazards in the work setting.
For additional admissions information please see the admissions section here.
ACOTE’s Disclosure Statement regarding Probationary Accreditation Action:
The Occupational Therapy Assistant program at South University, Richmond, Virginia Beach, and Tampa are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE's telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA, and its web address is
Graduates of the program will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapy assistant administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA). 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. More information on ACOTE may be obtained at
The occupational therapy assistant program at South University-Columbia, Columbia, South Carolina, was placed on Probationary Accreditation effective April 22, 2023, because the area of noncompliance related to 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate) is so serious that the capability of the program to provide acceptable educational experiences for the students is threatened. In addition, based on review of the 2023 Annual Report, ACOTE determined that the program was in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes).
ACOTE voted to grant the program’s request to extend the time frame for compliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 until August 2024.
At its August 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the Plan of Correction and Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program returned to compliance with 2018 OTA Standard A.4.2 (published program outcomes). However, the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.
On October 9-10, 2023, ACOTE conducted a fact-finding visit of the program to further assess compliance with the Standards.
At its December 2023 meeting, ACOTE reviewed the results of the fact-finding visit and the Progress Report submitted by the occupational therapy assistant program and determined that the program remains in noncompliance with 2018 Standard A.6.4 (certification exam pass rate). In addition, based on review of the results of the fact-finding visit, ACOTE determined that the program is in noncompliance with 2018 Standards A.1.5 (notification requirements), A.2.2 (faculty composition), A.2.3 (faculty qualifications), A.2.9 (sufficient faculty), A.2.12 (adequate space), A.2.15 (distance education), A.3.7 (faculty advising), A.4.1 (program publications), A.4.2 (published program outcomes), A.5.5 (curriculum design), A.5.7 (written syllabi and assessment strategies), A.6.1 (strategic plan), A.6.2 (professional development plans), A.6.3 (program evaluation), and course content (B.4.4 and B.4.18). The program’s status remains Probationary Accreditation.
The program has been requested to submit a Plan of Correction and Progress Report to return the program to full compliance with the Standards within the mandated time period for correction.