Becoming an Occupational Therapist
Initially, the entry point for occupational therapy was the bachelor’s degree; however, there was a shift to an entry-level master’s degree. Recently, there has been a trend towards an entry-level doctorate for occupational therapy. This push was done to remain in line with other healthcare professions requiring entry-level doctorates such as pharmacy and physical therapy. Despite this trend, there are currently two accepted degrees that allow individuals to practice as occupational therapists. These are the entry-level master’s degree and entry-level doctorate.
Entry-Level Master’s Degree
- Can be completed as part of a combined bachelor’s-master’s program if offered by the academic institution (About 5.5-6 total years of education)
- Can be completed after a bachelor’s degree through taking prerequisite coursework and applying to graduate school (About 6-7 total years of education)
- Academic programs focus on preparing students to be generalist practitioners
Entry-Level Doctoral Degree
- Can be completed after a bachelor’s degree through taking prerequisite coursework and applying to graduate school (About 7 total years of education)
- Academic programs focus on preparing students to be generalist practitioners as well as provide exposure to additional areas of practice including leadership, policy and program development, advocacy, and education
How to Choose?
- Consider professional aspirations: In addition to clinical practice, the entry-level doctorate expands opportunities for scholarly research and presentations, working in academia, and business ownership.
- Consider exposure during education: The entry-level doctorate provides advanced exposure to clinical practice areas through the Doctoral Capstone.
- Consider time and financial commitment: The entry-level master’s degree is traditionally shorter and less of a financial commitment.
- Consider potential salary: The entry-level doctorate increases professional opportunities, which may result in higher income as a practicing occupational therapist.
- Consider professional trends: Many healthcare professions require entry-level doctorates, and the entry-level occupational therapy doctorate remains in line with these professions.