When you are deciding on an educational program, one of the best strategies is to educate yourself about options. Occupational therapists could practice with a bachelor of science degree until 2007, at which time the degree requirement changed and occupational therapists were required to enter the field with either a master’s degree or professional doctorate (OTD). Now, many OT’s are wondering if they should return to school to obtain a graduate degree, and if so, which one should they pursue?
OT’s with a bachelor’s degree are usually eligible for a post-professional master’s degree without additional coursework prior to admission. The master’s degree is typically 30-36 credits and focuses on theory, research, and advanced clinical skills. Students may complete a thesis or a research project as a requirement of the master’s degree. Most post-professional OT master’s programs do not require additional clinical fieldwork.
In contrast, OT’s with a bachelor’s degree who are pursuing a doctorate often have to complete additional coursework (sometimes referred to as a “bridge”) prior to beginning doctoral classes. Credit hours vary significantly between programs (EKU’s OTD Program requires 40 credit hours beyond the master’s degree). Just like the master’s degree, doctoral coursework includes elements of theory, research, and clinical skills, however, doctoral programs may also emphasize evidence-based practice, policy, advocacy, and leadership. OTD programs usually require an applied, research-based capstone project and a practicum experience.
Whether you decide to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree, in today’s changing healthcare environment continuing your education by enrolling in a graduate degree program will benefit both you and your clients. Not only will you become more competitive in the workplace, but also you will have the skills you need to become a stronger clinician and better advocate for your clients and the profession.
By: Dr. Christine Myers
Interested in a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy?
Earn your online bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university that has been an online education leader for more than 15 years. EKU offers one of the top post professional doctor of occupational therapy programs in the nation. Our challenging doctorate degree options prepare practitioners to take on leadership roles and our flexible, online format provides students the ability to complete coursework and assignments according to their schedule.