The 2020 Guide to Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy Programs (OTD)

Helping people develop the physical and mental skills to perform daily functions is a rewarding and fundamental attribute of being an occupational therapists. For most occupational therapists, their career arc ends with a license to work in school, healthcare, or rehabilitation environments, performing as a therapist-clinician. Earning a postgraduate doctorate in occcupational therapy can accelerate your career, paving the way toward roles in healthcare administration, education, clinical leadership, and field research.

Earning an occupational therapy doctorate can transcend a practitioner in the field’s impact from a single individual to an entire community, and benefit health science programs on a greater level. Often, it can be difficult to obtain an OTD degree whilst working full-time, which slows down one’s ambition to gain their doctorate. Luckily, online doctorate in occupational therapy programs exist to help you balance the burden of a full-time job with advanced education. Graduates from online OTD programs will build the core competencies to lead occupational therapy practices, innovate within the field, promote change in health and wellness programs globally, and educate future occupational therapy clinicians.

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Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy Admissions Requirements

Each online OTD program has its own prerequisites, so you should contact your accredited institution for detailed information regarding its policies. Depending on your school, you may be required to submit some or all of the following:

  1. Application: Fill out an initial application, which you can find on the website of the accredited institution of your choice. Paper and online forms are both generally accepted.
  2. Master’s degree or higher: Graduation required from any ACOTE-accredited entry-level occupational therapy program, or graduates of a WFOT-approved program.
  3. OT Licensure: Initial certification as an occupational therapist from NBCOT is required. International applicants are eligible to apply if they have proof of certification or eligibility to practice as an occupational therapist that is equivalent to U.S OT certification and licensure and have earned an OT degree from a WFOT recognized program.
  4. Transcripts: Request transcripts in advance of the application deadline, and upload one official copy of each transcript from entry-level occupational therapy education.
  5. GPA: Minimum 3.0 GPA in an OT program, exceptions can be made with high GRE scores.
  6. Experience: Include any professional occupational therapy work experience. Some may require minimum amount of working hours.
  7. Personal statement: Write a personal statement, which is typically in the form of an essay. You may be required to submit multiple essays to fully express the intent and purpose of your application. Below are some common topics that should be mentioned in a statement.
    • Your main academic and personal interests
    • Experiences in school or work that have helped to prepare you for this course of study
    • Why you wish to pursue a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
    • Why you wish to study at the chosen OTD program
    • Your career plans and goals after you earn your OTD
  8. Resume/CV: Upload a copy of your most recent resume or curriculum vitae as part of your application.
  9. Letters of recommendation: Two letters of reference – one for academic reference from prior education experience, and a second from a reference who can attest to the quality of applicant’s professional work as an occupational therapist.
  10. Test scores: Mail in copies of your test scores. Many schools require GRE General Test scores and TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students; however, some programs do not require test scores at all.

Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy Curriculum

The curriculum and number of credits required to complete an online occupational therapy doctorate program vary widely depending on your school and specialization. However, a typical program includes courses in:

  • Health promotion and wellness in OT
  • Advanced OT sciences and practicum
  • Social Policy in healthcare
  • Program Leadership
  • Electives in research, leadership, and policy
  • Doctoral project capstone

Occupational Therapy Career Outlook

After completing an online occupational therapy doctorate program, the next step is to select the best career path in the field, being eligible for higher positions in teaching, research, consultation, clinical services, and management and policy in their chosen area of expertise. The median annual salary for an occupational therapist was $81,910 in 2016. With an OTD, graduates are eligible for higher administration and education roles, placing them closer to the 75-90th percentile for occupational therapists, earning approximately $99,300 - $119,720 annually.

Discover more about how to start a career in Occupational Therapy.