Occupational therapists work with patients who have physical, mental, emotional and developmental disabilities. These therapists work to improve patients' living skills through treatment.
To become an occupational therapist, one must hold professional licensing and at least a master's degree in occupational therapy. The number of schools that offer doctoral programs in occupational therapy is relatively small, but a few offer such programs online. Some on-campus requirements may be included in online occupational therapy programs.
Doctor of Occupational Therapy Degree
Students learn advanced skills qualifying them for professional roles public policy addressing occupational public health concerns, as well as clinical research and education positions. Prerequisites typically include a valid occupational therapy license, minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA), personal statement of goals, transcripts, resume and letters of recommendation for entry.
These programs take approximately 3-4 years to complete, depending on how many courses are taken each semester. Some are offered entirely online, while others have on-campus requirements. A dissertation or capstone leadership project may be required for completion of the program.
To be successful in online learning, students need basic computer skills, access to a personal computer, keyboarding proficiency, a high-speed Internet connection and knowledge of school-specific software programs.
Although classes vary by school, several areas of occupational therapy are common in all online programs. OT practices, theory, and program design are some of the topics of concentration.
Evidence Based Practice for Occupational Therapy
This course examines the application and resources used in evidence-based practice (EBP). Students also learn skills in searching databases and resources for information, clinical application of evidence, developing a strategic plan and evaluation of sources.
Occupational Therapy Theory
Students examine current and historical published models of practice and occupational therapy theory in this class. The class emphasizes the implementation of interventions and treatments using basic and applied science skills.
Occupational Therapy Program Design, Evaluation and Implementation
This class explores program development using different approaches, models, procedures and needs assessment techniques. Evaluation of processes, outcomes, indicators, mapping and impact are also studied. Emphasis on program financial responsibility is studied in relation to budgeting, marketing and sources of revenue.
Career Information for Graduates
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median annual wages for occupational therapists were $84,270 as of May 2018, and the highest level of employment was in the offices of other health care practitioners. The BLS also reports 18% job growth (much faster than average) over the 2018-2028 period.
Continuing Education Information
For students who wish to pursue further education, voluntary certification is available through the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy. After successfully passing the required exam, the certification title of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) is awarded.
Online doctoral degree programs in occupational therapy are rare; however, there are small number of schools that offer online programs, with some on-campus requirements. These programs typically take 3 to 4 years to complete, and require students to hold a master's degree.