Online Occupational Therapy Programs may appeal to busy adult learners who want to prepare for licensure as Occupational Therapists. To obtain a license, students must graduate from an accredited OT program and complete their fieldwork requirements. Next, they must apply for and pass the NBCOT® Certification Examination.i After this, an individual may apply for a state-issued license and pay a fee in the state or jurisdiction in which he or she wishes to practice.
One of the reasons to consider online Occupational Therapy programs is that in most cases, students complete the same credits as the on-campus program from anywhere in the world. This work-friendly setup generally provides significant flexibility. Also, some schools have students finish their assignments on their own time in preparation for live online classes. In these sessions, one has the chance to study with faculty and fellow classmates. Plus, the same format may be used to create online office hours. As such, students who pursue their occupational therapy degree online may feel they are able to set their own pace, stay motivated, and foster some important connections.
DID YOU KNOW?
71 % of Staff Occupational Therapists hold masters degrees, 5% a professional degree.ii
Online occupational therapy programs are offered at the masters and doctoral levels. Either of these degrees are considered by the American Occupational Therapy Association as the entry-level degree norms for practice as an occupational therapist.
That said, most individuals enter the field with a masters degree in occupational therapy.iii Those who want to refine their clinical area of expertise (e.g. pediatric occupational therapy) or pursue a career in research and academia might continue on
to a PhD or clinical doctorate. ii
Students who apply to online occupational therapy schools usually need to have earned their bachelors degree from a regionally accredited college. While there are online OT programs for students with a background in occupational therapy, other programs are for students with any major. These online occupational therapy programs may require students to have competed coursework in human anatomy, abnormal psychology, sociology, and statistics.
Also, those who apply to an occupational therapy online program may have to show a specific cumulative GPA, furnish reference letters, and write a personal essay. By contrast, students who apply to a post-professional (Doctor of Occupational Therapy) online program are usually occupational therapists who have earned their masters degree.
The average full-time student may be able to complete an entry-level masters degree in occupational therapy online in about two and a half to three years. ii Post-masters, it may take a full-time student about three years to complete their Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD).ii In addition, some online occupational therapy schools offer two-tiered degrees. For example, a dual-degree program in which the student earns a bachelors degree and a masters degree in about 5 years. Or, an MS/OTD in which students flow from their masters to a clinical doctorate in about 3 years.
Most entry-level masters in Occupational Therapy degree programs are available in partially online formats. Students in these programs may meet on evenings and/or weekends as well as take some self-directed, online courses through distance education. As a result, students might feel they benefit from the ability to schedule and pace themselves and to interact with peers and faculty.
Students in online masters in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) programs are typically required to take a series of courses and complete two levels of fieldwork. Also, some universities place an emphasis on collaboration through inter-professional programs. For instance, they might meet with Design students to create an assistive device or adaptive clothing. Then, while off-campus, they might complete other projects through their school’s online platform.
Some online MSOT programs may entail the completion of about 72 credit hours which includes fieldwork as well. While it is likely that course names vary, a generalized sample is listed below.
Students who want to develop the skills and know how to work with those with physical disabilities might consider an online Master of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services. Applicants are generally required to have a bachelors degree in any major from an accredited institution as well as meet school-specific requirements.
|OT Online Programs||Degree Awarded||Format|
|Masters in Occupational Therapy||MSOT||Online|
|Master of Science in Assistive Technology Studies and Human Services||M.S.||Online|
|Doctorate Occupational Therapy Doctorate||OTD||Online|
|Doctor of Health Science||D.H.S.||Online|
|Master of Health Science||M.H.S.||Online|
Some programs may require completion of 30 course credits, a capstone project, and a brief residency. While course topics may vary, a sample of topics follow.
There are two types of Doctorate in Occupational Therapy programs that students may find in online or mostly online formats. These are the Doctor of Occupational Therapy (ODT) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Occupational Therapy (PhD). Both programs are generally designed for occupational therapists that also have an earned master's degree. However, some schools may offer a Bachelor to OTD program for experienced occupational therapists who have earned a Bachelors in Occupational Therapy but not a masters.
An online Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) is a post-professional non-research-based doctorate in occupational therapy. It is intended to establish advanced clinical expertise and leadership in the practice of occupational therapy.
In some universities, an OTD is a 36-credit program in which students may be exposed to the latest tools and clinical methods. Also, OTD programs often help candidates enhance their clinical and analytical skills, apply evidence to practice, and build a professional portfolio. The professional portfolio is a student-directed terminal project. It usually includes data that documents a student’s theory and competency, along with scientific evidence that supports their practice.
An online PhD in Occupational Therapy program may provide current occupational therapists with the knowledge and skills to pursue a career as researchers, scholars, and educators.iv Unlike the OTD which is a clinical, practice-oriented doctorate for the advanced clinician, the PhD is research-focused.
In some universities, the PhD in Occupational Therapy is a 42- to 52-credit program in which students take advanced coursework and complete a dissertation.
The course of study found in online occupational therapy graduate programs may enable graduates to pursue a career path that empowers individuals to overcome or adapt to dysfunction. Occupational Therapists may work with injured, ill, autistic, or disabled patients to help them manage their daily activities. OTs are employed in hospitals, physicians’ offices, schools, nursing care facilities, and home healthcare services.ii As the population ages, demand for OTs is, and will continue to be, on the rise over the next few years.ii
Universities that offer Online Occupational Therapy Programs may be regionally accredited. Also, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) is recognized as the approval agency for occupational therapy education by both the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
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[i] aota.org/Advocacy-Policy/State-Policy/Licensure/How-To.aspx |[ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1122.00 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
SOURCES: [i] aota.org/Advocacy-Policy/State-Policy/Licensure/How-To.aspx |[ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1122.00 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm