The healthcare industry is rapidly changing, and the need for professionals with expertise is constantly on the rise. One of the top careers in the sector is occupational therapy, a compassionate, rewarding, and thriving field. This line of work offers not only a good salary and future employment prospects but also high levels of job satisfaction.
Although an occupational therapy doctorate is not necessary to become a licensed occupational therapist, after a few years in the field, many professionals decide to pursue an Occupational Therapy doctoral program.
These applicants frequently want to climb into a leadership position in their industry or, after gaining some experience, want to increase their knowledge and sharpen their leadership skills in occupational science.
Graduates of occupational therapy doctoral programs can anticipate an exciting future working with young children to older people while overcoming obstacles to executing fulfilling tasks or “occupations.”
A Doctor of Occupational Therapy education encourages learning and transformative knowledge for competence in leadership, clinical reasoning and practice, advocacy, management, education, and research in line with the American Occupational Therapy Association.
Our top Online Doctor of Occupational Therapy programs were picked because of these features that all promote a high-quality and enriching learning experience overall:
- Delivered as an online or blended/hybrid doctorate program that is ideal for professionals seeking advanced education and enhanced skills in the Occupational Therapy field,
- Prepares students and candidates for the challenging field of Occupational Therapy at the research-focused or top-position level by emphasizing rigorous coursework of the most advanced principles and tools for professional practice,
- Sharpens Occupational Therapists’ learning aptitude, ensuring that they emerge with scientific analysis, management, leadership, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills,
- Features the Occupational Therapy field’s most seasoned specialists as teaching staff,
- Offers financial assistance for doctorate students and candidates that qualify, as well as a host of student guidance for navigating their doctorate and career options,
- Properly accredited, demonstrating the school’s adherence to Occupational Therapy doctorate academic standards.
To learn about the specific metrics we use in our rankings, please read our Methodology.
The 10 Best Online Doctor of Occupational Therapy Programs
Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Boston University offers a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree that is available online. The program is one of the best accelerated OTD online programs that require students to complete 33 credits that take 18 months to complete for full-time study. Candidates include overseas professionals with equivalence as well as occupational therapists who are certified by the NBCOT.
Candidates must have passed the NBCOT certification test to be considered. International applicants must have completed an accredited occupational therapy program (or WFOT-approved) and have fulfilled all prerequisites for licensure in their home country.
BU’s online Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is for occupational therapists in the field who have earned a professional degree. The program also has a capstone project and a doctorate project requirements.
A two-day trip to the Boston University campus in person and a 45-minute oral presentation make up the capstone experience. Students have the opportunity to contribute novel research to the field of occupational therapy through their doctoral projects.
Doctor of Occupational Therapy (Post-Professional)
Columbia University offers an online Doctor of Occupational (OTD post-professional) degree that is available online. A minimum of 36 points beyond the master’s degree in occupational therapy must be satisfactorily completed to receive the Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree.
Additional credits must include two capstone projects, a publication-ready research paper, a clinical portfolio, and the use of a clinical residency toward evidence-based practice.
Applicants must have a master’s degree in occupational therapy from an accredited institution. You may also apply if you are finishing up your entry-level master’s degree from an OT program duly approved.
The OTD curriculum mainly relies on clinical experience. Each student must choose a clinical setting as their “clinical residency.” Usually, this is where one works. Assignments, including the clinical research project, can be completed with clients and during working hours as long as your site approves.
Occupational Therapy Doctorate (Post Professional Doctorate)
Touro University offers an online Occupational Therapy Post Professional doctorate degree that is available online. The online OTD program requires students to complete 36 credits in a year or less. Since the program is composed of practitioners, the program is designed to be flexible, offering both synchronous and asynchronous course content.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in occupational therapy. Those who are yet to obtain an occupational therapy license can also apply to the program. By the second term, non-licensed students must have taken the certification exam and secured employment as occupational therapists.
TU’s online OTD program uses a lockstep course scheduling, which means that students concentrate on their abilities in the first two semesters and didactic coursework. Students will develop their leadership abilities and collaborate closely with a faculty mentor on the implementation of their program for their doctoral capstone project over the program’s last two terms.
Fairleigh Dickinson University
Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Fairleigh Dickinson University offers a Doctor of Occupational Therapy that is available online. Students are required to complete 45 credits, including 30 core and 15 prerequisite courses that can be completed in 14 months.
It is the first post-professional occupational therapy doctoral program in New Jersey, allowing students to tailor their education by choosing from the program’s two areas of specialization: education and management/leadership.
All applicants must hold an occupational therapy bachelor’s or master’s degree and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 to be admitted to the post-professional online occupational therapy doctoral program.
While classes are conducted online, students must attend two on-campus activities to complete the OTD curriculum. These exclusive on-campus opportunities will allow students to network with industry experts, participate in group service and research initiatives, and present their work to audiences of professionals.
Indiana University Bloomington
Occupational Therapy Post-Professional Doctorate
Indiana University Bloomington offers an Occupational Therapy Post-Professional Doctorate degree that is available online. Students must complete a curriculum that spans 9 academic semesters or 36 months as part of the OTD program. And since this program is designed for practicing occupational therapists, the degree is flexible and fully customizable.
Applicants are required to have a 3.2 on a 4.0 GPA scale in all undergraduate and graduate coursework. The university, however, does not admit candidates who have previously graduated from any occupational therapy program in the United States.
The IU Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) is a student-run group that promotes occupational therapy at IUPUI and in the Indianapolis community by educating people about it and advocating for it. SOTA members participate in civic involvement, service-learning initiatives, and speaking out for the OT profession.
University of Utah
Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
The University of Utah offers an Occupational Therapy Doctorate online. At a pace of six credits per semester, students can anticipate finishing the major-specific OTD courses in six to ten semesters.
The curriculum is made to help working occupational therapists develop into clinical scholars who will continue to independently practice occupational therapy within the bounds of their license, work well with others to create cutting-edge programs and contribute to the body of research that informs practice.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree is required for admission to the OTD program, and applicants must have worked for at least two years. A master’s degree holder must successfully finish the 36-credit program, while bachelor’s degree holders must complete 24 credits of coursework to get ready for the doctorate curriculum.
The University of Utah participates in student-exchange programs, which allow students to travel abroad for clinical practicums. WRGP assists in placing students in various graduate programs that are all created to meet the West’s educational, social, and economic needs as part of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Student Exchange Program.
Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Quinnipiac University offers a Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Occupational Therapy that is available in a hybrid learning format. Students are required to complete 115 credits, including 4 components that can be completed in 3 full-time years.
There are two paths available to complete this program: Innovations and Emerging Issues in Practice and Leadership, one for students with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and the other for those with a master’s degree in OT.
Candidates should have a GPA of 3.0, and an undergraduate or graduate degree in occupational therapy or other closely related degrees. Candidates must also be employed as occupational therapists and hold a board certification in the field.
Graduates from Quinnipiac’s OTD are renowned as innovative, caring, inclusive, and qualified occupational therapists. The school aims for excellence and works to ensure that its students receive an education that meets or exceeds the program’s learning outcomes.
Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
Temple University offers a hybrid Doctorate in Occupational Therapy degree program. Students learn about advanced occupational therapy practices by completing 21 credits and 2-3 on-campus meetings. Because this degree is intended for working occupational therapists with a master’s degree, the program is flexible and fully customizable.
Graduate students must have a 3.0 GPA, and an occupational therapy master’s degree. Those with GPAs under 3.0 should submit their GRE results. Additionally, candidates must be registered occupational therapists in their state.
In addition to the occupational therapy online courses, you will complete four weeks of mentored fieldwork with mentors in the occupational therapy profession.
Additionally, you will conduct a doctorate capstone project under the supervision of a faculty mentor in which you will concentrate on a particular clinical issue using research techniques and evidence-based practice.
Each semester, a new component of the doctoral project is established, and your final semester is when the project is implemented and undergoes critical analysis.
Nova Southeastern University
Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy
Nova Southeastern University offers a Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree that is available online. Students are required to complete 39-credit hours that are divided into four main parts. This program is meant to accommodate working people who want to enhance their professions and further their education but need flexible scheduling.
Applicants must be eligible to practice occupational therapy within a year of beginning the program and hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in OT or other closely-related fields. International students can also apply to the program with proof of successful completion of an OT educational program approved by WFOT and the academic equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
Students enrolled in the doctor of the occupational therapy program range from goal-oriented people who have recently earned their master’s to very seasoned practitioners who offer their expertise in engaging online learning environments.
Regardless of professional status, students will gain clinical skills necessary to improve their capacity to satisfy the variety of occupational needs in modern society.
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Doctor of Occupational Therapy
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences delivers the Occupational Therapy online doctorate as a hybrid program. The occupational therapy degree allows students to fully customize their curriculum and schedule by choosing between Residential OTD or Flex OTD. Both tracks require students to complete 117 credit hours and online lectures + lab; however, Flex OTD takes longer than the Residential OTD.
Since this is an entry-level online doctorate, students with a bachelor’s degree from an approved university can apply. Students still in an undergraduate degree can start their application for the program as they finish the prerequisite curriculum.
The University of St. Augustine houses one of the most advanced technologies used in health professions, including 3D printers, BTE Primus motion analysis systems, driving simulations, Anatomage Tables, Double robots, and more.
You’ll practice using this cutting-edge technology to prepare you to offer the greatest health promotion and patient care.
Common Courses in Doctor Occupational Therapy
Justice in Health and Healthcare
This course teaches students the definition of justice, theories of justice, common contemporary challenges, and chances to affect social change. Students consider their own sentiments and opinions about societal concerns and questions of justice within specific demographics.
The course goes into greater detail on health inequities and occupational therapy’s contribution to population-wide health issues.
Occupational Therapy Practice Foundations
This course examines occupational therapy and the changing theories and models that give occupational therapists the tools they need to carry out real-world, theoretically-sound interventions.
Students will study the significance and complexity of occupation and participate in learning opportunities.
Program Development for Occupational Therapy
The development of occupational therapy practice programs is the main topic of this course. Students create ideas that address social needs and occupational risk factors in areas that occupational therapy has historically underserved using evidence and theoretical approaches.
A plan for requirements analysis, a business plan, both long- and short-term goals and objectives, activities, and a timeframe are all included in the program development course.
Health, Wellness, and Occupation
Clinical theory, guiding concepts, regulations, methods, and initiatives related to health and wellness that support career-based programs are covered in this course. Programs that address current public health issues and society’s occupational demands are prioritized.
Emerging Trends In Occupational Therapy Practice
Students have the chance to investigate current, forthcoming, and future developments in OT practice in this course. Students will use the most recent research and policy information to analyze and debate future changes in OT practice, including new practice areas and a focus on community and population health, engagement, and well-being.
Anatomical Structure And Function For Human Performance
This course uses a regional approach to examine human anatomy in-depth. It will provide a foundation for human development and structure essential to clinical considerations of function, diagnosis, trauma, and disease. It will also teach anatomical and medical terminology.
Essential Skills For Evidence-Based Practice
Students lay the groundwork for lifelong learning and evidence-based clinical practice through the critical analysis and interpretation of professional, scientific literature. Evaluation of case study, quantitative, and qualitative research are all covered.
Students gain knowledge of study design components, statistical analysis, and methods for clinically applicable data interpretation. They also gain competence in obtaining, critically evaluating, and incorporating information into clinical decision-making.
Human Movement To Support Occupational Performance
This course applies biomechanical concepts to work performance. The mechanical and anatomical underpinnings of human movement are studied in biomechanics. Ideas from physics (mechanics), anatomy, and physiology are combined in an interdisciplinary manner.
This course also covers the tissue biomechanical characteristics necessary for movement creation.
Typical Coursework for a Doctor of Occupational Therapy Degree
A doctor of occupational therapy degree can often be earned after completing an average of 100 credits for entry-level OTDs and 30 credits for post-professional OTDs in an average of 2.5 years, depending on the institution and how your previous credits were transferred.
Students must complete all program-specific requirements, including all courses, and uphold the program’s performance criteria.
Components of an OTD curriculum include:
- Didactic coursework
- Fieldwork experience
- OTD capstone or project
One of the main types of curriculum OTD students receive is didactic. You can include it as a module in your online coursework. It offers text, videos, and audio that support what was covered in class. Before enrolling in additional courses or moving on to the fieldwork activities, students must satisfactorily finish all didactic coursework.
Other OTD coursework may include
- taking a CPR certification course (recognized by the American Heart Association),
- taking part in interprofessional co-curricular activities,
- volunteering in the community, and
- belonging to a professional occupational therapy association.
The didactic coursework portion of the curriculum must adhere to these requirements. When these prerequisites aren’t met, a student frequently can’t move on to fieldwork.
The second step is fieldwork or clinical experience, which typically consists of two fieldwork or clinical positions. The student’s performance, judgment, and attitude will be determined by the on-site supervisor utilizing the AOTA Fieldwork Performance Evaluation.
As the American Occupational Therapy Association suggested, most fieldwork experiences are assessed on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.
After fieldwork or clinical experience, students will participate in a doctorate capstone or project event to see if they are prepared to receive the OTD after completing their graduate studies.
This coursework will rate the overall student performance from the occupational therapy curriculum. Students will collaborate with a selected site mentor to assess how well they performed there.
Career Pathways for a Doctor of Occupational Therapy Degree
A doctorate in occupational therapy opens doors to various careers, depending on your chosen specialty during your studies. The most common career path OTD graduates take include:
Occupational therapists are medical specialists that treat patients of all ages with a variety of medical conditions. They strive to make environments and tasks more accommodating so that people with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities can live better.
Occupational therapists work in various clinics, hospitals, and nursing homes. These specialists frequently operate in assisted living, a form of long-term care offering accommodation, assistance, and healthcare as required.
A rehabilitation specialist aids individuals with physical or mental impairments to readjust to independent everyday functioning. Rehabilitation specialists coordinate the client’s needs with the care they will receive. Clients are also taught practical skills in this position, enabling them to work, attend school, and contribute positively to society.
Colleges and universities employ postsecondary instructors. They may also research, write articles for scholarly journals, and review the work of other academics in addition to teaching. Some postsecondary teachers mentor graduate students. Many occupational therapy doctorate graduates go on to work in postsecondary education.
Gerontology specialists assist elderly people in recovering and overcoming the medical challenges of getting older. Professionals in this field often research to identify effective treatments for social, emotional, mental, and physical issues.
Hospitals and nursing homes might employ them. Gerontologists may also work in residential retirement communities, assisting the elderly in meeting their physical and emotional requirements. They often plan events and activities for senior citizens in locations like senior neighborhood centers.
Doctors with specialized training in treating children’s health issues are pediatric specialists. These diseases might include everything from allergies to developmental problems to everyday things like skin conditions. These experts try to not only identify an issue that solely affects kids but also stop it from becoming a problem later in their lives.
Financing Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
The cost of a doctorate in occupational therapy varies on several factors, such as residency status and per-credit cost. Financing one is not easy, especially if you’re a working student with a family to support. Luckily, there are several ways you can fund your doctorate journey.
The first thing you need to do is contact the financial aid office of your university or college. Financial aid counselors are trained to provide you with this information. You should also finish or make an educated guess at your federal income taxes from the preceding year. You will need this information for the financial aid forms required for grant and loan applications.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid must be completed. All federal student aid programs, along with other numerous state and institutional help programs, require the FAFSA. The school where you have made an admissions application is where you should next send the FAFSA.
Students, however, may need to research because financial help is frequently distributed by academic departments or the specific graduate program rather than a central financial aid office at many universities. OTD students should get assistance from a graduate admissions representative or someone connected to the program in sorting through their possibilities.
Applying for funding as early as feasible is advised by experts to guarantee access to the entire purse.
Don’t forget to search the internet for potential sources of financial help that your graduate university does not cover. Thousands of scholarships are available each year, so research may occasionally reveal more choices. Keep track of all application requirements and application deadlines.
Some of the best private scholarships for OTD students include:
- OccupationalTherapy.com Scholarship
- AMBUCS Scholarship
- Advanced Travel Therapy Scholarship
- HIE Help Center Scholarship
- Chicago Occupational Therapy Scholarship
- Dr. Gary Kielhofner Doctoral Research Scholarship
- AOTF Scholarships
Professional Organizations in Occupational Therapy
The gatherings of professional organizations are among the highlights of academic life. You have access to significant networks and professional resources. You can even have more funding opportunities.
Some of the top professional organizations in occupational therapy include:
- American Occupational Therapy Association
- American Occupational Therapy Foundation
- American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT)
- American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
- American Therapeutic Recreation Association
- Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information & Exchange
- Massachusetts Association for Occupational Therapy
Skills Required for Doctorate in Occupational Therapy
Medical, Neurological, and Anatomical Expertise
Anatomy classes are required for occupational therapy students since they teach you how physical issues relate to the body’s functionality. You must be well-versed in the physical and neurological requirements of both children and older adults and possess a solid foundation in neurological disorders to succeed as an occupational therapy student and OT.
An excellent occupational therapist is a sharp observer who pays close attention to their patients to provide the finest care. In addition to what patients say, you should also pay attention to what they don’t say. For instance, a patient can claim they aren’t in pain, but you might watch them flinch or strain if they move a certain way.
Empathy and Compassion
Given that you’ll be seeing and assisting patients who may be experiencing physical, mental, and emotional difficulties, occupational therapy is a profession best suited for those with solid senses of compassion and empathy.
These patients want an occupational therapist who can be genuinely kind and sympathetic toward them and help them feel welcomed and accepted without passing judgment or being critical.
Individualized treatment programs and recovery schedules must be developed for each patient by occupational therapists. This implies that professionals may need problem-solving abilities to handle their patients’ specific issues or physical challenges to succeed in this capacity.
To develop successful solutions, occupational therapists may consider the medical histories of their patients and their job or home surroundings.
No matter their field of study, all students need to be organized, but occupational therapy students must focus mainly on developing this skill. Your patients count on you as an occupational therapist to give them your undivided attention. Only if you have your documents and treatment plans in place will you be able to do this.
You never know what your daily schedule is as an occupational therapist. Appointments can be changed or canceled by clients. It’s a job for those who can handle change and be ready for ambiguity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Doctorate required to become an Occupational Therapist?
To practice as an occupational therapy assistant in the United States, you must complete an associate’s degree program. By 2027, all Master of Occupational Therapy programs must have attained doctoral status, according to a directive by the Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
How many years does it take to become an Occupational Therapist?
You must complete an undergraduate and graduate degree program and the necessary licensing examinations to become an occupational therapist. Six to seven years in school are what you may anticipate, divided into four years for a bachelor’s degree and three to six for a master’s and doctorate (if you are attending school full-time)
What’s the typical timeline of a Doctor of Occupational Therapy online program?
Post-professional OTDs generally take 2 years to complete. However, entry-level OTDs range from 3-5 years. Those for a doctorate in occupational therapy at the entry level include higher requirements than programs for professionals.
Can you earn an Occupational Therapy Doctorate entirely online?
No. Orientation meetings, which are often held at the start of each term or semester, are the only on-campus requirements for most post-professional programs, even though many offer 100% online education.
Additionally, those choosing entry-level programs will discover that, in most situations, a sizable portion of their curriculum will be finished on campus. Students in entry-level programs must also complete on-site internships, practicums, and/or fieldwork.
Can OTD be called Doctor?
No, an occupational therapist (OT) is not a medical professional. Occupational therapists (OTs) are professionals with bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees.
Occupational therapists assist people who are disabled, unwell, have mental health issues, or have been harmed in any way. They employ therapy techniques and assistive technologies to aid their patients in acquiring or regaining the abilities they require to carry out daily chores.
An entry-level occupational therapist’s highest academic preparation is the Doctor of Occupational Therapy, a professional (or clinical) doctorate. This program’s preparation goes beyond what is required for a master’s degree by providing evidence-based practice and preparing students for professional development.
There are primarily two doctoral programs in occupational therapy. Entry-level OTDs can give students the foundational knowledge and experience they need to become certified and licensed occupational therapists. Post-professional doctorates in occupational therapy programs are designed for licensed occupational therapists looking to gain advanced knowledge in specialty practice.
The duration of the doctoral program might range from three to four years. Although you can apply for an OTD right away after receiving your occupational therapy bachelor’s degree, admittance to doctoral-level institutions is extremely hard, and most institutions require a master’s degree.