Occupational therapists will play a key role in the healthcare sphere over the next few decades. The best online doctorates in occupational therapy are perfect for occupational therapists who want to start their own practices or attain more managerial positions at their current jobs.
Such an advance comes with an excellent salary increase and the skills and ability to develop one’s own treatments and oversee patient care in a more direct, administrative way.
What is a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy Degree?
A doctorate in occupational therapy continues the education that one would have received from a master’s program. While a master’s program focuses on more practical skills relating to the career field of occupational therapy, doctorate programs emphasize more theoretical therapy knowledge along with leadership-oriented skills, public health and policy understanding, and business and management skills.
Put simply, these programs prepare occupational therapists to begin their own practices or rise to leadership or managerial positions at their current practice. As such, the programs focus not just on occupational therapy but also on classes incorporating business and management material.
To enter into a doctorate program for occupational therapy, students must typically have already completed a master’s program in the same field. In addition, many doctoral programs require that applicants have some work experience in the occupational therapy field.
Some programs require high GPAs or other academic prerequisites; most programs only have a few seats for each semester or year, so competition is typically quite high. In addition, many programs require several letters of recommendation or references from one’s peers or previous instructors.
Careers for Occupational Therapy Majors
Occupational therapists treat various kinds of patients who have disabilities for persistent injuries and illnesses through everyday therapy. This therapy can include physical activities or mental practices. It may also incorporate lifestyle changes that reach into every aspect of a patient’s life, including diet, relationships, and profession.
Those with doctoral degrees in this field will typically rise into a more managerial position at their current practice or begin their own practice. While they may still see many patients, especially at the beginning of their doctoral career, people with occupational therapists will eventually handle more of the administrative responsibilities of their practice of employment.
Doctoral occupational therapists may also hire other occupational therapists to see the majority of their clients or execute their prescriptions. In these cases, the doctoral occupational therapist will see each patient individually and develop a program or treatment for them that will be handled via other therapists.
Occupational Therapy Salary Potential
Occupational therapists have a high salary potential, and this cap grows when one acquires a doctoral degree. Standard occupational therapists have a median annual salary of about $84,000 per year. They also have a high job growth rate of about 18 percent, which is faster than the national average.
Occupational therapists who hold a doctoral degree can have much higher salaries with an upper limit of about $120,000 a year. This salary increase reflects the greater responsibilities that a doctoral therapist holds and their advanced expertise in the occupational therapy field.
Of course, the exact salaries for doctoral occupational therapists can vary greatly depending on how busy their practice is and how many patients they see. More successful therapists will receive more patients and make more money.
What is the Best Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy?
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40% Potential Salary After Graduation: Average mid-career salary of school alumni
30% Institutional Accreditation: Regional and National Accreditation for the 2019-2020 school year
30% Overall Degree Affordability: Average cost of undergraduate and graduate tuition per school
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The University of Utah is a well-known school offering plenty of stellar programs. The online doctorate program in occupational therapy is a standout, and it’s the best offered by any college in the U.S. UU requires applicants to have at least two years of prior experience as an occupational therapist, but this can potentially be waived if the student is a recent graduate and has demonstrated exceptional academic performance in their years earning previous degrees.
UU’s online curriculum is a great choice for professionals seeking a high-quality education without having to attend a physical school; taking courses online is well-suited to occupational therapists who have already begun a career.
Certification from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy is required to be considered for acceptance into UU’s top-notch doctorate program. Application deadlines are in April, November, and March, for the fall, spring, and summer terms, respectively.
The University of Kansas offers one of the best online occupational therapy doctoral programs in the U.S. This degree is designed for professionals already working in the occupational therapy field who want to give their credentials and knowledge a significant boost.
Prior work experience is not necessarily required for admission to the program, but KU does require proof of current licensure to practice occupational therapy. A background check, as well as being able to satisfy KU’s high technical standards, is also required for admission.
Tuition is $421.25 per credit hour, and 36 credit hours are required to complete the degree. All of these hours are readily available from KU online, as this is an all-encompassing online degree that will help current occupational therapists gain an increased understanding of the field.
The University of Wisconsin’s post-professional occupational therapy doctoral program aims to help students and professionals become visionary leaders and experts in their field. The program is mainly designed to help currently practicing therapists gain the leadership skills and practical training they need to transform the practice of occupational therapy around the globe.
Graduates with this degree from UW have the option to enter a number of exciting and groundbreaking careers, such as becoming a health service manager, one of the fastest-growing careers in the field. According to UW, occupational therapy needs more forward-thinking, entrepreneurial types, and that’s exactly what the college prepares students to be.
Students who attend UW’s part-time online doctoral program will have the chance to work with knowledgeable faculty, and UW provides one of the best online educational experiences in the country. As a part-time program, the UW experience is perfectly suited to occupational therapists who are already working and don’t have the time to attend classes in person.
A historic school founded in 1866, Towson University spares no expense when it comes to its online doctorate program in occupational therapy. In line with most other schools, TU’s program caters to current professionals looking for a rewarding and convenient online program to boost their skillset.
The admission requirements are fairly rigorous; students must hold a master’s degree from an accredited university and an overall GPA of at least 3.25 in their graduate coursework. A certificate and license to practice occupational therapy are also required.
Courses are offered year-round, making this degree perfect for professionals with tight schedules. Course content at TU aligns with Board Certification requirements, so students know they are receiving an extremely high-quality education with this online program.
A mid-sized, now-coed university in Texas known for its excellent online programs, a doctorate in occupational therapy from Texas Woman’s University is one of the best post-professional educational experiences a graduate can have.
A total of 33 credit hours are required for completion of this degree. The core courses focus mainly on occupational therapy, research-based practices, and mentored professional development.
For priority consideration, students should apply before April 15, if they are interested in taking classes during the summer or fall terms. Similar to the requirements of many other colleges offering this degree, TWU requires applicants to hold a registration or license as an occupational therapist and a master’s degree from an accredited university.
Indiana University is a school well-known for many of its excellent programs and successful alumni. It should be no surprise, then, that IU’s online doctorate in occupational therapy program is one of the best in the nation.
Students complete 30 credits as part of the program, and pricing per credit ranges from $544.25 to $966.60, depending on residency status. A master’s degree, though not necessarily in occupational therapy, is required for admission. IU also requires that applicants be licensed occupational therapists prior to consideration for enrollment.
For current occupational therapists aiming to expand their knowledge and range of skills, IU’s research-focused online occupational therapy doctorate program is an excellent choice. IU suggests that careers such as OT faculty and translational researcher are just a few of the many exciting options graduates have to explore once they’ve earned their degrees.
Eastern Kentucky University offers many successful and thorough online programs, and its doctoral degree in occupational therapy is just one of them. A total of 40 credit hours are required for completion of this degree, at a price of $675 per credit hour.
Clinical occupational therapist and occupational therapy researcher are just two of the various careers that EKU graduates are well-equipped to pursue. Certification by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy is required for consideration for this online doctorate program, thus occupational therapy assistants are not eligible for admission.
Students may choose from a range of times to begin their studies, based on their personal schedules, as courses are offered three times annually. No campus visits are required, and EKU estimates that it should take students approximately two years to complete the doctoral program.
The doctoral degree in occupational therapy from the University of Alabama at Birmingham allows students to take part-time courses that suit their career while diving into one of the best online doctorate programs available.
The SR Education Group ranked UAB’s online occupational therapy doctorate program as No. 1 among the best online colleges. UAB boasts that its program is much more affordable than its competitors, yet it still provides students a well-developed and strong academic curriculum.
Three separate tracks are offered for this degree; graduates choose from a general track, a healthcare quality and safety track, or a low vision rehabilitation track. Each of these has special areas of focus, to provide graduates with an education custom-tailored to their needs and goals in a post-professional environment. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in occupational therapy, in addition to either current employment as an occupational therapist or as an occupational therapist assistant with at least one year of clinical experience.
Though most widely known for its School of Medicine and basketball team, Creighton offers some fantastic online programs as well. The doctoral program in occupational therapy is one of the best in the country, and it offers students a great deal when it comes to curriculum and affordable pricing.
Five members of Creighton’s faculty for this degree are fellows of the American Occupational Therapy Association, and 10 alumni are now chairs of the occupational therapy program at Creighton. These statistics alone are a testament to the quality and strength of Creighton’s program, and it is certainly one that future doctoral students should consider when looking at schools.
Admission requirements are fairly standard and are similar to many other colleges on this list. Forty-two semester hours are required for students who already hold a master’s degree. Those with only a bachelor’s degree will have to take a few extra classes, as they will need 52 credit hours to graduate.
The University of South Dakota is a small school, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the best doctoral programs in occupational therapy in the entire U.S. As is typical for a degree of this stature, a master’s degree in occupational therapy, as well as a current license to practice occupational therapy, are the two main criteria required of applicants.
The school is relatively affordable and a good choice for students who may not be interested in a larger online school or higher prices. To be considered for fall 2020 admission, prospective students must apply before June 2020. This date may change annually, so students should confirm this date if planning to apply for a year or term other than fall 2020.
Students interested in pursuing a high-quality education in a smaller online setting should not hesitate to consider the University of South Dakota as one of their top options.
Created to help current occupational therapy professionals enhance their careers, Temple University offers a thorough and well-respected clinical doctorate in occupational therapy. TU requires applicants to hold a master’s degree in occupational therapy, as well as a current license to practice occupational therapy; in short, students with only bachelor’s degrees are not eligible for admission to TU’s clinical doctoral program. Those with only bachelor’s degrees in occupational therapy can enter the doctorate program through TU’s post-professional occupational therapy certificate program.
Students in TU’s online clinical doctorate program can expect to be in good company, as TU has a renowned faculty, all of whom are experts in their fields. Students with varying aspirations and career goals are accepted and welcomed.
Temple’s program requires students to attend two or three on-site, annual meetings in Philadelphia. Potential students should evaluate whether this is realistic for them before deciding to apply to this rewarding program.
Named after the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson University offers an excellent post-professional doctoral program in occupational therapy. The university notes that the degree aims to train innovative occupational therapists who are equipped to change and improve the industry.
The program’s length is variable and depends on a number of factors, but fall, spring, and summer terms are all offered. The application deadlines for these are Aug. 1, Dec. 1, and April 1, respectively. A bachelor’s degree is required for admission, and applicants must be currently licensed, as the program is designed for those already working in the occupational therapy field.
This program equips students to pursue a variety of innovative careers; Thomas Jefferson University states that graduates of its doctorate program have strong leadership skills and entrepreneurial capacities.
Boston University is a well-known school with excellent online programs, of which its doctorate in occupational therapy is just one. This post-professional degree requires between 33 and 36 credits, or 10 courses in total.
Students in BU’s program complete a doctoral project, which is one of the main focuses of the online degree. This project helps students to evaluate current theories and approaches to occupational therapy using a critical lens, enabling them to gain the essential leadership and critical thinking skills required for innovation in the occupational therapy field.
Two one-day, on-campus program meetings are required at the beginning and end of each student’s studies, but the courses themselves are delivered entirely online. Students are matriculated into the program in December, May, and September. There are rigorous admission requirements as well, and the program, as can be expected, is designed for current professionals in the occupational therapy field.
Located in Broward County, FL, a place students will find themselves traveling to a few times during the course of their doctoral studies in occupational therapy, Nova Southeastern University offers a distance doctorate program that delivers when it comes to educational quality.
Students can expect in-depth discussions with the program director to discuss their personal goals for professional development throughout the course of the program. Current occupational therapy professionals looking for an in-depth way to advance their career and knowledge will find a solid and well-developed program in NSU’s online curriculum.
Graduates of the program are expertly equipped to approach the field of occupational therapy with a renewed sense of innovation and leadership, two things that NSU boasts its program prepares students exceptionally well for. This program, as with any other doctoral program in occupational therapy, is well-suited to working professionals who have clear goals in mind for their future career advancement.
Loma Linda University is a Seventh-Day Adventist health sciences university. Though the university places a heavy focus on religion, it also offers a spectacular distance curriculum. The doctoral program in occupational therapy is just one of its rigorous programs.
Applicants must hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in occupational therapy. Only a select assortment of states allows LLU to deliver its online curriculum to students, so it is important for students to verify that their state is among them, before they apply or consider a degree here. The program’s length is roughly two years, at a minimum, but can take students more time to complete, depending on a number of other factors.
Teaching, administration, research, and private practice are some of the careers that LLU suggests are suitable once students have earned a doctoral degree in occupational therapy. On the whole, LLU’s distance occupational therapy doctorate program is worth considering for current practicing professionals who are interested in the school and its values.
If you're interested in occupational therapy then you should check out our ranking of the 10 Best Master’s in Gerontology Online or the 15 Best Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Health Science!