September 15, 2020

If you’re planning to become an occupational therapist, you must be wondering whether you should pursue a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT) or an Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD).

Successful completion of an associate’s degree is required to enter practice as an occupational therapy assistant in the United States. To work as an occupational therapist in the United States, a master’s degree in occupational therapy or a professional doctorate in occupational therapy (e.g.OTD) is mandatory.

The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) vs. Masters in Occupational Therapy (MOT) has become a fairly common conundrum, especially when considering the 2027 OTD mandate.

While the ACOTE trusts that the doctoral level is the appropriate entry point for the profession of occupational therapist, the ACOTE accepted AOTA’s stay of the 2027 mandate requiring all entry occupational therapy programs to transition to the doctoral level.

Before we dive into the debate, let’s take a closer look at the profession itself. Occupational therapists assist injured, ill, or disabled patients in recovery, improvement, and development of skills needed to fulfill their everyday activities.

An occupational therapist, a doctor of occupational therapy, or an occupational therapist consultant will also help patients recover from injuries or illnesses that may prevent people from performing everyday tasks.

A degree in occupational therapy will pave the way for a rich and fulfilling career. Traditionally, prospective students could start their practice immediately after their bachelor’s degree. However, more recently, a master’s or doctor’s degree in occupational therapy has been deemed mandatory.


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Let’s look at how an Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) differs from a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT).

MOT vs OTD – Complete Guide

A master’s degree in occupational therapy or a doctoral degree is now required for all entry-level positions.

Both degrees, the master’s and doctoral are currently routes of entry to the profession of an occupational therapist, prepare graduates to be entry-level practitioners and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE©).

Still, some professionals choose to pursue more advanced degrees, including a doctorate in occupational therapy, instead. The commitment can be costly and time-consuming.

Recently, the ACOTE proposed a mandate which would require all aspiring occupational therapists to complete their master’s or doctoral degree before beginning work in the field, starting in 2027. However, not everyone supports the move. In 2018, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) proposed a suspension of the mandate.

The ACOTE agreed. Still, the debate has left many prospective members of the field confused about which educational path they should pursue.

Let’s compare the two occupational therapy degree programs to understand the key similarities and differences, the costs, opportunities, and salary expectations associated with both of these occupational therapy educational programs.

What is a Master’s in Occupational Therapy?

A Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT) is a two-year professional postgraduate degree program to prepare students for work in the field.


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Coursework covers therapeutic skills, patient care, rehabilitation, and kinesiology. These programs also require a combined level I and level II fieldwork experience of up to 24 weeks in an approved facility.

What is a Master's in Occupational Therapy?

The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) conducts certification exams for occupational therapy professionals.

NBCOT certification is the preliminary requirement for obtaining licensure as an occupational therapist in all the U.S. states. After completing their MOT program’s requirements, students can sit for the NBCOT certification examination.

With the proposed ACOTE mandate, a master’s degree may only remain valid till 2027, after which an occupational therapy doctorate would be mandatory to work as an OT. On a brighter note, those who have obtained their MOT degrees before 2027 can still receive their licensure.

What is a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy?

The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) is a professional (or clinical) doctorate, the maximum academic groundwork that an entry-level OT can attain. The training for this program goes well past that of the master’s degree.


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A doctoral degree in occupational therapy is an excellent option for students and professionals looking to further their careers. The doctor’s degree program can take anywhere between three to four years. Although you can apply for an OTD immediately after your bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, admissions for doctoral-level programs are highly competitive.

What is a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy?

What Are the Similarities Between MOT and OTD?

  • With a doctoral or master’s degree, students can expect to learn to evaluate patients, formulate treatment plans, and document patient progress.
  • Generally, the curriculum in bachelor’s degree programs focuses on similar topics in MOT programs. Students have to participate in evidence-based practice research, supervised fieldwork, and intensive research to successfully obtain their degrees.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for occupational therapists is just over $86,000 annually. Therefore, based on the organization’s additional information, entry-level positions with an MOT degree will earn roughly the same amount of money as an OTD graduate.

What are the Differences Between a Doctoral Degree vs. Masters in Occupational Therapy?

  • One of the key distinguishing factors between an MOT and OTD is that a doctorate in occupational therapy incorporates advanced subjects focused on research and leadership. While a capstone project is not generally included in the MOT curriculum, it forms a vital component of the doctor’s degree in all OT schools.
  • While you obtain your MOT degree in about two years, OTD is a research-oriented program that requires 3-4 years for completion.

Advantages and Disadvantages of an MOT vs. OTD

  • On average, MOT programs permit you to finish your program a year in advance than a Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD).
  • With an MOT, you can reduce your student loan debt and start practicing much sooner. For MOT, you must qualify the National Board Exam (NBCOT) and fulfill the prerequisite of continuing education courses each year.
  • Even if the ACOTE approves its mandate in the future, individuals who have already completed an MOT program before 2027 can still transition into the profession, allowing them to find jobs in traditional clinical settings throughout their careers.
  • Another advantage of going for an MOT is that you can always apply for doctoral programs in the future to earn your OTD.
  • Students who pursue doctoral programs conduct independent research as a part of their degree requirements, thus having the edge over other occupational therapists.
  • You can also pursue a broader range of career opportunities after an OTD and get into teaching, research, and policymaking.

General Outcomes

Check out the table below for a summary of these programs and their general outcomes.

MOT – Occupational Therapy, MSOTD – Occupational Therapy Doctorate
Program Length2 years3-4 years
Capstone ProjectNot RequiredMandatory
Education RequirementBachelor’s in Occupational TherapyBachelor’s in Occupational Therapy
Course OutcomesGraduates can learn to:

Perform complete patient evaluationsFormulate treatment plansSuggest recovery treatmentsDocument patient progressAdjust or modify treatment plans Manage patient discharges
Along with the MOT outcomes, OTD graduates additionally:Conduct independent researchGet exposure to real-world challenges that require research and innovationGain access to leadership, advocacy, and management-related subjects
AdvantagesShorter time to complete degreeLower tuition costsBetter short-term ROIOpens up a plethora of career opportunities in academics, research, policymaking, and advocacyOffers a differentiating edge over other occupational therapists May be better in the long run
Career OptionsPediatric Occupational Therapist, Rehabilitation Supervisor, Sports Rehabilitation TherapistsOccupational Therapy Program Director, Occupational Therapy Researcher, Educators
Outcomes of MOT and OTD

MOT vs. OTD: Program Length and Tuition

Patient being helpede by an OTS

Unsurprisingly, most people want to know how long it takes and how much it costs when selecting their graduate degree program. Since a doctorate in occupational therapy is a higher-level degree with an advanced scope of studies, you can expect it to exceed all master’s programs in occupational therapy in terms of cost and time.

Cost Considerations

Typically, a doctoral degree in occupational therapy (OTD) will take around three years to complete.

Although tuition fees may vary, an OTD recipient may have to shell out an additional $20,000 – $30,000 at an OT school.

Comparatively, masters of occupational therapy programs run about 6 to 8 months shorter than an OTD program.

Those eager to save money and collect a paycheck may want to think about the costs of an extra year of school. It is important to note that graduates of an MOT program can always go back and pursue OTD programs later in the future. This is an important detail for those struggling to cover their educational expenses to consider.

Discover the various financial aids and scholarships that the New England Institute of Technology offers.

Differences in Curriculum

Graduates of MOT programs will also learn to provide treatments, evaluate the patient’s condition, and adjust treatment plans as necessary. Both MOT and OTD graduates will attain the ability to complete patient discharges independently as well. 

OTD programs require students to take courses in occupational science, quantitative research techniques, clinical leadership, and management.

In addition to this list, OTD programs will likely introduce students to real-world exposure through a capstone project or experimental component. They will also learn how to conduct independent research. Your curriculum may also incorporate leadership and advocacy-based subjects.

Online Vs. In-Person Programs

While on-campus programs are well-suited for students continuing their education, online degrees are an excellent option for working professionals. These programs give you the freedom to learn at your own pace without sacrificing your current obligations.

In an on-campus program, you can interact better with your peers, finish your degree at a pre-defined pace, and gain access to other on-campus facilities.

You can also choose hybrid programs which include a mix of online and offline teaching.

MOT Vs. OTD: Salary and Job Opportunities

Although both of these occupational therapy programs prepare students as entry-level practitioners, certain differences are essential to keep in mind. They include:


The initial salary for MOT graduates does not vary much from entry-level occupational therapists with an OTD. According to BLS statistics collected in 2020, the median pay for OT professionals was $86,280 per year.

The average occupational therapy assistant earned just $60,950 per year during the same period.

The BLS also predicts that the employment of occupational therapists will grow by 16 percent from 2019 to 2029.

Job Opportunities

A master’s degree is mandatory for entry-level jobs as a therapist or clinician. Most occupational therapists work at private clinics, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers, while others practice independently. With an MOT, you can also work at private, local, and state elementary and secondary schools.

An OTD graduate might supervise the work of an occupational therapy assistant in clinical settings.

Some of the positions you can apply for after obtaining your OTD include Occupational Therapy Professor, Occupational Therapy Program Director, Occupational Therapy Researcher, Clinical Research Associate, etc.

Begin Your Career as an Occupational Therapist with The New England Institute of Technology

Begin you career as an OTD with a degree from NEIT

The Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) is a great program for certified occupational therapy assistants to further their educational and clinical experience and enjoy significant professional advancements. Our master’s degree program can also act as a bridge for current professionals to advance their responsibilities as registered occupational therapists.

The New England Institute of Technology offers the MSOT program on the weekends to accommodate working students better. Students will be expected to participate in on-campus training for five weekends, every ten-week academic term. 

Students must also participate in our online learning services during alternate weeks. This hybrid learning methodology allows graduates to complete the program in as little as ten terms.

By the end of our MSOT program, students will be able to operate across several different settings, from traditional medical environments to residences and more.

MSOT graduates will walk away armed with a variety of assessment techniques learned throughout our program. This will help them make important observations surrounding a patient’s functional problems and their underlying physical, mental, and psychosocial challenges. 

After completing all classroom training on campus and Level 1 Fieldwork off-campus through volunteer experience and shadowing hours, students will enter the community for Level 2 Fieldwork. Two full-time twelve-week Level 2 Fieldwork experiences give students many opportunities to apply classroom training in real-life situations.

Upon successful completion of all degree requirements, MSOT students will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination for Occupational Therapists. Those who complete the program and pass the exam obtain the title of Occupational Therapist Registered.

Those who already possess this title can look into our specialized Post-Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy. The doctorate program, which students can complete in as little as 12 months, is offered in a hybrid learning format to better accommodate the schedules of working practitioners.Our online courses crafted by faculty members and leading experts in the field help provide an edge over other doctoral degree programs. Individuals also have the option to study part-time and earn their degree over two years.


Earn your degree in ot from NEIT and begin your new career path today!





Both MOT and OTD are great ways to kickstart a rewarding career as an occupational therapist. A master’s degree is more financially feasible and provides faster access to jobs. On the other hand, a doctorate in occupational therapy is more suited for those more interested in teaching and research roles.

The New England Institute of Technology offers a Master’s of Science in Occupational Therapy and Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy programs. 

Our graduates gain advanced knowledge in promoting healthcare, wellness, and participation across as it pertains to people of all ages and become innovators of contemporary practice in traditional and emerging settings.

Read as our graduates share their experiences with our occupational therapy program in our student testimonials section. Check it out today! Apply now and start your journey today. You can also visit our website or call us at 877-511-1958 for your candidacy status and information on our degree programs.


Is it better to get a Master’s or Doctorate in Occupational Therapy?

A master’s degree in occupational therapy is more suited for those eager to save money and start earning immediately. However, if you’re more inclined towards research, academics, and policymaking, a doctorate is the perfect option. While a master’s degree can take up to years to complete, doctoral degree programs span over 3-4 years.

Is an OTD a Doctor?

An occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) holder is not a doctor. Instead, occupational therapy professionals fall in the category of clinicians and therapists. Such professionals primarily work to recover and rehabilitate people post an injury, accident, surgery, or severe trauma.

Can you be an OT with a Master’s?

You can become an occupational therapist after completing your master’s degree and applying for licensure in your state. However, the minimum criteria may change, as ACOTE has proposed a mandate which would require all aspiring occupational therapists to complete their doctor’s degree for all entry-level positions, starting in 2027. 

Should ACOTE approve the mandate, the minimum criteria for becoming an OT will change in the coming year.

Can an Occupational Therapist start their own practice?

Yes, OTs can start their own practice once they obtain their license.

After completing their master’s degree in occupational therapy, graduate students can apply for the NBCOT certification exam. This certification is mandatory for obtaining licensure in all U.S. states.

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