The doctorate in occupational therapy is an advanced degree for practicing occupational therapists. Completion of the doctorate degree prepares the therapist for advanced clinical practice or a leadership role in the occupational therapy field. Leadership opportunities are available in policy, administration and education. Additionally, the doctorate degree can prepare therapists for work in the field of occupational therapy research.

Degree Objectives

Goals of the occupational therapy doctorate, or OTD, in a program such as the one offered at Temple University center on developing a personal philosophy and style of leadership in the field. Students prepare for supervisory roles in occupational therapy. Program goals may include evaluating research in a clinical specialty area and evaluating theories in clinical practice. In the program offered at Chatham University, goals include the creation and evaluation of innovative occupational therapy programs and developing advanced knowledge in occupational therapy through occupational literature and occupation-based intervention.

Core Courses

Courses for the OTD may include neuroscience, qualitative research and health promotion and wellness. Other courses may include evidence-based practice, education theory and technology, leadership and professionalism and methods of evaluation. Most programs include an overview of occupational therapy courses and courses focused on a capstone project or clinical experience.

Capstone Projects

Programs such as the ones at Chatham University and Temple University require doctoral candidates to complete a capstone project as part of degree requirements. Capstone projects are required to be developed from evidence-based practice and peer-reviewed literature. The review of both practice and research occurs during the core course requirements leading up to the capstone project. The program at Chatham University requires the implementation of an intervention strategy as part of the capstone project. OTD programs may also require dissemination of the results of the capstone project through a paper, presentation or demonstration.

Clinical Practice

While the program at Temple University requires clinical practice, the University of Southern California has a doctoral residency requirement. The clinical practice requirement may be used to expand upon clinical skills or to gather data for the capstone project. In programs such as the one at Temple University, four weeks or 160 hours of supervised experience are required for the doctoral degree. The doctoral residency requires a semester of work in an outside setting for 36-40 hours per week. The residency may be completed in a clinic, advocacy organization or classroom setting depending upon the leadership interest of the doctoral candidate.

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