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Doctor of Occupational Therapy FAQ

How is an entry-level doctoral degree/program different from an entry-level master’s degree/program?

Entry-level doctoral programs in occupational therapy are on the cutting edge of changing the direction of professional graduate education and influencing healthcare practice. More than a robust and extensive curriculum, doctoral study provides the opportunity to acquire a depth of knowledge about occupational therapy that is guided by research evidence and applied critical thinking, and that motivates engaged learners toward exemplifying professional autonomy and identity in practice. Beyond the acquisition of entry-level skills, the OTD program at Western New England will provide students with advanced graduate skills to enable them to transform OT practice in healthcare settings of today and tomorrow.

Are the faculty qualifications different for faculty members hired in entry-level doctoral degree program vs. entry-level master’s degree programs?

Faculty in entry-level master’s degree programs may have doctoral degrees, but it is not required of all faculty. Faculty in entry-level doctoral programs must have doctoral degrees. Our program provides the security of knowing that you will receive instruction from faculty with doctoral preparation who are highly qualified to: exemplify theory-driven teaching perspectives; model best-practice interprofessional clinical skills; and provide a high quality research mentorship experience as you evolve as a practice-based scholar.

Will I be more competitive for jobs or earn a higher salary as an occupational therapist by having an entry-level doctoral degree vs. an entry-level master’s degree?

Because graduates of OTD programs will have more to offer, they will be more in demand in a competitive job market. In addition, salary differentials in workplaces that are based upon highest degree earned will benefit those with an OTD degree over an MSOT degree.

How long does it take to earn an entry-level doctoral degree in occupational therapy vs. an entry-level master’s degree?

Our OTD is a 3-year program completed over 9 consecutive semesters, including summers. The curriculum consists of coursework with integrated Level I Fieldwork, 24 weeks of Level II Fieldwork and a 16 week doctoral experiential residency. Affording an additional year of study beyond entry-level master’s programs, allows for an expanded doctoral curriculum that permits students to comfortably synthesize new course content and integrate it with fieldwork experiences in each semester. With a focus on: future healthcare trends such as primary care and health literacy; emerging policy initiatives such as pay for performance and outcomes based upon prevention and wellness; and forward thinking research agendas such as population health and interprofessional practice, you will graduate from the OTD program as a practitioner-scholar who is READY TO LEAD, and ready to contemplate the options of clinical practice, administration of a department, or academic work in higher education.

How is the doctoral experiential component different from traditional fieldwork?

Traditional fieldwork in the OTD program at Western New England consists of two levels of on-site prac­tice experience (i.e. Level I & Level II Fieldwork). The program integrates sequential course content with a series of 5 Level I Fieldwork experiences (Semesters 1-5), providing a strong foundation for two more advanced Level II Fieldwork experiences  (Semester 6, 7, & 8). The Doctoral Experiential Residency takes place following Level II Fieldwork. The residency is a 16 week/640 hour component of the curriculum that is preceded by a sequence of content and mentorship courses (Semesters 3-6) that are designed to prepare you to complete a scholarly capstone project (Semester 9). This customized doctoral experiential will expose students to learning experiences framed around the concept of interprofessional practice, with options for completing a project based upon advanced practice, policy development, advocacy concerns, education, administration or leadership.

Will I earn a master’s degree on the way to completing the entry-level OTD program?

No, students entering with an undergraduate degree will participate in a 3-year graduate program through which they will earn the Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree.

What is the application process?

The OTD program at Western New England participates in the Occupational Therapy Centralized Application Service (OTCAS). All applicants are required to apply on-line through the OTCAS. The program is accepting applications for the fall 2018. You can apply online at http://portal.otcas.org.

Is there a requirement that applicants for an entry-level doctoral degree in occupational therapy have a particular type of undergraduate degree?

All undergraduate degrees, regardless of the type, will be considered for admission, however, the applicant must have earned the baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education with a minimum CGPA of 3.0. All applicants will be required to successfully complete prerequisite coursework prior to admission to the OTD program.

I understand that the OTD program at Western New England University is in the process of acquiring accreditation status. What does “developing program status” mean, and am I at risk for enrolling in a program that is not yet accredited?

Acquiring Accreditation Status requires a 3-Stage process. Our entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program has completed Stage 1 of this process after receiving approval from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and being granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 4720 Montgomery Lane, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814-3449, www.acoteonline.org, (301) 652-AOTA.

Upon completion of the remaining stages, outlined in the schedule below, the ACOTE must grant the program Accreditation Status by prior to the first graduating class in order to secure students’ eligibility to sit for the national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Therefore, there is a degree of risk for students entering a program that is not yet accredited. However, according to the AOTA, obtaining Candidacy Status “indicates that the resource allocation and plan for development of the proposed program appear to demonstrate the ability to meet ACOTE Standards.” Moreover, as a distinguished institution of higher education with a mission focused on the “elevation of academic excellence,” Western New England University’s entry-level Doctor of Occupational Therapy program is committed to meeting and exceeding the accreditation standards.

ACOTE has supplied the OTD program with the following tentative schedule for the accreditation process:
  • Candidacy Stage: Application Submitted – October, 2016
  • Candidacy Stage: Status Granted/Denied – December, 2016
  • First Class Starts – August, 2017
  • Preaccreditation Review Stage: Initial Report of Self-Study Due – March 1, 2019
  • ACOTE Initial Review Decision – August 2019
  • Initial On-Site Evaluation – August-November 2019
  • ACOTE Final Accreditation Decision – December 2019
  • First Class Graduates – September 2020
  • First Class Eligible to Sit for NBCOT Certification Examination – 2020

Is graduating from an entry-level OTD in occupation therapy sufficient for me to practice as an occupational therapist?

No, program graduates are required to successfully pass the certification exam­ination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT), to be able to practice as an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certifi­cation Examination.

Will the entry-level doctoral program permit me to specialize in an area of occupational therapy practice?

No, the entry-level OTD program at Western New England will prepare you for generalist practice in the field of occupational therapy, but will not provide you with specific skills required of practicing occupational therapists who desire to become specialized in a practice area. Occupational therapists select specialty areas of practice to pursue following graduation, and seek the specialized knowledge and credentials appropriate to those areas that are offered through AOTA’s or other professional organization’s specialty certification process.

Should I consider supplementing my financial resources by seeking external employment while participating in the OTD program?

A student’s decision to seek employment while matriculated in the OTD program at Western New England is a personal one. However, students are strongly encouraged to avoid outside work given the rigor of the OTD curriculum, and the expectation for study outside of the classroom. Students should expect that successfully completing the OTD degree will be mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging, and as such, not be conducive to the demands of outside employment.

I am aware that this is not an “online” program, but can I expect to take some online or hybrid courses or use electronic learning platforms during the course of the OTD curriculum?

Yes, as a developing program that is interested in the value of instructional technology for advancing knowledge, and is aware that using technology applications in the classroom affords the opportunity for tapping into diverse student learning styles, OTD students can expect to complete coursework utilizing a variety of instructional formats and to experience on-line learning platforms.

Whom do I contact for more information about the application process, the academic program (including curriculum and course requirements)?

Admissions questions? To speak with an admissions representative email OTDadmissions@wne.edu or call 413-796-2073.

Academic program questions? Email the Division of Occupational Therapy at OTD@wne.edu or call 413-796-2100.