Why This Matters


    By 2027, the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education will require new occupational therapists to hold a doctorate. Even if you are graduating before this mandate, having a doctorate will help you compete.

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 22,700 MORE OF YOU BY 2029

    The need for more occupational therapists has contributed to a 16% increase in jobs over the next decade. This translates to 22,700 employed occupational therapists by 2029.


    Occupational therapists with master’s degrees or doctorates earn a median salary of $86,280.

Our Research

This list focuses on doctorate programs in occupational therapy. Students who wish to practice in the field should select a program that awards a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD), and those who aim to be professors should pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the subject. For this list, we reviewed online and hybrid programs.

Many of the programs we examined are approved by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). This organization is recognized by both the United States Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. We also reviewed regionally accredited schools. Credits and degrees from these schools are usually easy to transfer to other institutions, and the accreditations validate the quality of programs.

  • 79 hours to write this article
  • 140 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 240 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Occupational therapy is often lumped together with physical and speech therapy. Although all three professions support human function, they employ different methods to do so. Occupational therapists assist with daily living functions, physical therapists focus on the movement of the human body, and speech therapists help with communication and swallowing disorders.

The employment rate for occupational therapists is projected to see a 16% increase over the next decade.

As of 2021, occupational therapists are required to hold a master’s degree and pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam. However, by 2027, occupational therapists will be expected to hold a doctorate.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching online doctorate in occupational therapy programs:

  • What tests are required for this online degree? To become a licensed occupational therapist, you will need to take the NBCOT exam. After passing the exam, students earn the title of Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR).
  • Am I eligible for this program? To be accepted into a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (DOT) program, you must have a bachelor’s degree, ideally in a related subject such as biology or kinesiology. However, many competitive candidates have master’s degrees or professional experience. Always check a program’s admissions requirements before applying.

As you research programs, you should keep track of any important deadlines or application requirements. This information is generally available online, but you can also find it by contacting a school’s admissions department. If you are pursuing financial aid, be sure to submit your applications on time and research funding opportunities such as scholarships and assistantships.