Master's vs. Doctorate: What New Grad OTs Need to Know

May 22, 2017
3 min read

Master's vs. doctorate

The topic is hotly debated across internet OT communities. It is easily the most asked question by prospective occupational therapy students and it may be one of the most controversial topics in OT bubble right now.

Recently, there has been a lot of buzz regarding "what's the difference" of a master's vs. doctorate and how is it different from a PhD. (or EdD, DHSc, MPH, or MBA for that matter).

At NGOT, we wanted to help clear up some confusion by interviewing a few of our writers and listening to what they had to say on the matter.

Grant Mitchel, MOTR/L

Why I chose a MOT program.

In high school, I had determined to pursue a health care career. Which one to choose was the difficult part. In taking a pro’s vs con’s approach, which I believe to be wise, I determined OT to be the best ratio of least amount of debt and years of school with the best pay for a job I knew I could enjoy. As a new grad and new MOT, I am more than satisfied with my decision.

There is a great variety of teaching styles and curriculum approaches to completing a MOT. The University of North Dakota offered a 3 year MOT program that didn’t require a degree as a prerequisite but rather finished the degree in the process of the OT program assuming the applicant had the prerequisite undergraduate courses. This was appealing to me because I was able to apply and get accepted while pursuing a degree in psychology.

The MOT has allowed me to begin working professionally after a total of 6 years of college. While I continue to have a great amount to learn, I am competent as a new grad to work with vulnerable populations safely and confidently.

Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi

Why I chose the entry-level OTD.

I applied to a variety of schools and eventually chose a school offering the entry-level OTD. Personally, for me, it wasn’t a matter of MOT/MSOT vs OTD. I chose my school because I knew the professors, program philosophy, and class size was the right fit for me. However, in hindsight, I am very glad I chose the OTD route.

It is hard to compare and contrast a MOT program with an OTD program because there are so many different schools and each one is unique. The best way to assess the differences is to look at the ACOTE accreditation standards.

I know there are a lot of fluff words to describe the benefits of the OTD, but for the most part, they are true. I feel that I have a really good understanding of policy, regulations, and the larger forces at play affecting occupational therapy services.

Since it is not mandatory, many OTD programs vary. The last semester of my program allowed me to complete a scholarly project of my choosing. It was great that I got to choose an area or specialty of my choosing to grow as a professional. It was also great to see all of the awesome OT projects come from my amazing classmates. This portion of the OTD really laid the groundwork for knowledge and skills in continuing research projects throughout my career.

Some say one of the downfalls of the OTD is that it's too expensive. While this is technically correct because it adds a semester to your schooling, I would encourage those to look at the other variables at hand such as cost of living and scholarship opportunities. Plenty of MOT/MSOT programs are very expensive and OTD programs at state schools exist (making them cheaper).

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About Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi, OTD, OTR/L

Dominic is a practicing OT and the Occupational Therapy Publication Director for CovalentCareers Resources.