March 8, 2018: Take the ACOTE® OTA survey by July 15, 2018.
December 6, 2017: ACOTE responds to requests for an abeyance of the OTD mandate.
December 6, 2017: ACOTE will continue to hold OTA mandate decision in abeyance, announces process for stakeholder feedback.
November 22, 2017: ACOTE shares OTD mandate decision background materials.
October 17, 2017: ACOTE holds the OTA mandate decision in abeyance, seeks feedback by Nov. 5.
The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) has mandated that the entry-level degree requirement for the occupational therapist will move to the doctoral level by July 1, 2027.
Only entry-level doctoral occupational therapy degree programs will be eligible to receive or maintain ACOTE accreditation status as of July 1, 2027.
Occupational Therapy Assistant
The Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®) has mandated that the entry-level degree for the occupational therapy assistant will move to the baccalaureate level by July 1, 2027.
Only entry-level baccalaureate occupational therapy assistant degree programs will be eligible to receive or maintain ACOTE accreditation status as of July 1, 2027. Further, ACOTE and the AOTA Accreditation Department will develop and implement a plan for this transition so the concerns and needs of all affected stakeholders are addressed to facilitate the smoothest transition possible.
What does this mean for current students?
The ACOTE mandate will NOT impact occupational therapy students currently enrolled in master’s-degree programs or students planning to enroll in the next 6 years. ONLY students graduating after July 1, 2027, would be impacted.
The ACOTE mandate will NOT impact occupational therapy assistant students currently enrolled in associate’s-degree programs or students planning to enroll in the next 6 years. ONLY students graduating after July 1, 2027, would be impacted.
What does it mean for academic programs?
Master’s-degree-level programs for the occupational therapist will have ten (10) years to transition to the doctoral level. The policies and procedures for transitioning from master’s- to doctoral-level program are currently available online (www.acoteonline.org). Additionally, ACOTE will work with AOTA to prepare free webinars and resource documents to be distributed in 2018 to assist programs with the transition.
Associate’s-degree-level programs for the occupational therapy assistant will have ten (10) years to transition to the bachelor’s level. The policies and procedures for transitioning from an associate’s to bachelor’s level program will be available online by November 2017. Additionally, ACOTE will work with AOTA to prepare free webinars and resource documents to be distributed in 2018 to assist programs with the transition.
What does this mean for practitioners?
Current occupational therapists with bachelor’s or master’s occupational therapy degrees can continue to practice with their current degree and will NOT need a doctorate degree.
Current occupational therapy assistants with associate’s degrees can continue to practice with their current degree and will NOT need a bachelor’s degree.
Does the mandate need the approval of the Representative Assembly (RA)?
To ensure the separate and independent role of ACOTE® the AOTA Bylaws state:
“ACOTE® Purpose: To accredit occupational therapy educational programs and occupational therapy assistant educational programs. ACOTE® establishes, approves, and administers educational standards to evaluate occupational therapy and occupational therapy assistant educational programs. ACOTE® shall have complete autonomy in establishing standards for educational programs; developing and implementing policies, rules, and procedures for conducting accreditation reviews; and making accreditation decisions.”
ACOTE is recognized as the accreditation agency for occupational therapy education in the United States by both the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). USDE and CHEA regulations require that all actions and decisions of the accreditation agency must be made independently from the parent association(s).
Historically, the Representative Assembly was proactive and established a policy related to entry-level OT education (Resolution J of 1998) that established that programs must be offered at either the master or doctoral degree level. ACOTE later adopted the RA policy with a mandate requiring the post-baccalaureate degree for OT program accreditation by January 1, 2007. The AOTA Board of Directors was silent on the issue.
This time around we saw the AOTA Board of Directors be proactive with a strategic statement in response to a review of external threats and challenges. In April 2014, the Board issued a position statement to articulate their view that future occupational therapists will need to be doctoral prepared for entry-level practice by 2025. ACOTE studied the issue for more than 3 years and after careful deliberation adopted the position of the Board. The Representative Assembly has been silent on the issue. Ultimately ACOTE has the authority to proceed with the mandate.
A representative for ACOTE will discuss the mandate of the entry-level degree for the occupational therapist and the occupational therapy assistant during the Academic Leadership Council (ALC) meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday, October 26, 2017.
Additional information will be posted in the triannual PD Newsletter available at PD News.
Inquiries may be directed to the AOTA Accreditation Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.