AOTA BOD Issues Position Statement on Doctoral-Level Single Point of Entry for Occupational Therapists


One of the responsibilities of AOTA’s Board of Directors is to ensure that the Association’s strategic priorities support the Centennial Vision so that occupational therapy remains a valued profession. Doing so involves long-term vision and planning, and engaging members of the Association in dialogue around important issues.

In April of this year, the Board issued a position statement to articulate their view that future occupational therapists will need to be doctorally prepared for entry-level practice by 2025.

AOTA President Ginny Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA, says the board arrived at its view after receiving the recommendations of two separate advisory groups. The Future of Education Ad Hoc committee was created to examine and recommend strategies for the future of occupational therapy education, and a subgroup of the Board was asked to specifically consider a single point of entry at the doctoral level, based on the work of the ad hoc committee. The position statement is the result of the recommendations of these advisory groups, and many months of the board evaluating changes in the health care system, higher education, and the profession itself.

“As a board, we need to take the long view to ensure that occupational therapy remains competitive and relevant,” said Stoffel. “The changing health care system is requiring more dependence on research and evidence, and many similar professions are going to an entry-level doctorate. We want to begin a profession-wide dialogue on how to ensure that the profession remains not just relevant but in demand, despite changes and uncertainty.”

Stoffel emphasized what the position statement means. “This document reflects the board’s view of the future of the profession,” she said. “However, the board does not have the authority to implement this recommendation. Our role here is to frame for the profession what we consider to be a critical, strategic issue and facilitate a broad-based discussion with all our communities of interest so that an informed decision can take place.”

In coming to its conclusion to recommend that the profession move to the doctoral entry for occupational therapists by 2025, the Board of Directors examined multiple issues. The decision is a complex one and there are many advantages (pros) and potential disadvantages (cons) to this change. This table (updated September 8, 2014) is a summary of the pros and cons identified by the board, and it includes feedback obtained by members and others. Additional advantages and/or disadvantages may be indentified as the profession participates in dialogue about this complex issue. 

The board is holding a series of discussion meetings over the course of the next year with AOTA volunteer leadership groups, general members, and external groups (e.g., NBCOT and AOTF). The board has also set up a forum on OT Connections for members to share feedback and ask questions electronically. There will be an open forum discussion on April 17 in Nashville, during AOTA’s 2015 Annual Conference and Expo.

After these discussions, the board may then ask the Representative Assembly to consider whether this statement should become an official policy. If so, the RA would share it with the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE®).

Neil Harvison, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, AOTA’s Chief Academic and Science Affairs Officer, notes that ACOTE is the only body with regulatory authority to mandate the entry-level degree for occupational therapy education. ACOTE is the recognized 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). Harvison says that, “historically, ACOTE has been careful to consider the positions and policies of the profession’s leadership groups when determining entry-level degree requirements.”

If ACOTE mandates doctoral-level entry for occupational therapists, it would apply only to future graduates after an appropriate transition for educational institutions. Current practicing therapists who have previously graduated at the bachelor’s or master’s level would be unaffected. ACOTE has historically allowed schools a generous time period to transition to new requirements. “The board statement suggests an implementation date of 2025,” says Stoffel. “We selected a target date that’s 11 years away to allow adequate time for full discussion and potential preparation and implementation.”

Click here for the statement.

Click here for the meetings schedule.

Click here for a summary of potential advantages and disavantages

Click here for the FAQs. Updated July 28, 2014

Click here for the discussion forum (log in).