Do I need an MOT or OTD to become a licensed occupational therapist?

Do I need an MOT or OTD to become a licensed occupational therapist?

A man wraps a woman's hand in a black bandage.

There has been some confusion about the entry-level degree requirement to become a licensed occupational therapist in the United States. Do you need a Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree? According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the organization that sets the educational requirements for the profession, either degree is acceptable to be eligible to sit for the national exam and become a licensed occupational therapist.

To become a licensed occupational therapist, you must earn an MOT or OTD from a program that is accredited by Accreditation Council of Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). In addition to completing the necessary coursework, you will need to complete fieldwork and pass the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam.

Why the confusion? In 2017, ACOTE announced that master’s level programs would be required to transition to doctoral degree programs by 2027. That decision was reversed after two years of discussion between ACOTE and the AOTA. The associations agreed to maintain dual entry-level degrees for the profession.

“Unfortunately, there is an ongoing misconception that a doctoral degree is, or will soon be, required to become a licensed occupational therapist,” said Leanne Rutt, director of the Master of Occupational Therapy Program at Messiah University. “This is not the case; a master’s equally prepares students for the NBCOT examination and therefor licensure in all states.”

For students who want to begin practice as soon as possible, earning an MOT makes sense as the programs take less time and less money to complete. But there are other advantages as well.

“MOT programs provide a focused education in occupational therapy with an emphasis on clinical practice, hands-on experience and fieldwork while still leaving the door open for further education and specialization once someone is practicing,” said Rutt.

OTD programs teach you the same entry-level occupational therapy skills but also include a capstone project.

Learn more about Messiah University’s MOT program.