Occupational therapists who hold a master’s degree and licensure have all of the qualifications they need to practice. However, an OTD can create more opportunities and can give professionals additional skills to enhance and improve their services. A doctorate in occupational therapy typically involves the study of various areas, including evidence based practice, leadership, teaching, and research – all of which an occupational therapist can apply to their practice. This deeper, more intense study of occupational therapy techniques, advancements, and leadership also prepares students to hold leadership and change-facilitating positions.
Whether you want to improve your own practice or have aspirations of advancing your career through a leadership position, exploring the Best Online OTD in Occupational Psychology programs can help you to identify opportunities that may be right for you.
Finding an OTD in Occupational Therapy
An OTD in Occupational Therapy is an excellent way to advance and develop your professional skills, while also opening up new opportunities. Many of the programs below require applicants to have at least two years of practice experience, as well as to hold a master’s in occupational therapy and to be licensed. A few programs do allow students holding bachelor’s degrees to apply, but often require additional coursework. You will find that many programs are offered completely online with absolutely no residency requirement. Others require minimal on-campus time, usually consisting of a few intensives each year to facilitate relationship building and hands-on learning. All of these programs are designed with the working professional in mind and offer scheduling flexibility so that you can fulfill both your professional and education commitments.
Ranking the OTD in Occupational Therapy
As you read through this list, you’ll find that the OTD in Occupational Therapy programs listed below aren’t all the same. Some offer particular specializations that may interest you, and different programs have varying admission requirements and require different amounts of on-campus time. Online PhD Programs has developed this ranking of the 20 Best Online OTD in Occupational Therapy programs to help you find the program that is right for you in terms of value, flexibility, course content, and more. Online PhD Programs considered all of the fully online and hybrid OTD programs available, then scored each program according to these three metrics:
- Cost (IPEDs data)
- Reputation (U.S. News and World Report data)
- Return on Investment (College Scorecard data)
You will find only regionally-accredited and reputable colleges in this list. The programs can be completed either fully online, or mostly online with minimal on-campus requirements. The offer the flexibility that a working professional needs.
1. University of Utah
Founded in 1850, the University of Utah serves 31,000 students today. The U consists of 17 colleges and nearly 100 departments, and offers many bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. The school’s 17:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures an individualized education, and faculty hold more than 880 significant awards from national and international societies and governing councils. In 2015, USA Today ranked The U ninth in its list of the Top 10 Colleges in the U.S. for Veterans. LendEdu also ranked The U first in its 2016 list of the Top 50 Colleges for Aspiring Entrepreneurs. In 2016, The U ranked 6th in Online Colleges’ list of the Top Online Colleges in Utah.
The Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is offered completely online, making it an accessible choice for working professionals worldwide. Students experience a combination of traditional online learning performed at their own pace and interactive learning which generates engagement with classmates and the instructor. The program includes group assignments, discussions on an online forum, and peer reviewed assignments. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Program applicants must be certified by the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy and have practiced as an OT for at least two years. Students must also hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
2. University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers more than 70 master’s programs and 40 doctoral programs. It’s one of the first universities in the nation to create an Office of Postdoctoral Education in 1999, and continues to offer career opportunities to over 275 postdoctoral scholars. The U.S. News & World Report ranked 13 of UAB’s programs in its list of the best 2019 graduate schools. Additionally, the Center for World University Rankings ranked UAB in the top one percent of universities in 2018. UAB is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and by the COuncil of Graduate Schools in the United States.
The Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy program is designed to prepare occupational therapists to hold leadership roles in health care, academia, and advocacy. The program is available on a part-time basis, with students taking just one or two classes per semester. Depending on the student’s pace, the program takes between two and four years to complete. Students may choose from three tracks: A general track, a Low Vision Rehabilitation track, and a Healthcare Quality and Safety track. The 40-credit-hour program coursework is delivered through narrated powerpoint presentations and videos. Students participate in online discussion boards and complete a final project.
3. Eastern Kentucky University
Eastern Kentucky University, located in Richmond, Kentucky, has been educating students for over a century. The university is dedicated to high-quality instruction, scholarship, and service. EKU’s graduate school offers over 30 master’s, one specialist, and four doctorate degrees. EKU also offers over 40 undergraduate, graduate, and certificate degree programs online. Online students receive a flat tuition rate and have access to online tutoring and other valuable resources. The U.S. News & World Report ranked EKU as one of the best graduate schools for occupational therapy, and in 2016, EKU was included on the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Top 100 Best Online Degree Programs: Bachelor’s.
The Online Master’s to OTD Program helps occupational therapists advance their careers and become leaders who can facilitate change in occupational therapy for diverse populations. This 40-hour program can be completed completely online with no required campus visits, making it accessible to occupational therapists anywhere in the country. With accelerated eight-week terms, courses start three times per year, allowing students to complete the program in about two years. Course plans are tailored to students’ specific interests, and cover topics such as advanced occupation-based practice, diversity and health disparity, policy and change, and more. Program applicants must be certified by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
4. New York University Steinhardt
The New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development offers both undergraduate and graduate programs on-campus and online. Located in New York, New York, NYU Steinhardt was founded in 1890. Over 6,000 students are currently enrolled at the university, and 292 active alumni provide a top-quality education. The U.S. News & World Report ranked NYU Steinhardt as the #12 Best Graduate School in Occupational Therapy, and as the #6 Best Graduate School in Education. USA Today also stated that NYU Steinhardt is one of the best colleges to study health professions at. NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy is one of the oldest, largest, and most highly rated occupational therapy programs in the country.
The Online Doctor of Occupational Therapy program is delivered completely online, so students can maintain their current practices while earning their degree. Half of the required credits consist of elective or specialization courses, allowing students to customize the program so that they gain experience in the clinical area that most interests them. During the program, students will complete interactive coursework and participate in online classes where they’ll connect with a diverse group of students from all over the world. Program graduates are invited to attend the on-campus commencement, though attendance is not required. This program prepares students to become well-rounded clinicians and leaders.
Born out of a merger between Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson offers an award-winning 21st century curriculum to prepare students to succeed. Jefferson offers more than 80 undergraduate and 70 professional and graduate programs. Additionally, students can choose from over 30 degrees and certificates offered online. With two main campuses in Philadelphia and additional research sites and campuses, Jefferson has a wide-reaching network. In its 2019 college rankings, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Jefferson as #5 in the Most Innovative Universities, and as #15 in the Best Value Universities rankings.
The Post-Professional Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (PPOTD) program is designed to help students enhance their practices and become innovators in the field of occupational therapy. This online program doesn’t require any on-campus participation, and is open to both national and international students. The program format allows students to complete assignments at their own pace, and some meetings and discussions with faculty help to build connections and relationships. The program takes at least 24 months to complete, though the number of credits will vary according to how many years of experience a student has before beginning their fellowship.
6. University of Kansas
Founded in 1866, the University of Kansas is the state’s flagship university. Today, KU’s enrollment is at 28,500, and the university has five campuses. KU offers more than 200 undergraduate fields of study and over 50 graduate programs. KU Online also offers undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs with convenience and flexibility. KU is one of just 34 United States public institutions in the Association of American Universities and offers independent, multidisciplinary research centers where students and faculty collaborate. The KU Medical Center is home to 11 programs that have been ranked in the top 50 among public universities.
The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is designed for practicing therapists who want to increase their knowledge in specialization and leadership areas. Offered entirely online, this program combines synchronous and asynchronous learning. Students attend an annual on-campus meeting at least once during the program. The program’s curriculum focuses on Evidence Based Practice, Professional Leadership, Specialty Practice, and Teaching components. Program applicants should hold a master’s degree in occupational therapy, or have a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in another area. Applicants must also provide documentation of their current state license to practice as an occupational therapist.
7. Temple University
Founded in 1888 and located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Temple University educates more than 35,000 students today. Temple University consists of 17 schools and colleges, each one offering a wide variety of courses and programs. The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University is one of the leading medical schools in the nation, educating over 700 medical students and 140 graduate students each year. Among the School of Medicine’s innovative research labs are: Accessibility in Medical Devices and Rehabilitation Robotics Interventions, Community Participation for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Laboratory on Geography, Mobility, and Disability, and more.
The Clinical Doctorate in Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is a non-research-based program intended for practicing professionals who want to improve their skills and hold leadership positions. The program is designed for working professionals and offers the scheduling flexibility that such students need. Students will complete 31 credit hours over the course of two years. Nine of those credits are electives, so students may focus their study in their area of interest. Two in-person meetings are required per year at Temple’s Center City Campus in Philadelphia. During those meetings, students will cover orientation and wrapping-up coursework information, and will also have the chance to network with faculty.
8. Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern University is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was founded in 1964. Today, NSU offers over 150 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and consists of 18 colleges, schools, and centers. NSU’s regional campuses are located in Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami-Kendall, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, Puerto RIco, and Tampa. NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. In 2019, the U.S. News & World Report included NSU in its ranking of the Top 200 Best Colleges. NSU is also just one of 50 universities in the nation to have been awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification.
The Occupational Therapy PhD program is designed to fit the busy schedule of practicing professionals who may not be able to relocate to pursue their education. The primarily online platform includes some on-campus sessions in South Florida. These long weekend in-person sessions are held once each semester, with the rest of the coursework being offered online. Additionally, students must attend a one-week on-campus Summer Research Institute, as well as a new student orientation before the start of the first term. The online coursework is facilitated through a combination of asynchronous discussion postings, live voice discussions, and other online learning technology. The program’s curriculum consists of core courses, electives, research residency, and the completion of a dissertation.
9. Indiana University
Indiana University was founded in 1820, making it one of the first public universities to be founded west of the Allegheny Mountains. As of fall of 2018, more than 94,000 students were enrolled with IU, over 19,000 of which were enrolled in graduate or professional programs. IU offers over 20,000 classes per semester, and more than 120 online degrees and certificate programs. Additionally, there are nine different IU School of Medicine locations. In 2017, IU ranked 27th in Reuters’ list of the world’s most innovative universities. With 690,000 IU living graduates worldwide, it’s clear that this university has a wide-reaching influence in education.
The IU Online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program includes courses on applied translational research, advancements in occupational science, leadership and administration in OT, and more. Students will complete 30 credit hours in three consecutive semesters over the course of a year. During the program, students will develop an individual capstone project. The online courses are taught by the same faculty who teach on-campus courses, and online students will have the chance to engage with and seek help from faculty and peers. Program applicants must be licensed occupational therapists and hold a master’s degree.
10. Quinnipiac University
With over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students, Quinnipiac University offers a diverse and inclusive community. The university consists of a College of Arts and Sciences and eight professional schools. Quinnipiac offers over 100 different programs with a focus on career-readiness, and a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1 ensures a quality education with plenty of support. The Economist and The Brookings Institution ranked Quinnipiac among the top 13% of all 4-year schools for the value of education. Quinnipiac is committed to providing high-quality academic programs, a student-oriented environment, and a strong sense of community.
The Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate program is designed to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. With courses broken up into modules that are delivered asynchronously, students have the flexibility to complete their coursework around their schedule. This program has minimal residency requirements, though students must attend a one-week on-campus summer class and one Symposium Day before Commencement. Program participants must complete all courses with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in order to graduate. Program applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, and a related master’s degree. Alternatively, students may have a master’s degree in occupational therapy with a 3.0 GPA or higher.
11. George Washington University
Founded in 1821, George Washington University has grown to an enrollment of over 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students today. Students from all 50 states, as well as 130 countries attend GW. GW is located just four blocks from the White House and offers three campuses. The school consists of 10 schools and colleges and boasts prominent alumni including Alec Baldwin, Kerry Washington, Colin Powell, and more. GW is the largest institution of higher education in Washington, DC. With GW’s fixed tuition policy for undergraduates, a student’s tuition is guaranteed to remain the same for up to five years of attendance.
The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program is a 36-credit-hour program that is delivered online in a creative and innovative format. Students will explore a curriculum that focuses on topics such as leadership, research, teaching and assessment strategies, and quality. Students will also have the chance to explore elective coursework and a mentored capstone. Among other requirements, program applicants must submit two letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and transcripts from all colleges and universities attended. Occupational therapists who are currently practicing, as well as those enrolled in a MSOT program may apply.
12. Brenau University
Located in Gainesville, Georgia, Brenau University was founded in 1878. Brenau offers a variety of associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in over 50 areas of study. Brenau is home to over 3,800 students, the majority of which are enrolled through the Women’s College. An 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures that students have access to their teachers. The Princeton Review included Brunau in its list of the Best Colleges in the Southeast, and Atlanta Business Chronicle deemed Brenau as the Number 1 MBA in Georgia. Brunau also made Money Magazine’s list of the Best Colleges for YOur Money, 2017-18.
The Post Professional OTD program is a 36-credit clinical doctoral program. Students take two courses per semester, and enroll in three semesters per year in order to complete the program in two years. While the majority of coursework is offered online, students must attend one on-campus two-day weekend each semester. During the program, students will be able to take advanced practice courses in topics such as pediatrics, neuroscience/neuro rehab, and community practice. Students also create a capstone project around their interests, goals, and practice area. Program applicants must hold a master’s degree in OT or a bachelor’s degree in OT with at least 30 graduate credits. They must also have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
13. Towson University
Towson University, located in Towson, Maryland, is the largest university in the Baltimore area. Towson offers 64 undergraduate, 46 master’s, and four doctoral programs. Towson was founded as a teacher’s college in 1866, and today has a large enrollment of over 22,000 across seven different colleges. The U.S. News & World Report ranked Towson as 12th in the Regional Universities North ranking, and 68th in its 2019 Best Value Regional North Universities. Money also ranked Townsend as 147th on its 2018-2019 Best Colleges for Your Money list. Additionally, Washington Monthly ranked Townsend 68th among its list of the best value schools.
The Post-Professional Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program is designed to be a part-time program for working professionals. The program is delivered online in order to allow practitioners to prepare for advanced practice and leadership roles while still continuing to work. Students can complete this 33-hour program in just six semesters. The online courses are complemented by on-site immersion experiences, and students will also complete a two-course individualized capstone project. Program applicants must hold a master’s degree with a GPA of at least 3.25, as well as a license to practice occupational therapy.
14. University of Wisconsin – Madison
Founded in 1848, the University of Wisconsin – Madison is located on a 936-acre campus. Home to 13 schools and colleges, UW’s fall 2018 enrollment was over 44,000 with 130 countries represented among the student body. UW-Madison has educated 39 Pulitzer Prize winners and is home of the first national stem cell bank, as well as the first master’s program in energy conservation. The U.S. News & World Report ranked UW-Madison as 15th in its America’s Best Colleges Among Public Universities list. In 2017, Kiplinger’s ranked UW-Madison 11th in its Best College Values Among Public Universities list.
The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is designed to accommodate the busy lives of working professionals. This program can be completed online in three years on a part-time basis. Program participants will take courses in topics such as the current trends shaping OT practice, human occupation and health, applied practice in inter-professional contexts, using information to optimize practice, and advanced outcome measurement in OT. Students will develop leadership and practice skills, broaden their knowledge base, and learn how to apply research to their job. Program graduates will be ready to assume leadership positions in the field of occupational therapy.
15. Chatham University
Located in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Chatham University was founded in 1869. This coed institution is home to over 2,200 students and offers more than 60 undergraduate and graduate programs. In 2015, Chatham opened the first fully sustainable campus in higher education in the world – Eden Hall Campus. The U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review consistently rank Chatham as one of the top master’s-level institutions in the Northeast. Chatham has been included in the SIerra Club’s “Cool Schools” list of the top 25 greenest colleges in America. Additionally, Chatham was included on the 2011-2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. This designation reflects Chatham’s dedication to engaging its students, faculty, and staff in service that achieves results within the community.
The Professional Doctorate of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program is designed for students who wish to further their education and become advanced clinicians. As students learn to apply evidence-based literature, they will develop into professional leaders, gain theoretical knowledge, and practice concepts of educational theory in relation to clients and students. Students can use the lessons that they learn in the classroom and apply them directly to their work. During the program, students will take 10 online courses connected to their practice focus. These courses are complemented by two brief required on-campus residencies. Program applicants must have an undergraduate or master’s degree in occupational therapy.
16. Virginia Commonwealth University
Founded in 1838, Virginia Commonwealth University is a premier public research university. VCU was the first school of social work in the South, and also performed the first organ transplants in Virginia. Even with over 31,000 students enrolled, VCU maintains an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The VCU Medical Center is the region’s top-ranked hospital and employs over 11,000 staff. VCU was received numerous high rankings when compared with other colleges by the U.S. News & World Report, including ranking 3rd in online education, 17th in occupational therapy, and 20th in physical therapy.
The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program is designed to allow working professionals to pursue their education without disrupting their schedule. The part-time semester coursework can be completed even while students are fully employed. This program combines distance and on-site education methods. The online portion of the program is presented through the Blackboard System. Students attend on-campus sessions about twice per year for two to three days at a time. Each student’s coursework culminates in a Capstone project. This project gives students the chance to integrate the concepts that they’ve learned while studying a topic that they are passionate about. Peer review and development allows students to learn about each other’s skills and practice areas via these Capstone projects.
17. Texas Woman’s University
Texas Woman’s University was founded in 1957 and has admitted men since 1972. TWU has grown into the largest university primarily for women in the United States, and offers a variety of baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. TWU has a main campus in Denton, Texas, as well as health science centers in Dallas and Houston. TWU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and much of its education focuses in the health, liberal arts, and education fields. TWU offers an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio and is known for its quality education programs.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Occupational Therapy (PhD) program prepares practitioners to hold scholarly careers, both in academia and in occupational therapy practice. This 90-credit-hour program can be completed in four to six years. Students usually take between three and six credit hours per semester, and must complete the degree within 10 years. While courses are provided mostly online, students will visit either the Dallas or Houston campu once or twice per semester, alternating between the campuses. Because this program is based on a mentorship model, program applicants must research interests and speak directly with a faculty mentor before they are able to enter the program.
18. Governors State University
Governors State University was founded in 1969 and is located in University Park, Illinois. GSU is a public university that is home to over 5,500 students. Offering 64 degrees and 24 certificate programs, GSU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Additionally, GSU offers over 120 online classes each semester, as well as bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees that can be attained fully online. Today, GSU consists of four colleges: The College of Education, the College of Business, the College of Health and Human Services, and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Doctor of Occupational Therapy program provides occupational therapists with the skills and knowledge that they need to enhance their practices. Program graduates will be prepared to hold roles as master clinicians, clinical researchers, advocates, managers, and educators. The program includes both web-based and web-hybrid courses, which combine online and on-campus classes. Students will also enjoy an individual study plan through which they can incorporate their research interests into their coursework. Program applicants should have a master’s in occupational therapy or a bachelor’s in occupational therapy with a master’s in any field.
19. Bay Path University
With locations in Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Sturbridge, and Concord, Massachusetts, Bay Path University was founded in 1897. Today, Bay Path offers undergraduate degrees for women and over 25 graduate programs for women and men. This innovative university created the Center of Excellence for Women in STEM in order to provide women with the skills and support needed for a career in STEM. The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac named Bay Path one of the Fastest Growing Colleges in its Master’s Institution category. Bay Path is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
The Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) program can be completed fully online in just four to eight terms, making it ideal for busy professionals. This program is intended for licensed occupational therapists, and helps them to expand their knowledge, skills, and experience. With classes that start every February and October, students will explore topics such as evidence based practice, occupational science, community practice, bioethics, professional writing, and more. Tracks are available in Administration, Advanced General Practice, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Education, and Mental Health. Students can also tailor their capstone project around their particular interests, and can collaborate with faculty through the interactive online community.
20. Loma Linda University
Located in Loma Linda, California, Loma Linda University is a Seventh-day Adventist organization. Founded in 1905, Lorma Linda University accepted its first nursing students. From there, the university grew and grew. Today, Loma Linda University is home to more than 4,400 students and consists of eight different schools. The university shares a campus with six hospitals, offering students valuable opportunities for hands-on training and education. Loma Linda University offers over 100 programs ranging from associate’s and bachelor’s degrees to professional doctoral degrees. The university employs over 1,500 full-time faculty.
The Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) program offers a flexible online format for practicing occupational therapists to further their education. Students complete two years of online work, along with a capstone project. Students are able to develop their capstone – a professional rotation – themselves, so they can explore practice areas that interest them. This degree is designed with coursework that emphasizes spirituality, diversity, critical reasoning, advocacy, participation, education, and research. It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Program applicants must hold a master’s degree in occupational therapy or a related field, and must have a GPA of 3.0 or greater.