On April 4, 2019, the Representative Assembly (RA) of the American Occupational Therapy (AOTA) voted to maintain two points of entry into the field of occupational for individuals looking to become occupational therapists (OTs).
Why Two Points of Entry?
There has been much debate in the field of occupational therapy since the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) published the mandate to move to a single point of entry for OTs in August of 2017. Critics of the mandate frequently cited high student loan debt and little difference in starting salaries and functions for entry-level occupational therapists prepared at either the master’s or the doctoral level. In July of 2018, the Board of Directors of AOTA passed a resolution that the mandate be held in abeyance until the field could investigate concerns related to moving to doctoral preparation. In September of 2018, ACOTE accepted the abeyance. The AOTA Board of Directors then convened a special task force that included members of the Board, the RA, and ACOTE to investigate concerns and issues related to a single entry point for OTs.
The results of the investigation were presented to the RA in April of 2019 and it was determined that two points of entry would remain for individuals wishing to pursue a career as an occupational therapist.
Why get a Master’s in Occupational Therapy?
All entry-level programs are designed to prepare students to pass the National Board Certification Exam and enter the job market as generalist practitioners, or those able to work in a variety of different settings and with a variety of different populations. Some applicants choose to pursue a master’s degree so that they can acquire less student loan debt and get into the work force sooner. Others choose a master’s degree because when they imagine their future, they see themselves working directly with clients and patients.
It’s good to have options and applicants are encouraged to engage in self-reflection before they decide which degree to pursue.
Some questions they may consider are: How does returning to graduate school fit with my current life plan? How much time can I “take off” to attend graduate school? How long can I afford to be out of the workforce? How much debt do I already have and how much more can I manage? How much financial assistance will be required to pursue my preferred degree? Once I become an OT, what do I want my day-to-day work life to look like? Do I want work directly with patients or clients?
Please note that although this blog was focused on OT education, the RA decision maintains two points of entry for the Occupational Therapy Assistant too.