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MOT Vs OTD: Which Degree Is Right for You?

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From helping children hone their fine motor skills after an illness or injury to educating individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome on ergonomic equipment, many occupational therapists (OTs) enjoy a fascinating, rewarding and well-paid career.1

If this healthcare profession intrigues you, you may have learned that you need one of two degrees to practice: A Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD).2 When deciding between an MOT vs. OTD, how do you know which path is right for you?

Although an OTD is a more advanced degree than an MOT, the OTD vs. MOT debate is still relevant. So how do the degree programs compare? Are there substantial differences between degree path time commitments and potential earnings?

If you want to improve people’s lives as an occupational therapist—but you’re unsure if you should pursue a master’s vs. doctorate occupational therapy—read on.

What Is an OTD?​

When deciding between an OT master’s vs doctorate, consider that an OTD program provides candidates with a similar education to the MOT degree path. An OTD prepares them to handle typical clinical practice tasks, such as patient evaluations, treatment plans and patient progress documentation, but also to take on advocacy and leadership roles.3 In addition, an OTD program requires the completion of a doctoral capstone project—a topic we’ll look into more later.4

As a result, graduates of an OTD – vs. MOT – gain the necessary in-depth education and firsthand experience to fulfill roles in clinical practice, as well as positions in research, emerging practice areas, program development and theory. Some of the OTD focus areas include:5

  • In-depth clinical practice skills
  • Research skills
  • Administration and leadership
  • Program and policy development
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Theory development


What Is an MOT?​

An MOT is a comprehensive program that equips graduates with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to work with patients in a clinical setting. A master’s in occupational therapy, vs. a doctorate, will provide training that includes, but is not limited to:

  • Helping patients refine their motor skills to the best of their ability
  • Designing and implementing treatment plans
  • Assisting patients with the use of adaptive equipment

Become an OT Clinician: MOT vs. OTD​

When comparing a master’s vs doctorate in occupational therapy, both degree programs prepare graduates to fulfill the myriad tasks required of occupational therapists. OTs support caregivers and help patients relearn essential tasks like bathing and dressing.6 The right degree path for you will depend on your career goals and timeline.

An OTD is appropriate for individuals who ultimately plan to pursue a role in leadership, advocacy, policymaking, or higher education. The same is true for those who pursue a Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (PPOTD)—a terminal degree, the highest you can receive in the field. The more advanced OTD path (vs. MOT) is relevant for those who may want to:

  • Open their own practice and lead others
  • Work in program development or unexplored fields
  • Pursue a role in academia

However, if your main goal is clinical practice, the MOT (vs. OTD) may be the best choice for you. A key difference between a master’s and doctorate in occupational therapy at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) is time-to-completion. Our Residential MOT program typically takes only two years to complete, two fewer trimesters than the OTD.* (Our Flex MOT, with its expanded schedule, typically takes 3 years to complete.*) A great-value program, the MOT program prepares you to launch your career, start earning money and make a difference sooner. Some universities call this degree a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy, or MSOT.

Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

Let’s take a look at other program factors to consider in the MOT vs. OTD debate:

  • Duration – A residential MOT typically takes two years to complete, while a residential OTD normally requires two additional trimesters*. However, this depends on the pace of your program. For instance, at USAHS, our Flex MOT and Flex OTD programs typically take three years and 3.7 years to complete, respectively, but offer students more flexibility in their schedules.
  • Supervised fieldwork – Both MOT vs. OTD candidates must complete several weeks of supervised fieldwork.7 The required hours will depend on the program.
  • Admission requirements – Both OTD MOT programs require a bachelor’s degree, the successful completion of OT school requirements, prerequisites and, depending on the institution, a minimum required GRE score.2 USAHS does not require a GRE score, and for those without a bachelor’s degree, we do offer an OTA to OT Bridge Program. As an Occupational Therapy Assistant, you can pursue your MOT degree at USAHS without a bachelor’s degree or any additional coursework – and complete the program to earn your degree in as little as two years.* For all other applicants, if you’re majoring in a field outside of health sciences and have just started exploring becoming an occupational therapist, rest assured that many OT programs at USAHS don’t require science-based degrees. We encourage students with degrees in education, history, psychology and sociology to apply.
  • Cost – Between a master’s vs doctorate in occupational therapy, OTD programs generally cost more than MOT programs. That is because you’re in school for longer. An MOT program may be more attractive to those who hope to accrue less student debt. While the immediate ROI for MOT graduates may be higher, an OTD expands a graduate’s realm of possibilities.
  • Preparation for licensure – Both MOT vs. OTD programs include curricula that will prepare students to take the national examination for certification. This certification is necessary to practice in the United States.

In the MOT vs. OTD debate, one of the most significant differences is that an OTD requires candidates to complete a doctoral capstone to prepare them for more advanced roles4

The doctoral capstone at USAHS is an independent project that allows students to explore an OT topic of interest, strengthen critical thinking and research skills, collaborate with a mentor and other OT professionals and gain immersive, real-world experience.


Master’s vs Doctorate in Occupational Therapy Salary​

Do OTD graduates earn more than MOT graduates?

Not necessarily.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational therapists, regardless of their degree, earn a median annual income of $96,370.1

Furthermore, OTD (vs. MOT) graduates are qualified for non-clinical positions, such as roles in education. If you choose to pursue an MOT now, you may decide to pursue an OTD or PPOTD later.

Make an Impact in Expanded Roles: OTD​

Our OTD program includes two additional trimesters of study beyond the MOT, with leadership, advocacy and policymaking courses. As an OTD student, you will also complete a capstone project: a research study and presentation on an OT topic of your choice. Many of our students’ capstone projects are groundbreaking and innovative, examining emerging practice areas of OT and quantifying the effects of OT interventions. If research interests you, the capstone project is a valuable opportunity to hone your skills.

“I chose the OTD program because I was thinking about the future. I want to open my own clinic someday. The OTD offers more options, and the additional schooling will help down the road.” — Nadim B., OTD, USAHS

In comparing an OT master’s vs. doctorate, the doctoral degree positions you to be more competitive in the OT job market. It also may be helpful for those seeking expanded professional roles, such as a practice owner, board member or policymaker. The Residential OTD typically takes 2.7 years, while the Flex OTD takes 3.7 years.*

Other OT Professional Paths​

Earning a bachelor’s degree is essential for graduate study and the path to becoming a licensed OT. However, to become an occupational therapy assistant (OTA), you need an associate degree from an accredited OTA program.

On the other end of the spectrum, once you are a licensed OT with work experience in a specialty such as pediatrics or gerontology, you can earn a specialty certification through the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and other organizations.

OT Doctorate vs Masters: Which Should You Pursue?​

Occupational therapy is currently ranked number four in U.S. News & Report’s rankings of the best jobs in healthcare. It also places 19th on its list of 100 Best Jobs.8

Whether you pursue an MOT vs. OTD, you can expect a rewarding role and the ability to help individuals enjoy a higher quality of life, regardless of injury, illness or disability. Ultimately, deciding between an OTD vs. MOT degree comes down to your immediate and long-term personal and professional goals and the time you’re willing to commit to school.

If you’d like to open your own practice someday or want to work in policy change and don’t mind the extra time in school, then an OTD may be the best route. However, if you’d like to earn a degree faster and start working as a clinician, consider an MOT program.


Want to know more about our OT programs?​

Program InformationRequest Information


Whether you choose our master’s vs. doctorate in occupational therapy, you will be part of a close-knit community of aspiring OTs. Benefit from mentorship opportunities with our expert faculty-practitioners, who publish research, serve on boards, work in schools or practice in clinics. You will have a chance to practice working with mock patients in our state-of-the-art Centers for Innovative Clinical Practice (CICPs), which include simulated home and clinical settings. In select labs, you will collaborate with your peers in our physical therapy and speech-language pathology programs. Regardless of what you decide — an occupational therapy master’s vs. doctorate — both programs include two trimesters of fieldwork, where you will gain practice with assessing and treating patients in different settings. You have a most exciting journey ahead.

*Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred and other factors.

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers hands-on Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) and Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degrees. Join a collaborative cohort of peers who learn under the mentorship of expert faculty-practitioners. Practice with mock patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and learn anatomy with our high-tech tools. Prepare for clinical practice with patients across the lifespan, as well as advanced roles in research, practice leadership, and policymaking. Residential (online coursework + in-person labs on weekdays) and Flex (online coursework + in-person labs on weekends) formats are available.

Master of Occupational Therapy – Dallas Campus​

The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program at the Dallas, Texas, campus has applied for accreditation and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 7501 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 510E, Bethesda, MD 20814-6519. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-6611 and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. The program must have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

Students must complete 24 weeks of Level II fieldwork within 24 months following completion of the didactic portion of the program.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists: Summary,” BLS, April 17, 2024, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm.
  2. American Occupational Therapy Association, “Program admissions criteria and formats,” AOTA, 2024, https://www.aota.org/career/become-an-ot-ota/start-your-career-journey/program-admissions-and-formats.
  3. Jane Case-Smith, Stephen J. Page, et al., “The Professional Occupational Therapy Doctoral Degree: Why Do It?”, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2014; 68(2):55–60, https://research.aota.org/ajot/article-abstract/68/2/e55/5858/The-Professional-Occupational-Therapy-Doctoral?redirectedFrom=fulltext.
  4. Christine Kroll, Linda R. Struckmeyer, et al., “What is the entry-level OTD doctoral capstone and how can you benefit?”, AOTA, March 24, 2022, https://www.aota.org/publications/ot-practice/ot-practice-issues/2022/entry-level-otd-capstone.
  5. Sara Stephenson, Oaklee Rogers, et al., “Designing effective capstone experiences and projects for entry-level doctoral students in occupational therapy: One program’s approaches and lessons learned,” The Open Journal of Occupational Therapy, 2020; 8(3):1-12, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7861568.
  6. Jill Seladi-Schulman, “Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: What to Know”, Healthline, March 11, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/occupational-therapy-vs-physical-therapy#about-occupational-therapy.
  7. American Occupational Therapy Association, “Fieldwork Management,” AOTA, 2024, https://www.aota.org/education/fieldwork.
  8. U.S News & World Report, “Occupational Therapist Overview,” U.S. News & World Report, 2024, https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/occupational-therapist.
From helping children hone their fine motor skills after an illness or injury to educating individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome on ergonomic equipment, many occupational therapists (OTs) enjoy a fascinating, rewarding and well-paid career.1 If this healthcare profession intrigues you, you may have learned that you need one of two degrees to practice: A Master

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