Frequently Asked Questions for the Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy

What is the post-professional doctor of occupational therapy (OTD) degree and why should I earn one?

The post-professional OTD is designed for occupational therapists with a master’s degree, and sometimes for those with only a bachelor’s degree, who wish to expand their skills and knowledge. Focus areas may include advanced clinical practice, evidence-based practice, occupation-based practice, and leadership. In the EKU OTD Program, experienced faculty provide instruction in leadership skills, applied research, and program development and evaluation with an emphasis on occupation-based and evidence-based practice. Our program includes courses in occupational science, culture and diversity, policy analysis, and educational practices for adult learners.

Through the advanced professional skills and knowledge developed in the EKU OTD Program, occupational therapists will be able to take on leadership roles, develop and evaluate clinical programs, and be strong consumers of research through a greater understanding of evidence-based practice. Graduates of EKU’s OTD Program will have an enhanced ability to apply occupational science and occupation-based practice to their clinical skills. They will also be able to assume clinical faculty roles in occupational therapy education programs.

Why is the OTD called a “professional” or “clinical” doctorate?

The professional doctorate refers to advanced study focused on applied research in a particular profession. The term “clinical” is sometimes used for professional doctorates in the health sciences that emphasize clinical research or skill development. Other professional doctorates include the Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). In the EKU OTD Program, students focus on evidence-based and occupation-based practices within their particular practice area, including a practicum experience, and complete a capstone project that consists of applied research in that area.

What are the differences between a professional doctorate in occupational therapy (OTD) and a Doctor of Philosophy  (Ph.D.)?

The OTD is an applied degree in which student learning is concentrated on professional skills needed to become an advanced evidence-based and occupation-based practitioner. Research is a component of the EKU OTD Program as students complete a capstone project using applied research methods. However, the overall program is designed to support the growth of a well-rounded practitioner-leader in occupational therapy who may take on clinical faculty roles in occupational therapy education programs. The EKU OTD Program can be completed in a little over 2 years when taken in a part-time format.

In contrast, the Ph.D. is a research degree in which students will take courses in specific research methods, complete research projects with faculty, and ultimately complete independent research as a dissertation. The goal of the Ph.D. is to develop independent researchers who will eventually go on to become research scientists or faculty in academic programs with their own research agenda. A Ph.D. is typically completed in four years, after completion of the master’s degree, when taken in a full-time format. Occupational therapists who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. can click on the following link to find out more about the University of Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University’s collaborative Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences:

Can I work on my professional goals in the EKU Online OTD program? Can the coursework be tailored to my interests?

The short answer is "yes." Students in the EKU OTD program engage in core coursework that is focused on the themes of occupation-based practice, diversity, leadership, and reasoning. With the coursework available, you start working toward your professional goals almost immediately in a variety of core classes, and you frequently have opportunities to tailor projects and coursework to your specific interests. Read more.