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If you’re an experienced occupational therapist who wants to meet the field’s growing call for doctoral-level education, Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (PPOTD) programs are designed with you in mind. But how can the Post Professional OTD open more doors for your career? What kinds of roles can you take on with the advanced knowledge of an occupational therapy doctorate degree? What are the benefits of a doctorate in occupational therapy?
Below are ten career paths you can take after your graduate program, inspired by alumni of USAHS’ PPOTD program who are working in occupational therapy services today.
Why consider earning a post-professional doctorate in occupational therapy?
Follow your existing career path by applying your advanced knowledge and skills to your current practice.
You may, like many in our graduate program, choose to stay in your current position to create positive change in your workplace. Many of the occupational therapy courses and assignments in the OTD program are designed for immediate application within your current clinical practice. As you learn new strategies and techniques based on the most current research, you can implement them to improve client outcomes. You can opt to complete your capstone project by investigating an issue from your workplace.
Continue within your current practice area and advance to a leadership role.
An occupational therapy doctorate degree opens doors to leadership roles, whether in clinical practice or in administration. So that promotion you’ve been eyeing may be within closer reach. The Executive Leadership specialization in USAHS’s PPOTD program will give you a fresh perspective on the big picture of your current occupational therapy practice, helping you think strategically about how to improve its systems and approach to working with clients. As you study alongside professionals from other health professions, you will prepare to lead interprofessional teams composed of occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, and more.
Open your own private practice.
If you dream of opening your own occupational therapy practice, a doctoral degree in occupational therapy will give you a bird’s-eye view of the profession that will prepare you to lead a team of OTs and other practitioners. Of course, running a practice also requires knowledge of marketing, human resources, space design, bookkeeping, billing, and more. You can learn these entrepreneurship skills through self-study or by just jumping in with both feet. Being an OT entrepreneur is challenging in ways that promote real professional growth. See our post on opening a private practice. Advancing your occupational therapy education can lead to the opportunity of opening a private practice that will influence your salary and take your career to new heights.
Work as an independent contractor.
Some OTs work as independent contractors, picking up short-term assignments in clinics, schools, businesses, or home settings. There are many occupational therapy specialties to choose from so not only is this a flexible way to practice, but also one that never gets boring. The Post Professional OTD will broaden your knowledge about a variety of occupational therapy services, giving you the expertise to try something new as a contractor or sample a few different types of clinical work. Networking with each interprofessional student and faculty member may also lead to interesting contract opportunities. Also, see #7 and #10 for more ideas on what OT contractors can do.
Pursue state, national, and/or international organizational leadership roles.
If you’re passionate about OT and see yourself playing a role in advancing the profession for the good of clients and your colleagues, consider a role on your state OT board or within a national organization such as the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). This is a great way to influence OT-related policy at the local or national level. You might also consider joining organizations that focus on broader healthcare issues beyond OT.
Pursue academic and/or administrative positions in occupational therapy education.
Several of our PPOTD graduates have gone on to teach in occupational therapy degree programs at higher education institutions. Choose the Teaching and Learning specialization in our PPOTD program. If this is your goal, you will learn the latest teaching methodologies and practice building curricula for online and in-person learning. You may also enjoy a role as a fieldwork educator at a facility where students complete their fieldwork, as a mentor/advisor to entry-level OTD capstone students, or as a trainer for new hires within your clinic.
Become an unconventional OT.
More and more practitioners these days are choosing creative careers in occupational therapy. You could work in an emerging practice area, such as with people who have mental health issues or who are experiencing homelessness or incarceration. Or you could design and produce adaptive equipment that other OTs can use with their patients. You could launch a podcast or blog about the profession, interviewing OTs who are doing interesting things in the field. Or, carve out your own OT niche that no one else has thought of! Where do occupational therapist work? There are many creative careers in OT to choose from.
Pursue further scholarship in education or health policy.
Some of our students take advantage of our PPOTD to Doctor of Education (EdD) Bridge option as further preparation for positions in teaching and academic administration. Most students may transfer 24–27 PPOTD credits to the EdD and complete the EdD faster. Others study health policy in order to become greater advocates for the OT profession and influence legislation. Also see #5.
Pursue textbook and journal publication opportunities.
As you gain more research experience during your OTD program, you may get fired up to explore an area of OT theory or practice by researching it further and publishing your findings, perhaps in collaboration with other academics. You could even leverage your PPOTD capstone project into scholarly publication and presentation opportunities.
Pursue publishing and editing positions.
If you enjoy writing about OT topics, consider writing for an online or print OT journal as a freelancer or staff member. Or launch your own website, blog, podcast or academic journal!
Many of our PPOTD graduates say that, besides opening new career possibilities, this OT program rejuvenates their professional motivation and reignites their love of OT. This is only a sampling of the possible career paths you can take after graduation. We would love to hear about yours!
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers an online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (PPOTD) program* designed for working clinicians and OT educators, with optional on-campus immersions (currently postponed due to COVID-19). Specializations include Executive Leadership and Teaching and Learning. In this flexible and individualized program, you will advance your studies in clinical practice, research, leadership, advocacy, and education—and become a change agent in the field of occupational therapy.
*OT entry-level programs are subject to the accreditation regulations of ACOTE; however, post-professional programs are not under the jurisdiction of ACOTE.