Occupational Therapy OT

| 28 February 2023

The data in this blog is for general informational purposes only and information presented was accurate as of the publication date.

Comparing the MOT vs. OTD Degrees


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.1,2

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) (MOT) or a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD).3 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 two degree programs compare? Are there substantial differences between degree path time commitments and potential earnings?


What is an OTD?

An OTD program provides its candidates with a similar education to MOTs, preparing 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.4 In addition, an OTD program requires the completion of a doctoral capstone project—a topic we’ll look into more later.5

As a result, OTD graduates 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:6

  • In-depth clinical practice skills
  • Research skills
  • Administration and leadership
  • Policy development
  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Development of theory


What is an MOT?

A Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) is a comprehensive program that equips graduates with the skills, experience and knowledge they need to work with patients in a clinical setting. These include, but are not limited to:7

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

OTD vs. MOT: How Do They Compare?

Both MOT and OTD degree programs prepare graduates to fulfill the myriad tasks required of occupational therapists, from offering support to caregivers to helping patients relearn essential tasks, like bathing and dressing.1 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 and/or higher education.8 The same holds true for those who decide to pursue a Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (PPOTD)—a terminal degree, the highest you can receive in the field. These advanced degrees are relevant for those who may want to:9

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

Alternatively, an MOT is recommended to aspiring OTs who want to begin practicing as soon as possible. MOT graduates may apply for OT positions after completing their education and passing the national examination for certification, administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT).10 Both MOT and OTD programs prepare students for this exam.


Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)

Let’s take a look at other program factors to consider:

  • Duration – A residential MOT typically takes two years to complete, while a residential OTD normally requires two additional trimesters.9 However, this depends on the pace of your program. For instance, at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS), our Flex MOT and Flex OTD programs typically take three years and four years to complete, respectively, but offer students more flexibility in their schedules.
  • Supervised fieldwork – Both MOT and OTD candidates must complete several weeks of supervised fieldwork.8 The specific number of hours required will depend on the program.
  • Admission requirements – Both MOT and OTD programs require a bachelor’s degree, the successful completion of OT school requirements, prerequisites, and, depending on the institution, a minimum required GRE score.11 USAHS does not require the GRE. If you’re currently majoring in a field outside of health sciences and have just started exploring the idea of becoming an occupational therapist, rest assured that many OT programs don’t require science-based degrees. At USAHS, we encourage students with degrees in fields such as education, history, psychology and sociology to apply.
  • Cost – OTD programs generally cost more than MOT programs because you’re in school for a longer amount of time. This may make an MOT program 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.12
  • Preparation for licensure – Both MOT or OTD programs include curricula that will adequately prepare students to take the national examination for certification. This certification is necessary in order to legally practice in the United States.8

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 roles.

The doctoral capstone at USAHS is an independent project that allows students the opportunity 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.13

“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 Batshon, OTD ‘19



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 $85,570.14

Furthermore, OTD graduates are qualified for non-clinical roles, such as roles in education.12 If you decide to pursue an MOT now, you may still decide to pursue an OTD or PPOTD later.


OT Doctorate vs Masters: Which Should You Pursue?

Occupational therapy is consistently ranked as one of the best jobs in healthcare—and one of the best jobs, overall.2

Whether you pursue an MOT or an 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 which OT degree to pursue comes down to your immediate and long-term personal and professional goals, as well as the amount of 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 right away, an MOT may be the path for you.

Fortunately, USAHS’ graduate occupational therapy programs are designed to appeal to a broad range of aspiring OTs—those who want to practice as soon as possible, those who want to assume roles in education, leadership and clinical research and everyone in between. At USAHS, you’ll be mentored by expert faculty-practitioners, work with mock patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and gain real-world experience through immersive fieldwork. Whether you choose to pursue an MOT or OTD, USAHS’ team prepares students with the skills they need to succeed.

Request information about our programs and apply now to discover all that awaits you as an occupational therapist.



  1. J Seladi-Schulman, “Occupational Therapy vs. Physical Therapy: How Do They Differ?”, Healthline, last modified March 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/occupational-therapy-vs-physical-therapy#about-occupational-therapy
  2. U.S News Best Jobs, “Occupational Therapist–Career Rankings, Salary, Reviews and Advice,” U.S. News & World Report, last modified 2023, https://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/occupational-therapist
  3. American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., “Program Admissions and Formats,” AOTA, last modified 2023, https://www.aota.org/career/become-an-ot-ota/start-your-career-journey/program-admissions-and-formats
  4. American Occupational Therapy Association, “Become an Occupational Therapy Practitioner,” AOTA, last modified 2023, https://www.aota.org/career/become-an-ot-ota
  5. C Kroll, L Struckmeyer, and B Schmeltz, “What is the entry-level OTD doctoral capstone and how can you benefit?”, AOTA, last modified March 2022, https://www.aota.org/publications/ot-practice/ot-practice-issues/2022/entry-level-otd-capstone
  6. S Stephenson, O Rogers, C Ivy, “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, last modified 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7861568/
  7. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, “What Does an Occupational Therapist Do?”, USAHS, last modified October 2022, https://www.usa.edu/blog/what-does-an-occupational-therapist-do/
  8. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, “How to Become an Occupational Therapist – Benefits & Job Opportunities,” USAHS, last modified February 2022, https://www.usa.edu/blog/how-to-become-an-occupational-therapist/
  9. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, “Graduate Occupational Therapy Programs,” USAHS, last modified 2022, https://apply.usa.edu/occupational-therapy-programs/
  10. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists: Occupational Outlook Handbook,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified September 2022, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm#tab-4
  11. S Stromsdorfer, “What are the prerequisites for OT school?”, My OT Spot, last modified 2019, https://www.myotspot.com/ot-school-prerequisites/
  12. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, “Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) Program,” USAHS, https://www.usa.edu/college-of-rehabilitative-sciences/doctor-occupational-therapy/
  13. University of St. Augustine for Health Services, “Breaking Down the OTD Capstone Process,” USAHS, last modified May 2021, https://www.usa.edu/blog/breaking-down-the-otd-capstone-process/
  14. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists: Occupational Outlook Handbook,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, last modified September 2022, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm


There could be an article about you here one day. Take charge of your own life-story!

Take charge of your own life-story

Request Information

More Occupational Therapy OT Articles

Upcoming Occupational Therapy OT events