7 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pursuing an OTD

Hi, my name is Amirra, and I’ll be your doctor…of occupational therapy today. Said no one ever. Seriously, so why did I choose to pursue an entry-level OTD? It certainly wasn’t to have a fancy title. The OTD vs. MSOT debate remains a hot topic for various reasons and there’s some strong opinions out there.

I’m going to be honest – initially, I chose to apply to OTD programs out of fear. Remember I was new to even learning about OT (Read about my path to OT here) so at that point I equated it to the profession of PT which I knew had an entry level requirement of having a doctorate degree. I heard rumors swirling around that this was going to be the case with OT and that eventually we would need doctorate degrees, or we would be at risk for not getting hired or promoted. So, I thought “well I might as well just go for the doctorate so I don’t have to worry about this later” – in hindsight, I should have reached out to more practitioners to find out their thoughts.

It really wasn’t until Interview Day at OT school where I started talking to other students about what they thought. We were interviewing at an OTD program – so I was able to ask prospective students and current students their insight. That’s when I really started to consider OTD vs. MSOT (I had applied to 2 OTD programs and 1 MSOT program).

So, I started thinking long-term and asking myself these questions that I would encourage you to ask yourself, too:

  1. What do I envision myself doing as a clinician?

  2. What do I hope to accomplish as an OT?

  3. How could an OTD help me get there?

  4. What are my research interests?

  5. Would I like to spend 3 years doing research?

  6. How would an extra research rotation be helpful?

  7. Bonus: Can I afford to do this?

Of note, I did NOT ask myself “Can I afford to do this?” which now stands to be my biggest regret because it was a very expensive option that has put me into a large amount of student loan debt. I also fell in love with the school, and the city. So, when I got accepted, it was an absolute no-brainer. Of course, I would attend!

Looking back, I don’t necessarily regret my decision to get an OTD. I do think later on down the line it will be useful to have. I also thoroughly enjoyed the research aspect and I wouldn’t have gotten that experience if I didn’t choose an OTD. However, the things I have accomplished and the opportunities that have come my way would still have been possible without an OTD.

So if you’re questioning which path is right for you. My number one piece of advice would be: financially, what can you afford? OTD programs are expensive and I do not promote going into six figure debt to get an OTD because having an OTD does not automatically mean a significant pay raise. So if you can afford it, then I would encourage you to ask yourself those above mentioned questions. Really think long-term and remember, if you want a doctorate later you can always do a Post-Professional OTD program or even get a doctorate in a related area.