The MOT vs. OTD:
Which Degree Should You Pursue?

If you’re looking to become an occupational therapist, you might be wondering if you should pursue a Master’s in Occupational Therapy or a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. The MOT vs OTD debate is a controversial and contentious one, especially with the possible OTD mandate happening in 2027.

Because of this, I wanted to share some of the differences between the two, to help you in deciding which path is right for you. Be sure to also do your own further research via other platforms since it’s a big (and expensive) decision.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you want to teach?
  2. Do you enjoy and want to work in research?
  3. Are you comfortable with the significantly increased cost of the OTD vs the MOT?

If you answered yes to these, then the OTD may be a good option for you to consider. Another thing to keep in mind is that you can opt for a PhD in another topic instead of the OTD in order to be able to teach.

If you aren’t interested in teaching or research, read on:

If you are wanting to be a clinician and stay out of academia (for now), the MOT might be a better option while you can still get it.

With a Master’s in Occupational Therapy, you will finish your program on average about a year sooner than if you go straight into the OTD.

In addition, the OTD will, on average, add on another $20,000-$30,000 of debt to your student loans without an increased pay differential when you begin practicing.

If you go the MOT route, even with the OTD mandate, you will be grandfathered in and will still be able to get a job in the clinical setting. There are quite a few OTRs still practicing with their Bachelor’s degree and are able to get jobs even with new OTDs coming into the field.

No matter what degree you have, you are required to complete continuing education courses every year so you aren’t at a huge disadvantage if you “just” have your Master’s degree.

Cost Considerations of the MOT vs OTD:

When you start practicing, many hospitals and clinics start entry-level occupational therapists at the same pay scale, whether you have completed your OTD or have your MOT. The increased student loan payment of the OTD can be painful when you’re making the same entry-level pay.

One other thing to consider is that if you decide to go straight through to the OTD from the get-go, you will be in school at least a year longer than if you went for the MOT and got to work making a full-time salary sooner.

That extra year could be a loss of around a $60,000-$70,000 salary from “just” getting your Master’s in Occupational Therapy. A question to ask yourself is that is the extra time and debt money worth it if you aren’t interested in teaching or research?

Remember to do your due diligence and compare all of the programs you’re interested in to do your own homework on the curriculum and tuition differences. These are just a few aspects to consider that I’ve noticed while working as an occupational therapist (with a Master’s degree).

And Remember That You Can Always Get Your OTD In the Future!

I’m certainly not “against” obtaining your OTD if it’s something that you’re passionate about, and it can be a good idea to look into specialized OTDs when you’ve been practicing for a few years and know your interests.

That way, you can make the most of your OTD instead of taking mostly research courses (again be sure to check your programs of choice’s curriculums).

It also is helpful to consider waiting until you have a few years down of paying your already-expensive student loans to see if you really can take on another $30,000 (or much, much more expensive than that) advanced degree.


What are your thoughts on this? If you opted for the OTD, what was your deciding factor? I’d love to hear your input on this topic in the comments below, whether you went for the MOT or OTD, or you are still trying to decide.

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  • Tom May 1, 2018   Reply →

    Hey thanks for writing this! My enrollment advisor was trying to get me into the OTD program and I was hesitant cause I didn’t really put it all together. I think I will go to MOT. Again I’ll do more research. Thank you!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L May 2, 2018   Reply →

      You’re so welcome! I’m glad the post gave you some additional ideas to do a bit more research. Best of luck with whichever path you choose 🙂

  • Carolyn Anderson May 22, 2018   Reply →

    I have a bachelors degree 31 years of experience and was only considering the OTD for fear of not being allowed to still practice. I have been out of school since 1986. I am at the top of my pay scale and the program I would attend is for a clinical OTD as well as not on the acote accredited list. I will be 64 when the mandate goes into play. Is it worth it as I have no interest in research, would love to teach but it looks like I would still need to go further for a PhD. Thanks Carolyn anderson

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L May 22, 2018   Reply →

      Hi Carolyn, if you are looking to teach, the OTD wouldn’t be a bad idea, but I don’t think you have to worry about not being allowed to practice if you opted against getting the OTD. In addition, if the program is not yet accredited, I would also be hesitant to apply until after it’s received accreditation. Best of luck with whichever path you choose!

    • Anon June 13, 2018   Reply →

      Hello Carolyn, ACOTE does not accredit Post-Professional OTD’s. If accreditation is what you’re looking for, you’ll want to look at a program that also has an entry-level OTD that is accredited.

  • Laura Omogrosso August 22, 2018   Reply →

    Hi Carolyn,
    I am in the same position. Bachelors in OT 1985. 33 years. Certified Hand Therapist as of 2005. Broad rehab background.
    Concerned about future as I am not ready to retire however do not want to spend a fortune for further schooling at this point.
    Wondering what you have decided etc… as I think people in our position need some guidance/support.

  • Dana Kosmala February 9, 2019   Reply →

    my daughter is 21 and has gotten accepted to LLUMC in Calif for their MOT program, and Pacific University entry level OTD program.
    I was favoring LLUMC due to their long heritage of teaching and the fact that they have their own hospitial/peds hospital/VA hospital/ and county hospital and numerous clinics. Pacific has to send everyone out for field work. their OTD is clinical not research. Since I am paying for her degree, I really want her to have the best experience. She will definitely be working past the 2027 change.

    does the 2027 mandate mean that those with just MOT will get grandfathered in or that all those people with MOT will have to get their OTD to keep working????

    Thank you

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L February 10, 2019   Reply →

      Hi Dana, if your daughter gets her Master’s in OT (the MOT program) she will be grandfathered in after the mandate and will not be required to get her OTD to continue working in the field.

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