The University of Wisconsin-Madison is offering a new online Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree program, which will allow occupational therapy professionals to continue working while pursuing their degree part-time over nine semesters. The first cohort of students will enroll in the summer of 2016.
“Therapists told us loud and clear that developments in research, practice, and policy are driving the need for new learning and advanced skills,” says UW-Madison’s Ruth Benedict, an associate professor of occupational therapy with the Department of Kinesiology and the director of the university’s occupational therapy (OT) program. “Using cutting-edge technology, we will train therapists to be visionary leaders in inter-professional practice settings. In the Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree program, therapists will acquire the necessary knowledge for facilitating best practice and advancing their careers.”
The new program is targeted toward midcareer occupational therapists—including alumni of UW–Madison with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in OT—who are seeking professional advancement, development of leadership abilities, and the skills to apply research evidence to practice within an inter-professional context. It responds to a market demand for advanced practitioners of occupational therapy who are prepared to train emerging therapists in the classroom and at clinical sites, to generate evidence in support of practice interventions, and to fill gaps in health care leadership and management.
Those admitted to the program will be enrolled in online courses part-time, with a cohort of students transitioning through 34 credits of work as a group in an effort to foster collaborative learning, encourage creative problem solving, and stimulate innovation in project development.
Benedict notes that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Department of Safety and Professional Services projects that the market demand for occupational therapy practitioners and health service managers will increase over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections indicate a 23 percent increase in the available positions for health services managers over the next 10 years—a rate more than double the expected average of 11 percent increase in overall employment.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development predicts a nearly 10 percent increase in occupational therapy jobs and a nearly 16 percent increase in medical and health service manager jobs by 2022.
The online Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree program will build upon UW-Madison’s 70-year history of training occupational therapists at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. The current Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program is nationally ranked in the top 10 percent of entry-level OT programs, with 100 percent of those graduating from the program over the past four years passing their national boards.