Ithaca College is now accepting applications for a new six-year undergraduate-plus-doctoral degree program in occupational therapy (OT). It will be the college’s second doctoral program, joining the Doctor of Physical Therapy offering in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance.
The inaugural undergraduate cohort will have its first classes in the fall of 2023. Students will earn a bachelor of science degree in occupational science after four years and a doctor of occupational therapy degree (OTD) at the end of their sixth year. The college’s current stand-alone master’s degree program will be replaced by a three-year stand-alone OTD, with the first admission cycle beginning in summer 2025.
Either a master’s or doctorate in occupational therapy is required to take the national occupational therapy certification exam and qualify for employment.
“We recognize the importance of preparing our graduates with the highest entry-level degree possible to ensure they’re competitive, and we’re pleased we can offer it in a really efficient way,” said Julie Dorsey, professor and chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. “The industry is moving in this direction, and the strength of our master’s program gives us a solid foundation that eased our transition. We’re really just taking it to the next level.”
“The new clinical doctorate curriculum has an expanded ability to serve the needs of the community and provides the highest level of preparation for our graduates as clinicians, specialists, healthcare policy and practice advocates, and higher education faculty and leaders,” said Linda Petrosino, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance.
The field’s future is bright, with 17% job growth projected between 2020 and 2030 and a current average annual salary of more than $85,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
IC’s occupational therapy program began in 1995 and has had a strong track record of graduates passing the licensing exam, getting jobs, and having successful careers, according to Dorsey.
“Most OT programs are rooted in the medical model of disability, which says that the problem lies within the person, and they need to be fixed,” Dorsey said. “The social model of disability says that people are disabled by their environment. For example, using a wheelchair is not a negative thing—it is simply another way to get around. The issue arises when a wheelchair user encounters a space that’s not accessible, such as when there’s no ramp or the elevator is locked, or when an employer is hesitant to hire them due to concerns about the cost of accommodations thereby creating barriers to spaces and opportunities. Students in the program will be educated from this perspective and will be well prepared to be change agents in the profession.”
A stand-alone doctorate runs three years, but that is cut to two in IC’s combined degree program, because some graduate-level courses are taught during the undergraduate years. Further, students don’t have to reapply for the IC graduate program—they are guaranteed a spot if they meet the academic requirements. This enables students to earn two degrees in six years while developing their OT skill set beginning in year one.