Will Upgrading Academic Requirements Downgrade Occupational Therapy?

Last week marked the deadline to complete the American Occupational Therapy Association’s survey to determine “the current and emerging role of the occupational therapy assistant in meeting the occupational needs of society.” This is part of the response to last summer’s announcement that turned the profession on its head.

The AOTA decided that, starting in 2027, occupational therapy assistants will be required to have a bachelor’s degree, and occupational therapists will be required to have a doctorate degree.

While some approved of the idea, the backlash was quick and fierce. As one commentator said on RStreet.org, “Unfortunately…the AOTA’s decision to raise its credential requirements lacks any health or safety rationale…[and] also raise barriers for would-be workers hoping to pursue a career as an occupational therapy assistant, a currently in-demand profession. Career tracks like that of an occupational therapy assistant offer crucial opportunities for those seeking greater economic mobility without a four-year degree.

“Occupational therapy is representative of the kind of middle-skill, middle-income jobs that have been slow to grow in the wake of rapid digitalization and globalized markets. These types of jobs are important because they help provide those at the middle and lower ends of the socioeconomic scale access to greater opportunity. By raising educational requirements, the AOTA is making it harder for lower- and middle-income Americans — many of whom would find a four-year degree unobtainable or impractical — to successfully enter the occupational therapy profession and improve their lot in life.

“There are also less burdensome solutions available if positions such as occupational therapy assistants need more skills. For example, occupational therapy assistants are already required to enroll in continuing education programs. They also could be required to work with colleges and major employers to receive additional relevant training outside of a four-year degree.”

What are your opinions on this proposed change?

If you would like more information about continuing education for occupational therapists or occupational therapy assistants, please visit CEU Market.

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