The primary driver for degree escalation in occupational therapy is to solve poor curriculum design of master's level programs
There are some OT schools that are configured in a 4+1 or 3+2 model and the number of graduate credits is only around 30-40. In these schools, the bulk of the occupational therapy curriculum is delivered at the undergraduate level.
Throughout the conversation, I have heard educators and practitioners both attempt to get AOTA and ACOTE to acknowledge that not all educational programs are experiencing the same kind of 'credit pressure.' People use different terms to describe this concern; most explain it in terms that some programs are requiring more credits than are necessary or perhaps even typical for granting a masters degree.
It is true that some programs may require 80-100 credit hours for a masters degree in occupational therapy. These programs find themselves in this situation because they designed their curriculum to be delivered at the graduate level only.
One of the arguments for transitioning to doctoral level is that these schools can't compete with other programs that offer a doctoral degree for a similar number of credits. That is a legitimate concern, particularly in consideration that some states are talking about 'capping' the number of credit hours for masters programs.
What has been missing from the conversation, and never addressed in any forum that I have seen or heard, is the question of why AOTA or ACOTE has not discussed promoting or encouraging a different configuration so that schools do not experience this 'credit pressure.' Why have we not heard any of those conversations? Why have there been no studies or ad hocs looking at this curriculum design issue?
It is a free world, and nothing stops schools from designing their programs any way that they want, but it is irresponsible to use this 'credit pressure' as a justification for advancing a degree when there are some programs that have responsibly promoted an economic 3+2 or 4+1 model with a reasonable and typical number of graduate credits.
If AOTA and ACOTE can 'suggest' changes in standards, and in fieldwork models, and is residency models, then they certainly can also 'suggest' greater economy in the way that programs are delivered. However, there is no evidence that this has happened, and everyone repeats the incorrect statement that every masters program has 80 to 100 credits, which is patently false.
Repeating this misinformation withholds important data from stakeholders and misrepresents an important component of this curricular problem.
That some, perhaps even many, OT programs have more credits than is needed to grant a masters degree is an indicator of curriculum design and implementation problem that needs to be regulated and monitored. That should be the proper function of ACOTE - but rather than solve the problem responsibly all that we can see is a proposal for degree escalation that has very shaky support and justification.
1. Have there ever been any studies or ad hoc groups that looked at standards and performance to determine if economic 3+2 or 4+1 models perform any differently than 'graduate only' models that have 80 to 100 credits? If not, why not?
2. If 'credit pressure' is a problem acknowledged by everyone, why are the only suggestions for fixing this problem in the single direction of degree escalation (as opposed to economic curricular design and use of 3+2 or 4+1 models)?
3. When most graduate degrees across many disciplines only require 30-50 or so credits, OT masters degrees that require between 80 to 100 credit hours can lead to questions about irresponsible curriculum design and implementation. From an ethical and moral standpoint, where are our conversations about whether or not it is correct to saddle students with this kind of graduate debt, and whether or not it is correct to 'punish' those programs that implemented responsible and economic curricula by requiring them to move their curricula to a doctoral level?
Please share this information with your Representative Assembly representatives.