Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Janet Pershing


In occupational therapy (OT), there is a push to encourage the entry-level doctorate (eOTD) over the master's of OT (MOT), without having identified which degree develops therapists who can best meet the needs of clients, while providing the fewest negative consequences for stakeholders. This collective case study assessed whether there are differences between OTs with MOT and with eOTD. Each supervisor's experiences with the two degree groups represented a separate case, then all were collectively considered. The central research question was whether OT supervisors, who have observational knowledge of clinical performance, perceived differences between MOTs and eOTDs in factors that impact the stakeholders of OT services, as identified using Freeman's stakeholder theory. Ten supervisors who geographically represented the five eOTD programs and diverse areas of OT practice were selected for initial interviews, with four others added to achieve saturation. Fourteen semi-structured interviews were conducted to begin to identify perceived similarities and differences between OTs with the different degrees. These data were inductively coded and then analyzed using a thematic analysis procedure. The results of this small, exploratory study indicate that eOTDs do not have higher skills and abilities; desire higher compensation, but do not receive it; sometimes bring attitudes of superiority; are not more respected because of their degree; and are negatively affected by higher debt load. Positive social change implications stemming from this study suggest that stakeholder theory can be used to guide policy discussions in professional healthcare associations and that policy makers in the profession of OT should exercise caution in adopting the eOTD as the required entry-level degree until further evidence on the efficacy of the eOTD degree is clear.