Governor Signs Bill Allowing CSUs to Offer Doctor of OT Degree

An Occupational Therapy master's student works with clients during an on-campus clinic to help them improve dexterity. A new bill has cleared the path for SJSU and other CSUs to develop doctoral programs in OT.

An Occupational Therapy master’s student works with clients during an on-campus clinic to help them improve dexterity by using a cotton candy machine. A new bill has cleared the path for SJSU and other CSUs to develop doctoral programs in OT.

Governor Gavin Newsom approved Assembly Bill 829 Aug. 30, clearing the way for San Jose State University to offer a Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degree. The next step will be for the Chancellor’s Office to approve an executive order that will set the scope and guidelines for the new degree

In anticipation of the approval of this bill and pending approval by the Chancellor’s Office, faculty in the College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) Department of Occupational Therapy have already begun work on developing curriculum for a doctoral degree.

“They started about a year ago in anticipation of this going through,” said HHS Interim Dean Pamela Richardson. “We are looking at what the balance will be between the master’s and doctoral programs.”

The college anticipates admitting the first cohort in 2022-23.

“The OTD gives graduates additional training in research and evidence, more coursework in program evaluation and program development, and will have a capstone project and experience,” Richardson said. “They will have more potential for leadership opportunities.”

A doctoral program also will build a pipeline for future educators.

“Most academic programs hire OTDs as faculty so it creates opportunities for teaching as well,” Richardson said.

The College of Health and Human Sciences already offers one doctoral program with another in development. This year marks the first year SJSU is offering a Doctor of Nursing Practice on its own following six years of offering a joint program with Fresno State University. The College is also working on the final stages of a  doctoral degree in its newly created Department of Audiology. Faculty are in the final stages of developing the curriculum, gaining conditional accreditation and recruiting audiology students for the first cohort to begin in fall 2020.

“These are certainly elevated health degrees and there will be lots of opportunity for interprofessional education,” Richardson said. “It will increase the visibility of our College as producing healthcare leaders across a variety of disciplines.”

She noted that accrediting boards in most healthcare disciplines require programs to provide interprofessional education so that graduates are prepared to work effectively on healthcare teams.

“This gives us an opportunity to build robust doctoral programs and ramp up the amount of collaborative research opportunities for faculty and students,” she said. “It takes research active faculty to appropriately train and mentor doctoral students.”