ST. GEORGE —Paving the way for Utah Tech University to offer its first doctoral degree, the institution has gained approval to begin offering a clinical doctorate in occupational therapy in the Fall 2024 semester.

Utah Tech University will begin offering a clinical doctorate in occupational therapy during the Fall 2024 semester, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Utah Tech University, St. George News

“The program has been in development for several years from inception to this point,” Dr. Sheila Longpré, the program director, told St. George News. “Once an institution makes the commitment to start a program of this nature, there is an extensive approval and accreditation process that occurs. It requires approval from leadership at Utah Tech University as well as the Utah System of Higher Education in order to begin the process.”

There is also an accreditation process for all occupational therapy programs, she said.

“The accreditation council for occupational therapy education oversees this process and granted candidacy status to the Utah Tech University Occupational Therapy Doctoral program in December 2023,” she added. “This allows the program to enroll students and continue toward the next step which is pre-accreditation review.”

The program will allow undergrad students to join. Skills learned include therapeutic interventions and aiding clients in adapting to injury, illness or disability.

Students enrolled in Utah Tech’s occupational therapy program will partake in a diverse range of learning activities and training opportunities, according to a press release issued by the university. These experiences will enable them to assist clients facing physical, cognitive, psychosocial, developmental and environmental challenges in maximizing their independence and maintaining optimum health and well-being.

Longpré said she anticipates this fall semester will have 25 students, with a focus on a small class size with a low student-to-instructor ratio.

The sun shines behind Utah Tech University, St. George, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy Utah Tech University, St. George News

The program emphasizes evidence-based practice, aiming to create future leaders who are not only competent and confident but also agents of change, adapting to the evolving needs of clients and the profession.

There is a demand in the workforce for more doctorate-level applicants. According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was an annual projected job opening rate of 9,600 positions between 2022 to 2032 for occupational therapists, with a 12% expected growth rate nationwide – significantly higher than the average for all occupations.

The program joins an array of health science programs already available at Utah Tech, including dental hygiene, nursing, emergency medical services, exercise science and many others.

“The program is dedicated to developing future occupational therapists who are evidence-based, confident and competent to be effective agents of change for evolving the future of occupational therapy practice,” Longpré said. “We are excited.”

The application process for this groundbreaking program has already begun, with a priority deadline of March 1, and a final deadline of May 1. For those interested in applying or learning more about Utah Tech University’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate visit this website.

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