School of Occupational Therapy

School of Occupational Therapy

Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences’ School of Occupational Therapy (SOT) is in the development phase for the proposed entry-level Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) and entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctorate (OTD) programs. Heather Fritz, OTR/L, PhD is the founding director and is in the process of obtaining necessary approvals from Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The MSOT and OTD programs cannot begin recruiting students until all approvals are granted. With this page, we seek to inform stakeholders regarding the SOT’s development and planning process as well as the timeline for the MSOT and OTD programs. You can also contact Dr. Fritz directly at hfritz@pnwu.edu.

Founding the PNWU School of Occupational Therapy

The PNWU Board of Trustees authorized leadership to proceed with the planning for the MSOT and OTD programs including advertisement for the founding program director. PNWU achieved regional accreditation in 2018 from NWCCU. This allowed PNWU to pursue the MSOT and OTD programs. PNWU submitted a Notice of Intent to Seek Accreditation of a MSOT and OTD program to ACOTE in August 2019, following a needs assessment detailing why the MSOT and OTD programs at PNWU are the right programs at the right time.

Need for Occupational Therapy in the Region

PNWU’s five-state region (Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon) has relatively poor access to occupational therapists and occupational therapy programs. There are only four accredited masters-level programs and three accredited doctoral-level programs in the Pacific Northwest1. Data from the most recent American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Academic Programs Annual Data Report show the broader Western region of the U.S. is underserved by accredited master’s- and doctoral-level programs (only 11% of all master’s and 17% of all doctoral programs nationally)2. Only 8% of U.S. occupational therapists self-identify as living and working in the Pacific Northwest3, and the number of occupational therapists per 1,000 population is below the national average in Washington, Oregon, and Montana4.

Growth in the Profession

Occupational Therapy is one of the fastest-growing health professions with a projected 16% increase from 2019-20295. Salaries for occupational therapists also remain strong. In 2019, the average salary nationally for occupational therapists was $84,950, and it was $84,150 in Washington state5.

School of Occupational Therapy Mission

Consistent with the mission of Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences (PNWU), the developing PNWU School of Occupational Therapy is committed to delivering graduate programs of distinction and producing occupational therapists ready to deliver occupation-based services that promote the health and well-being of rural and underserved communities in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Our graduates will advance occupational therapy through leadership, advocacy, research and scholarship, and innovation in practice. The achievement of the mission includes the study of occupational therapy and occupational science in collaboration with faculty, students, occupational therapy practitioners, and community members.

Program Accreditation Information

The entry-level Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) and entry-level Occupational Therapy Doctoral (OTD) programs intend to apply for Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its Web address is www.acoteonline.org.

The developing PNWU programs must be granted Candidacy Status, have a pre-accreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation, and be granted Accreditation Status before their graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of the NBCOT exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate's ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.

At this time there is no guarantee that the developing School of Occupational Therapy at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences will be granted candidacy status or be approved to admit students.

References:

  1. “School Directory.” ACOTE, acoteonline.org/schools/.
  2. Harvison, Neil. “Academic Programs Annual Data Report.” Aota.org, American Occupational Therapy Association, Mar. 2020, www.aota.org/-/media/Corporate/Files/EducationCareers/Accredit/Annual-Data-Report-2018-2019.pdf/.
  3. Aota.org, American Occupational Therapy Association, www.aota.org/Education-Careers/Advance-Career/Salary-Workforce-Survey.aspx.
  4. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6 July 2020, www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291122.htm#st.
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Occupational Therapists, at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm

Contact Information

Heather Fritz, PhD
Occupational Therapy
Founding Program Director
(509) 249 - 7956
hfritz@pnwu.edu