Digital and print medical academic journals feature original, peer-reviewed research articles and case studies. These publications provide a forum for sharing and critiquing theories, models, and discoveries that advance public health and expand knowledge of the health sciences, including psychiatry, physiotherapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. In this way, they serve an essential role in keeping medical practice uniform and up-to-date across disciplines.
There are a number of academic journals that publish material specifically by and for occupational therapists, with articles that include results of clinical trials and observations from clinical practice. One of the most prominent of these publications, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT), published by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), describes its mission this way: “(T)o publish peer-reviewed research examining the effectiveness and efficiency of occupational therapy practice so that occupational therapy professionals can make informed, evidence-based decisions about best practice.”
Occupational therapy-focused academic journals serve to inform practitioners in occupational therapy in healthcare practice in areas of theory, research, education, and professional development. What are the best occupational therapy academic journals? Our survey covers a number of them and also discusses:
By submitting work for publication in a peer-reviewed, open-access academic journal, occupational therapists can promote and share their practice and knowledge with other healthcare practitioners in the field. Published manuscripts are highly searchable in journal indexes, allowing others in the field to access both regional and international work to inform best practices in occupational health and allied health professions. Recommendations and guidelines for evidence-based practice can be shared, debated, and built upon.
These journals also allow for collaboration among governments, citizens, and health organizations to provide better treatment and facilitate public health initiatives. For example, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) article emphasizes the need for evidence-informed decision-making based on shared research on aging drivers in Canada, stating that the policy changes recommended “will ultimately impact occupational therapy human resources planning, development of evidence informed programs for older adult drivers, and changes to legislation related to driving.”
Occupational therapy academic journals serve both the general population—informing the public about important discoveries in the field of occupational science—and OT health professionals. Journals enable professionals to keep up with the latest research that informs practice in assistive technology, brain injury, spinal cord injury, geriatrics and pediatrics, mental health and well-being. Keeping up with journals helps occupational therapists provide the latest evidence-based treatment to their clients.
Practitioners can download full text articles or supplements and find current issues and archives by searching topics on any number of electronic databases like PubMed’s bookshelf, which offers free access to over 700 healthcare and life sciences titles. Other large health-oriented databases include:
All of these provide access to research outcomes, systematic reviews, theoretical papers, multidisciplinary articles, abstracts of randomized controlled trials, and other resources relevant to the various interventions utilized in occupational therapy practice.
According to JAMA editor-in-chief Howard Bauchner, accuracy is critical to the integrity of any academic journal. Journals should be judged by “the quality of peer-review that they conduct, the quality of the manuscript editing that they do, and [their] fact-checking with respect to numbers.”
As well, an academic journal’s reputation also relies on its impact factor (IF) (compiled by Journal Citation Reports) or its impact score (calculated by CiteScore). A journal’s IF ranking or impact score depends on the number of times an average published article is cited in other articles, papers, publications, and websites within a two- or three-year period. An occupational therapy academic journal with a high IF ranking or impact score is believed to be more important than those with low IF rankings.
Occupational therapists should be aware of OT-related developments that could impact their practice that are published in other medical journals. For instance, see this list of the 100 most-cited occupational therapy articles from 2017-2021 (not all of them are from OT academic journals).
Earning a master’s in occupational therapy is a necessary step toward fully licensed practice. While occupational and physical therapy assistants (OTAs and PTAs) can begin work at an entry-level with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you’ll need at least a master’s degree to advance to full practice. All OT master’s and doctoral programs in the US are regulated by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE).
In addition to the completion of your master’s degree at an accredited school, you also must pass the National Board of Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) examination to earn your license.
Typically, it takes about two years of full-time study to earn your master’s in occupational therapy. Some schools offer some flexibility in their programs. They may shorten the timeline by offering an accelerated course of study if a student has completed their bachelor’s degree in OT, or lengthen it by offering part-time options and weekend study over seven semesters instead of two.
Most OT graduate programs require either a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy (or a related health science), or prerequisite coursework in human anatomy and physiology, behavioral science, abnormal psychology, human development, and statistics.
Applicants also must submit official transcripts from all universities and colleges attended (showing a GPA of 3.0 or more), letters of recommendation from professors or supervisors (typically three), proof of relevant work experience (which should include at least 20 documented observation hours), and a personal statement of purpose.
The Occupational Therapist Centralized Application Service (OTCAS) serves as a common application accepted by many OT programs.
Coursework for this degree includes clinical and professional reasoning, functional anatomy, assessment in occupational therapy, mental and behavioral health, therapeutic approaches, biomechanical and neurorehabilitation theory and practice, and productive aging theory. Clinical work with patients constitutes a large component of the curriculum; fieldwork runs concurrently with coursework.
In occupational therapy, specialization occurs after students have earned their master’s and are already working in a specialized area of the field. Occupational therapists then have the option to earn certificates through the American Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) in areas like pediatrics, speech therapy, autism, mental health, brain injury, and research.
Because of the nature of the business of occupational therapy and the hands-on work that practitioners do, a fully online program is not a viable option. Most schools provide hybrid options, however, that allow students to attend classes virtually, but continue to participate in person for fieldwork and other important in-person training.
There are excellent occupational therapy master’s programs across the US, including
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