How to become a Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists assess and treat people who, due to illness, injury or circumstance, are limited in their ability to undertake everyday activities. They assist people to regain lost functions, develop their abilities and social skills, as well as maintain and promote independence in their everyday lives to enhance health and wellbeing.

Personal requirements of a Occupational Therapist

  • Patience
  • Able to show initiative
  • A flexible attitude
  • Practical, innovative and observant
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Good interpersonal and communication skills
  • Able to maintain client confidentiality
  • Able to work independently or as part of a team

Education & Training for a Occupational Therapist

To become an occupational therapist you usually have to complete a degree in occupational therapy at university. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in occupational therapy. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists may perform the following tasks:

  • conduct tests to assess functional, emotional, psychological, developmental and physical capabilities
  • plan and direct specific therapeutic programs for individuals using recreational, remedial, social, educational or vocational (job-related) activities
  • select and design activities that improve an affected movement or function and help individuals to regain personal care skills, such as eating and dressing
  • assist people to gain or regain skills in social, leisure and work environments through graded individual or group therapy and activity programs
  • monitor the progress of individuals and assist with the coordination of an appropriate health team
  • assist children with disabilities to integrate into education programs in schools
  • assess the ability of injured workers to return to their usual employment or perform alternative duties
  • design and modify the everyday environment of clients to allow for better access and independence
  • advise on the use of specialised equipment, such as home modifications, adapted kitchen utensils, wheelchairs and other assistive technologies that help people within their environment
  • assess the need for, develop and run health education programs
  • act as consultants to industry and government organisations
  • undertake research
  • teach in academic institutions, generally at tertiary level
  • assist with policy development for health and other areas.

Employment Opportunities for a Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists work in public and private healthcare organisations. These may include general and children’s hospitals, aged-care facilities, rehabilitation centres, day care centres, community health centres, municipal councils, primary and secondary schools, prisons, centres for people with disability, independent living centres and other organisations. They may also work in private practice as clinicians, consultants or as injury management advisers. Employment opportunities are influenced mainly by the ageing of the population, levels of government funding and government policy initiatives.

Additional Information
Before undertaking clinical placements required by courses, students will need to obtain a National Police Certificate, a Provide First Aid Certificate and immunisations, and undergo a Working with Children Check. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. It is a legal requirement for graduates to register with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia before practising as an occupational therapist in any state or territory of Australia. Visit the board’s website for more details.
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