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How to become an occupational therapist in Australia: careers in health

Occupational therapists assist people who have difficulties participating in everyday activities. They assist people to become more independent and to improve their wellbeing. They may work in a variety of areas including aged care, injury prevention, rehabilitation, disability and health promotion. Occupational therapists work in different settings including hospitals, community health services, schools, corporations and government agencies. To become an occupational therapist you need appropriate qualifications at either an undergraduate or postgraduate level.
Pathways

Being an occupational therapist: daily duties

Occupational therapists assess the needs of clients and plan interventions, which can include returning clients to the workforce, achieving social goals or improving their physical capabilities. Working alongside other medical professionals, occupational therapists deliver care plans to their clients. They also need to keep appropriate records of client care plans and monitor progress against these plans. Sometimes they may also contribute to policy and program development.

Tasks:

  • Assessing client needs
  • Monitoring client progress
  • Liaising with other medical professionals
  • Delivering intervention programs to clients
  • Contributing to program and policy development
Skills

Being an occupational therapist: skills for success

To succeed as an occupational therapist, you need to be flexible and have excellent problem solving skills. Effective communication skills, both verbal and in written form, are also essential. Occupational therapists must be empathetic and discreet, and able to relate to clients and other medical professionals from different backgrounds. The ability to work independently is also required.
Skills/attributes
  • Adaptable, discrete, culturally sensitive and empathetic
  • Good at innovating and problem solving
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills
Specs

Specialised roles within occupational therapy

Occupational therapists may specialise in a number of ways. They might choose to dedicate themselves to a particular field, for example working with people recovering from physical injuries or the elderly. Others may work in corporate settings developing and implementing programs in injury prevention. They can also find work in research and policy development.
  • Dedicated occupational therapists
    Working exclusively In one area of occupational therapy, dedicated occupational therapists become experts in their field. They gain a deeper understanding of the relevant issues in their particular area of expertise which means they can provide more comprehensive interventions for their clients.
  • Corporate occupational therapists
    Organisations often hire corporate occupational therapists to work with their employees to reduce the risks of workplace injuries. They educate employees on occupational health and safety such as properly setting up their work spaces, and other issues specific to their workplace and industry. They may also assist injured employees transition back into work.
  • Research and Policy Development
    Because they tend to have a thorough understanding of the issues related to health, employment special needs education and social interactions, occupational therapists can be extremely valuable in policy or research roles relating to these topics. These positions are usually based in academic settings or government agencies.
Pathways

Educational pathways for occupational therapists

To become an occupational therapist in Australia, you will need a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in occupational therapy or an associated field.
  • Start your career
    You can get work as an occupational aide by completing a Certificate IV level qualification, which can be a great pathway to occupational therapy.
  • Strengthen your skills
    Complete an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification through a recognised institution to become a practising occupational therapist.
  • Build your resume
    To move into policy and research roles, consider a Graduate Certificate in Policy and Applied Social Research. For private practice or consultancy roles, consider study in a business related field.
  • Industry requirements
    Registration with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia is required in order to work as an occupational therapist in Australia.
  • Finding Work
    Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your health career. Emphasise your personal strengths and achievements in your resume and target your cover letter to the job description listed.
  • Employment Prospects
    Strong growth is predicted to continue in the field of occupational therapy over coming years. A large number of these roles are part-time, but salaries tend to be above average.

Resources for Occupational therapist

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