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Consider a career in Occupational Therapy

Consider a career in Occupational Therapy
Photo: Consider a career in Occupational Therapy
If you're looking for a career in health then you may consider becoming an occupational therapist. These are health professionals who work with people of all ages to help improve their motor skills so that they can cope with the challenge of everyday tasks which able bodied people take for granted. Their goal is to enhance a person's life and help them live independently.

What sort of person suits this job?

It almost goes without saying that you need to have a genuine interest in people and in health and be able to communicate well. You also need patience and flexibility and be able to solve problems. Although a lot of the time you will be working independently, you also need to enjoy working as part of a team, as often other health professionals will be involved with the care of the same client.
So what does an occupational therapist do?
The day to day role of an occupational therapist is extremely varied and no two days are the same. Typically an OT could be involved in any of the following tasks:
  • Carrying out tests to determine the emotional, functional, psychological development and physical capabilities of an individual.
  • Assessing whether injured workers are able to return to work or to perform alternative duties.
  • Planning and taking charge of specific therapeutic programmes for individuals using recreational,vocational, remedial, educational, and social activities.
  • Helping children with disabilities to integrate into schools.
  • Designing and suggesting modifications in a client's environment to allow for improved access and independence.
  • Research or teach in academic institutions.
  • Give advice on the use of specialised equipment such as wheelchairs, adapted kitchen utensils, and home modifications which help people in their home environment.
  • Identify and design a range of activities which assist in the movements and functions which are affected and help people regain personal skills such as eating, washing and dressing.
  • Work as part of a co-ordinated health team in monitoring an individual's progress.

Where do occupational therapists work?

Occupational therapists work in a wide variety of environments including hospitals, aged care facilities, community health centres, schools, home care services, occupational health centres and private practices; and in areas such as pain management, rehabilitation, mental health and paediatrics. They also work in various branches of surgery and medicine such as cardiology, aged care, orthopaedics, arthritis, neurology and hand surgery.
In addition occupational therapists can specialise in particular fields such as paediatrics, rehabilitation, mental health and aged care.

How to become an occupational therapist

To become an occupational therapist you need to study for an undergraduate degree in occupational therapy. To be eligible you will need the pre-requisite subjects which can vary from one university to another, and in addition you'll need to have a good knowledge of English, chemistry, physics, biology and science. The course lasts four years and you will major with a (BOS) Bachelor of Occupational Science.
If you're looking to change career and already have an undergraduate degree in another field, then you can take a two year graduate entry Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) programme to gain the skills needed to become an occupational therapist. A background in health is useful but not essential.

Registering to work

Registration is necessary in Australia to work as an occupational therapist and graduates need to apply to the relevant registration board for occupational therapists in their chosen state.
If you're looking for a creative and varied career that involves helping people and enhancing their quality of life, then a job as an occupational therapist ticks all of the right boxes.

Resources: Occupational Therapist Career Fact Sheet and Nursing Careers Allied Health

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