Occupational Therapist Job Description

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Despite our best intentions, many Australians will face injuries, disabilities or illnesses throughout their lifetimes that prevent them from doing all they want to do or be all they want to be. In practical terms, this may mean suffering from a broken leg that prevents an individual from moving freely around their home or workplace, or someone suffering from severe social anxiety that prevents them leaving their house altogether. Whatever the ailment, occupational therapists play an important role in helping everyday Australians manage their injury, disability or illness so they can still live relatively normal everyday lives. Given the important social nature of this role, occupational therapy jobs are in strong demand with over 16,600 qualified professionals across the country holding this title. Jobs growth over the next 4 years is also expected to be very strong – making it an attractive career choice for those seeking a career in healthcare.

Occupational Therapist Key Duties & Responsibilities:

As their job titles suggests, the primary role of occupational therapists is to help their clients/patients effectively manage their health condition(s) so they can continue to perform their regular daily activities and occupations with a degree of mobility (independence) and confidence. To achieve this important goal, occupational therapists will apply a range of therapeutic methods learnt through their professional training, which are tailored to their individual patient’s needs.

COMMON DUTIES

  • Meeting patients in a clinical setting (I.e. hospital or health clinic etc) to hear their story and assess their emotional, psychological, developmental and physical needs
  • Using a variety of clinical observations and standardised tests to assess their patients functional capabilities, including in their home, work or study environments
  • Based on these initial meeting(s), clinical observations and standardised tests; recommending physical environmental modifications to help their patient maximise their daily mobility and comfort
  • Planning and implementing programs designed to help their patient in their everyday life; including vocational, recreational, remedial, social and educational activities in both group and one-on-one settings
  • Providing practical occupational therapy advice to other relevant parties, including the family members, carers, employers and teachers of their patients
  • Providing relevant equipment to their patients, including wheelchairs, walking frames, splints etc and demonstrating proper usage
  • Working directly with other allied health professionals such as audiologists, optometrists and psychologists to assist in case management.
  • Keeping up-to-date patient records as required by law.
  • Attending professional development programs with other occupational therapists to keep professional skills up-to-date and share relevant industry knowledge.

PERSONAL SKILLS & ATTRIBUTES

  • Ability to stay calm under pressure in stressful situations
  • Enjoys helping other people
  • Friendly, caring personality
  • Patience and tolerance for others 
  • Strong communication skills 
  • Strong motivational skills 
  • Strong organisational skills

Occupational Therapist Salary and Benefits:

According to HR website Payscale, occupational therapy jobs in Australia typically attract a median salary of $60,099 per annum, with the full pay scale ranging from $47,112 per annum for fresh graduates straight out of university, up to $78,183 per annum for qualified professionals with a few years’ experience on their CV. Like many healthcare jobs, the pay of an occupational therapist can vary depending on location, with rural/remote postings typically attracting a salary premium to compensate for the isolation and unique challenges they hold. Pay for OT jobs can also vary between public and private sector employers.

Education & Training: How to Become an Occupational Therapist

Becoming a proper occupational therapist in Australia requires an undergraduate-level university education (typically 3-4 years in duration) such as a Bachelor degree in Health Science or Occupational Therapy which are offered by a number of universities across Australia and New Zealand, approved by AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). The full list of approved courses can be found here, with a few examples provided below:

  • Auckland University of Technology (AUT) - Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy) (3 years)
  • Australian Catholic University (ACU) - Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (4 years)
  • Curtin University - Bachelor of Science (Occupational Therapy) (4 years)
  • Deakin University – Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (4 years)
  • LaTrobe University – Bachelor of Applied Science & Master of Occupational Therapy (4 years)

Having completed your university education, the next step is to obtain professional registration from the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (part of AHPRA), a process which requires undergoing a Police Check, a Working with Children Check and completing other related assessments. It should be noted, for jobs as an occupational aide (as opposed to a fully-qualified therapist), a Certificate IV will suffice – with this providing a pathway into occupational therapy jobs down the track.