what is an occupational therapist?

An occupational therapist (OT) provides treatment to patients with disability or long-term illnesses to help them perform daily activities like moving around and taking care of themselves. As an occupational therapist, you help patients improve the quality of their lives by adapting to their conditions and learning independence. You also recommend assistive devices and teach them how to use the tools to accomplish tasks.

You work with seniors, young children and adults as an occupational therapist. You assess their difficulties in accomplishing tasks and teach them ways to improve the activities. You also recommend pain management strategies when participating in intense workouts.

what does an occupational therapist do?

While occupation refers to a profession or job, it denotes daily activities that improve independence in occupational therapy. For instance, people with illness and disabilities have difficulty eating, bathing and doing office work or laundry. Your job is to ensure your patients perform simple activities without affecting their condition.

Most occupational therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, outpatient clinics and nursing homes. You will provide services to people with arthritis, spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke or cerebral palsy. You can also work in schools to evaluate children with disabilities and assist them with school activities. Maintaining skills needed for daily activities helps them recover.

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average occupational therapist salary

The remuneration package depends on the healthcare facility you work for and whether you work full-time or part-time. As an occupational therapist, you earn a median salary of $88,000 annually in Australia. An entry-level occupational therapist with minimal experience earns an average salary of $80,000 annually. When you build your skills and expertise and become a registered occupational therapist with Occupational Therapy Australia, you can expect a higher salary of over $95,000 annually.

how to increase your salary as an occupational therapist

Your earnings as an occupational therapist depend on your qualifications, years of experience and specialism. Hence, to increase your salary, acquire additional training or certifications that improve your skills and expertise. As you gain experience, the roles you undertake become complex, and the pay structure will reflect the additional responsibilities.

Your employer also impacts your earnings and extra benefits. For instance, an occupational therapist working in a hospital has a different pay structure from those working in schools or nursing homes. Large organisations also have attractive remuneration packages compared to small or medium-sized hospitals or companies. However, you will likely gain more experience in small organisations since you handle diverse roles. Large companies require an occupational therapist to focus on one specialism.

Want to know what you will earn as an occupational therapist? Check out what you are worth with our salary checker.

occupational therapist salary

types of occupational therapists

Some of the types of occupational therapists include:

  • paediatric occupational therapist: if you enjoy working with children, you can specialise in paediatric occupational therapy. Your role is to assist children who cannot perform daily tasks due to disabilities. You will help the kids develop general functioning like feeding, walking and crawling.
  • geriatric occupational therapist: you work with elderly patients to help them manage routine tasks easily. Your work involves assisting elderly patients in coping with arthritis, Alzheimer's, low vision and recovering from a stroke.
  • mental health occupational therapist: when you specialise in mental health, you help clients overcome substance abuse, mood disorders and depression. You create wellness programmes to assist in stress management.
  • physical rehabilitation: occupational therapists can help patients with physical rehabilitation. Your job is to guide clients in accomplishing tasks despite their physical problems. You also train patients to use specialised equipment and assistance devices.
  • OT in autism: occupational therapists can make a big difference in the area of children with autism as they help to improve how they communicate, play and relate to others.
occupational therapist
occupational therapist

working as an OT

Working as an occupational therapist involves providing personal care, physical assistance and emotional support. Let's explore the tasks and responsibilities involved in the role.


occupational therapist skills and education

Some of the educational qualifications you need include:

  • bachelor's degree: to become an occupational therapist, you need to complete a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy, which typically lasts four years. When you complete the undergraduate qualification, you can pursue a master's degree in occupational therapy, which takes 2.5 years.
  • college courses: if you don't qualify for an undergraduate course, you should consider certificate and diploma courses. You can prepare for the role with a Certificate IV in allied health assistance in occupational therapy.
  • work experience: when you have the qualifications, you need extensive work experience to secure a role in a healthcare facility. Industry placements and internships after graduation help you learn the best skills for the role. Before you practice as an occupational therapist in Australia, you need to meet the registration standards of the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia.

skills and competencies

Some of the qualities of an occupational therapist include:

  • organising skills: as an occupational therapist, you must be organised to juggle the multiple tasks associated with the role. For instance, it is important to plan your schedule well to ensure you don't double-book clients. If you work in a clinical setting, you have to attend to your patients without disrupting the healthcare facility's workflow.
  • flexibility: as an occupational therapist, you should be flexible since your routine can change drastically. Clients may postpone or cancel appointments, and you also handle patients of different ages.
  • empathy: as an occupational therapist, you need deep wells of compassion since you watch and assist people with mental, physical or emotional problems. Empathy helps you treat patients with warmth and sympathy to make them feel at home. It also builds your patience in dealing with frustrated, stubborn and depressed clients.
  • problem-solving skills: in occupational therapy, there is no single remedy for all problems. You need to plot strategies for helping each patient. You require problem-solving skills to think critically and find the best remedies for your patients.

FAQs about working as a scientist

Here are the most asked questions about working as an occupational therapist:

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