An occupational therapist needs:
- to enjoy helping and working with people
- a friendly, caring and helpful nature
- organisational and motivational skills
- problem-solving and lateral thinking skills
- patience, tolerance and flexibility
- strong communication skills
Occupational therapists may work in a range of settings including hospitals, general practices, community health facilities, aged care facilities, private businesses, or in the workplaces and homes of their clients. They may work as part of a larger organisation or may work independently. They usually work regular hours, but may do shift work or work outside regular business hours to see clients at times that are more convenient for them. They may work in groups or one-on-one with their clients. They may work with clients who display erratic behaviour or suffer from emotional, intellectual or physical disabilities, and their work can be stressful at times.
On average, occupational therapists can expect to earn between $1 250 and $1 499 per week ($65 000 and $77 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As an occupational therapist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.
Occupational therapists use a range of assessment tools to establish the needs of their clients. They also help their clients to use specialised mobility equipment including wheelchairs, orthoses and computer-sided communications devices. They may also help their client by teaching them how to use adaptive equipment such as eating and dressing aids.
To become an occupational therapist you have to complete a degree majoring in occupational therapy.
Curtin University and Edith Cowan University both offer a four year Bachelor of Science (Occupational Therapy). Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.
To work as an occupational therapist in Western Australia, you must obtain professional registration with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia, and hold a current Working with Children clearance issued by the Working with Children Screening Unit of the Department of Community Services.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.
If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.
If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.
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If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.