How to become an occupational therapist

Help people find independence through everyday tasks by studying to become an occupational therapist in Australia. 

Begin your occupational therapy career

  1. Complete an undergraduate occupational therapy degree. A Bachelor of Occupational Therapy is the most direct pathway. However, if you’d like to explore health in a wider context before specialising in your career, you can study a more general health degree like a Bachelor of Health Science before completing a Master of Occupational Therapy.
  2. If you already have an undergraduate degree in an unrelated area, you may be able to enrol directly into the Master of Occupational Therapy. Be mindful you will need to satisfy prerequisite subjects to qualify for a Masters Degree.
  3. After finishing your qualification, you’ll need to apply for registration with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia to practise as an occupational therapist. 
  4. Since you will be working with vulnerable groups, you may also be required to pass certain screening checks, including a Working With Children Check and a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Worker Check. 
 

What does an occupational therapist do?

Occupational therapists assess and support people whose daily routines are impacted by illness, injury, development delay, disability, the effects of ageing or mental health challenges. They help their clients tackle everyday tasks so they can function more independently at home, at work or school, and in social situations.  

If you become an occupational therapist, you may find yourself working in community care, paediatrics, mental health, rehabilitation, or in the disability, medical or aged care sectors. Your final path depends on where your passion lies, which is one of the many benefits of the career.

Duties and tasks

Because occupational therapists work with a variety of clients and in a range of sectors, their duties and tasks will vary. However, common responsibilities can include:

  • Conducting initial in-person assessments of client challenges and strengths 
  • Developing treatment plans that are tailored to a client’s individual needs
  • Running one-on-one treatment sessions, which may involve showing clients physical rehabilitation exercises, cognitive exercises or proactive pain control
  • Assessing where clients spend most of their time (such as the home or workplace) and recommending modifications or equipment
  • Writing regular reports on client progress
  • Working with other healthcare professionals to develop, monitor and improve client treatment plans 

Industry bodies

Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA)

AHPRA sets the standards and policies that all registered health practitioners, including occupational therapists, must meet. 

Occupational Therapy Australia (OTA)

OTA is the peak professional body for occupational therapists in Australia. Joining gives you access to industry journals, professional development resources and networking events.  

Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

All practising occupational therapists must register with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia, which operates under AHPRA. The OTBA develops the standards, codes and guidelines you’ll follow in your profession. It also approves accreditation standards and courses of study, handles complaints, investigations and disciplinary hearings, and assesses overseas trained practitioners who wish to practise in Australia.

Occupational Therapy Council of Australia (OTC)

The OTC maintains and develops standards of education, training and assessment for occupational therapists in Australia. When looking for a qualification, you should make sure it’s accredited by this organisation. 

World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT)

WFOT is an international network that represents over 580,000 occupational therapists. As a member, you can access a library of free online learning resources, connect with OTs from all over the globe, apply for research funding and stay up-to-date on developments in the profession.

Occupational therapy jobs

Occupational therapy is one of the fastest growing fields in Australia’s allied health sector. You will find positions advertised on SEEK, LinkedIn, Occupational Therapy Australia, Healthcare Australia, Careers for Carers and hospital job boards. 

If you’re looking to diversify your career with further study, you could consider moving into one of the following roles:

Get help every step of the way

Our student advisors can assist you with enrolment, help you plan your studies, and answer questions about how studying through Open Universities Australia can get you from where you are today, to where you want to be tomorrow.

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