Occupational Therapy: What we do, why we do it and where it can take you

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me what occupational therapists do, I would be drinking much nicer wine. When I tell people I study occupational therapy (OT) I usually get a polite smile and a nod before people shake their head and ask, ‘What exactly it is that you do?’. I have been asked enough times that I have come to the conclusion that many people are still confused by the profession. This post will first explain what OTs do, and secondly, will explain where the degree can take your career.

Everyone has things they need to do and pastimes they enjoy doing in their lives, whether that be dressing themselves, cooking dinner, playing soccer or learning to write. Sometimes, due to injury or disability, people are temporarily or permanently unable to get back to doing the things they need and like to do. Enter the occupational therapist.

With a toolbox of evidence, therapy ideas and the knowledge and skills to help people achieve their goals, occupational therapists can assist people in a variety of different settings. Ask two OTs what they do in a day and you will probably get two completely different answers. Perhaps this is why there is so much confusion about the profession…whether you’re interested in rehabilitation, mental health, paediatrics, spinal cord injuries, hand therapy, health promotion or work rehabilitation - OTs do it all and more.

I chose to study the Bachelor of Occupational Therapy after spending my senior years in high school tossing up between OT and physiotherapy. After completing work experience at Eden Rehabilitation Centre in Cooroy, I decided (and hoped) OT was for me. Admittedly I had my moments in my first years where I wondered if I had made the right decision. Luckily it worked out pretty well and I am now in my final semester, ready and excited to graduate at the end of the year. As cheesy as it sounds, studying OT has changed my perspective on how I see the world and I’ve also made some pretty great friends.

Now - where can an occupational therapy degree take you? It’s an important question, but I’m firstly going to answer, ‘Where can you take people as an occupational therapist?’. As an OT working with people across all ages, the opportunities are endless. You could help a child finally manage to tie their shoelaces or help an elderly person return home safely after a stay in hospital. These might initially seem like small things to you, but I assure you, to the person you are helping they are immeasurable. The things we take for granted every day such as showering and dressing independently can be taken away from us for a variety of reasons. It’s truly rewarding to help someone gain or return to independence.

Now back to the original question - where can the OT profession can take you? The degree equips you with the knowledge you will need to help people do what they need and want to do in order to live a self-fulfilling life. As UQ’s Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) is an internationally recognised qualification, it can literally take you all over the world. One of my friends was recently offered a job in Singapore and I plan on heading over to the UK to work at some point in the future. Whether you want to work with littlies or oldies, in a hospital or in the community, run your own practice or become a Director of allied health, this degree can get you there and give you the opportunity to help and engage with people from all walks of life. If you ask me, that’s a pretty rewarding way to spend your day.

If you are interested in studying occupational therapy at UQ then make sure you check out the program study page. Additionally, UQ recently ran an OT live Q&A session on Facebook with the head of the program and two fourth year students. This may help you find out more about the program or simply help you find answers to any questions you might have.

Meet the author...

My name is Fiona, I am 21 years old and I grew up in Bundaberg. I moved to Brisbane four years ago to study occupational therapy at UQ and my ideal job upon graduation is a rotating hospital position in a regional setting.



Last updated:
21 October 2016