If you've reached the end of your Occupational Therapy degree and you're feeling a little bit lost, you're not alone. Maybe the idea of clinical life, with back-to-back appointments in the same location isn’t really for you, and you want to spread your wings to seek out other opportunities. Or maybe you're a little burnt out at the idea of clinical care after your pracs and want to switch it up as you enter the workforce. Don’t worry. The good news is, there’s a lot more out there. Whatever your reasoning, there are tons of non-clinical occupational therapy roles available that you may have never even considered. The world is your oyster - you just need to know where to look.
Changing your career direction is normal
While it may seem a little daunting to get to the end of your degree and realise you might not enjoy working in a clinic, don’t despair – be excited! There are so many other options out there, and your foundation as an occupational therapy grad has given you a wealth of skills that can be used in a wide variety of different career paths. Occupational therapy goes far beyond simply helping people in the workplace - your job helps people continue doing their everyday activities and maintain their independence.
Your skills are sought after
You have a remarkable set of skills as an occupational therapy grad. As with any Allied Health role, your kindness and empathy make you an ideal fit for many people-facing roles, in-clinic or otherwise.
Your focus on patient-specific and holistic treatment plans means, as a result, you're likely an excellent problem solver. Think about it - your entire training has been around hearing a patient's set of circumstances and developing a plan that is completely unique to them. You listen, you understand, and you make an action plan - an undeniably useful skill to have.
You'll also most likely be able to tackle challenges, whether it be a tricky patient or a perplexing case - you take it all in your stride. Your versatility and tenacity is a huge asset, no matter the direction you take throughout your career. So, where to next?
So what is a "non-traditional" occupational therapy role?
Put simply, non-traditional occupational therapy refers to any role that differs from conventional clinical roles. If the thought of working in a clinic day-in and day-out is not one you vibe with, don't worry - you've got options. They may be a little harder to seek out compared to clinical roles, but they're out there, and they're waiting for you.
Rehabilitation counselling and consulting
Let's face it - whilst occupational therapy is hugely rewarding, it can be pretty physically exhausting and you don’t often get to provide ongoing care. If you love helping people achieve independence in their daily activities but don't love the physical aspect, rehabilitation consulting could be the perfect fit.
You’ll use your skills as an occupational therapist to help those recovering from injury or illness get back to work. As a rehabilitation consultant, you’ll operate in more of a case management capacity. You won’t directly treat your patients, rather, support them in their case, acting as a point of contact between them and anybody else involved in their care, from those who are actually treating them, to employers, family members, and even insurance companies. You’ll also be working in a counselling capacity, assessing their care plans on an ongoing basis.
You'll be hitting the road, meeting with clients and their support teams, conducting assessments, and working to empower your clients. Plus, there are so many different areas you can work in; employment services, disability advice, injury prevention and management, and many more.
Aged care services
Occupational therapists play a major role in providing assistance to older people within the community. Older people are prone to a range of age-related issues, including lack of coordination, poor balance, memory loss, and loss of hearing or vision. An occupational therapist's job is to help them continue living their daily lives as easily as possible, whether that’s making their homes more accessible and helping prevent falls, improving mobility by providing routines and strategies, and working with them to participate in leisure and social activities.
As aged care services are very diverse and wide-ranging, patient care can take place in their homes, within nursing homes and aged facilities, in hospitals and rehabilitation centres, or within the community in private practices or within health organisations.
Australian Defence Force
This may not have been one you considered, but the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is a working environment just like any other. As ADF jobs are so physically demanding, occupational therapists are required to deliver care, education, and wellness. With so many roles within ADF, you'll never be bored.
You might find yourself assisting defence personnel adjust to injuries and disabilities, or providing readiness training. Maybe you’ll educate troops on injury prevention and wellness. You may also be working in a rehabilitation capacity. Whatever you end up doing, your goal is to get your patients functioning at their top capacity.
Mental health sector
Occupational performance and physical wellbeing are directly linked to mental health. As an occupational therapist, your holistic approach to patients means you understand this well, and can help people who are struggling with their daily function by providing occupational therapy and psychological strategies.
Your clients may be dealing with a mental illness such as depression and anxiety, or coping with grief or other stressors. Your role will be to assess the things impacting someone's everyday function and assist them in regaining this function through a range of strategies. Whilst this can be in a clinic, there are also options out there to work at mental health organisations or within the community, working one-on-one with people to find the best solution.
Working with kids
Do you love working with kids? It can be incredibly rewarding to help shape their habits in the most formative periods in their lives. Whether this is assisting them in their daily occupations (including school and play), or giving them actionable ways to practice good self-care, occupational therapists can play a key role in helping children to develop their confidence, social skills, and overall wellbeing.
It also means you can work in a variety of different environments, including hospitals, outpatient facilities, schools, and in their homes.
Driving and Community Mobility Services
Mobility is important. Whether you're driving, using public transport, walking, or cycling, mobility is a major part of our independence. It's also essential in getting to and from work, seeing friends and family, and just generally living a well-rounded life.
Occupational therapists working within community mobility services are dedicated to enabling people to be mobile in their daily lives. Whether that’s performing evaluations of community transport and helping to create alternatives or helping clients transition from driving to other means of transportation if they can no longer drive themselves, it's a rewarding job as it helps people retain their autonomy and independence. You have the option of working directly with clients, or in a more consultative role, solving problems and providing solutions.
Occupational therapists are often sought after for consultation roles within the workplace and other industries as they're the experts - they know how to remove potential barriers and empower their clients. Occupational therapy consultants work in a variety of areas, including evaluating workplaces and providing new and improved ways to help workers, or out in the community to remove barriers and help with mobility.
It's essentially working as a professional problem solver - and there are so many different industries to do this in! Think about your own unique skill set or passion and direct your job search to an industry that speaks to you.
Occupational therapists working within disability services help their clients manage their daily tasks and establish or maintain their independence. This involves working directly with the client in a range of different environments, helping with support programs, and prescribing different environmental modifications. This is applicable to those managing physical disabilities, as well as people living with learning or developmental disabilities, such as autism.
Assistive Technology Professional
Technology is constantly progressing, which means there are always new ways to help improve the lives of those living with a disability. As an occupational therapist, you're aware of the challenges disability brings. An Assistive Technology Professional’s role is purely focused on analysing the needs of people with disabilities and providing adaptive equipment to help them. People need assistive technology for a range of daily tasks, in relation to jobs, vehicles, learning, computing, personal environments, and more. You will not only provide them with this technology, but also train them in how to use it so that they can go forward independently.
There is a multitude of career paths out there for occupational therapy grads to take - the key is to figure out what you're most passionate about. Not everybody dreams of working in a clinical environment, and that's okay! It's exciting to explore the other options out there, and you'll have many opportunities to learn, grow, and change your career direction in your lifetime. There’s also the added potential benefit of having less competition within non-traditional roles, in comparison to the clinical positions that most grads will go for.
The key is to be open to new possibilities. If you approach your career with an open mind, you’ll get the opportunity to work with a diverse range of perspectives. Who knows where you’ll end up?
If you're looking to explore your options and experience new and exciting roles within the occupational therapy industry, pop your info into the form below and we’ll keep you updated.