Occupational Therapist Kaiwhakaora Ngangahau

Occupational therapists provide therapy and support to people with limited ability to carry out everyday activities because of illness, injury or disability. 

Occupational therapists need to be registered with the Occupational Therapy Board.

Occupational therapists may do some or all of the following:

  • assess clients' abilities and help them gain or regain skills
  • plan and direct therapy treatment, including physical and social activities
  • carry out workplace or home safety assessments
  • provide advice on equipment or recommend changes to home or work environments
  • advise clients on changes to their lifestyle to help them with daily activities
  • observe and report on clients' progress.

Physical Requirements

Occupational therapists need to be reasonably fit and healthy as they may have to help lift patients.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for occupational therapists includes:

  • working with children, the elderly or disabled people
  • coaching and working with groups of people
  • first aid experience.

Personal Qualities

Occupational therapists need to be:

  • positive and encouraging
  • approachable, with good communication skills
  • skilled at report writing
  • analytical and observant
  • good at problem solving
  • good at time management.

Skills

Occupational therapists need to have knowledge of:

  • occupational therapy methods and research
  • psychology, biology and anatomy
  • how to negotiate with people and motivate them
  • different cultures and customs.

Conditions

Occupational therapists:

  • may do shift work that includes evenings or weekends
  • may work in a variety of places, including hospitals, private clinics, nursing homes, workplaces and schools.

Occupational Therapists can earn around $45K-$71K per year.

Pay for occupational therapists varies depending on experience, qualifications and employer.

Occupational therapists working in private practice

Occupational therapists working in private practice usually earn between $45,000 and $110,000 a year.

Occupational therapists working for district health boards

  • Occupational therapists with up to five years' experience usually earn between $52,000 and $71,000 a year.
  • Occupational therapists with more than five years' experience usually earn between $71,000 and $84,000.
  • Occupational therapists with more than 10 years' experience can earn from $84,000 to $112,000.

Occupational therapists working in schools

  • Occupational therapists with up to five years' experience usually earn between $51,000 and $63,000 a year.
  • Occupational therapists with more than five years' experience usually earn between $63,000 and $77,000.
  • Occupational therapists with more than 10 years' experience can earn from $77,000 to $84,000.

Sources: Apex and Northland DHB, ‘Occupational Therapy Collective Agreement 2020 – 2021’, 2021; and Ministry of Education,’ Support Staff in Schools’ Collective Agreement, Dec 2019 – February 2022’, 2020.

Occupational therapists may progress to work in management, teaching or research roles, or move into contracting work.

Occupational therapists can specialise in a specific area, such as:

  • burn management
  • driving assessments
  • hand therapy
  • mental health and addictions
  • geriatrics (elderly people)
  • paediatrics (children).

Years Of Training

3 years of training required.

To become an occupational therapist you need to complete one of the following:

  • Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy) (AUT)
  • Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Otago Polytechnic/Wintec).

Occupational therapists also need to be registered with the Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand (OTBNZ) and have a current Practising Certificate. 

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children. 

Occupational Therapist