School-based OT can be a wonderful career. All the same, it comes with its challenges, which can very easily lead to burnout. If this has happened to you, you may be considering a break from school-based OT. Or, maybe you’re even considering getting out of clinical work in general. Luckily, if that’s the case for you, there are multiple jobs out there where you’ll be able to leverage your school-based OT skills and experience! Your potential is limitless, but here are some common pivots school-based OTs have made into non-clinical work.
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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the other side of the IEP table? You may make a great special education advocate! As a school-based OT, you likely already have great knowledge about special education laws and procedures. And this position requires no special certification or degree – what you have is already probably enough. Plus, even though you won’t be working directly with students in most cases, you will still be doing meaningful work in getting children the supports they need and deserve. And since you’ve worked for a school district, you’ll be in a good position to bridge the communication gap between the school and parents when disagreements arise.
User Experience (UX)
Are you a fan of assistive technology? Then User Experience (UX) may be a good career path for you. Put simply, UX designers are the people responsible for ensuring you have a good experience when interacting with a digital product. If you find your phone or computer simple or intuitive to use, you can thank a UX designer! As an occupational therapist, you have great experience in adapting and modifying experiences for people already. You’ve probably also had the experience of using various programs and systems that you know could be better designed (hello clunky IEP software!).
While you likely will need to take the time to learn more about this field and potentially complete some coursework, it’s possible for OTs to pivot into this role without getting an entirely new degree. If this role sounds intriguing to you and you’d like help getting started, I can’t recommend Non-Clinical 101 by The Non-Clinical PT enough. This is a comprehensive course that includes information about the role, course/certification suggestions, book recommendations, resume samples, cover letter templates, plus support in job hunting. You’ll find resources for UX design along with 20+ other common non-clinical careers, all tailored to therapists. And if you sign up using this link, you can take $50 off!
Do you enjoy writing? If so, have you ever considered authoring a book? This is a great way to share the knowledge you’ve gained as a school-based OT with a wider audience. You could write a book on OT strategies aimed at parents or teachers. You could write a textbook or chapter specifically for other OTs. Or, you could even write a children’s book that takes time to acknowledge and represent students with disabilities.
If one of your favorite parts of your job is working with families, consider becoming a parent coach. Parent coaching can look a lot of different ways, but the general premise is that you’d be supporting families in working with their children more effectively. You can choose to continue to specialize in children with disabilities, or you can use your excellent knowledge of developmental milestones to support all types of children and families.
Are you enjoying reading this blog? Have you considered that you could be the one to write them? Creating a blog is another great avenue for school-based OTs who like writing. Your blog could be about anything you want, but there are lots of great possibilities to use your pediatric knowledge here. Consider blogging about intervention ideas, special education law, specific diagnoses/populations, or general child development.
If you need support on how to start a blog, including what platforms to use and monetization strategies, I recommend Therapy Blogging 101. This course is made by Meredith, founder of The Non-Clinical PT, and Chanda from Pink Oatmeal (you may already be familiar with their motor skills resources and interventions!). It’s chock-full of great strategies to get your blog off the ground, all from a therapist’s perspective.
Early Intervention Coordinator
Do you have experience working with preschool transition students? Or maybe you’ve already worked in your state’s early intervention program? If so, consider working directly for this organization in a non-clinical role. If you enjoy case management and communicating with families and other stakeholders, this may be a great fit for you. You’ll already have a leg up if you have any knowledge of the IFSP process. And if you don’t, it will be fairly easy to learn since you already know about the IEP process, which is similar. In fact, both special education and early intervention are based on IDEA – so you’ll be in familiar territory.
CEU Course Creator
Do you have an idea for a CEU course you’d love to see? You should be the one to make it! Utilize the knowledge you’ve gained as a school-based OT to help teach others valuable strategies. This is a really rewarding one because you know that you’ll be making a wider impact beyond just the students on your caseload. Plus, since OTs need to complete continuing education to renew their license/registration, there is a good audience there already. I know that I really appreciate CEU courses that are made by other school-based OTs, and it’s part of the reason that I created my own. We can all utilize more CEUs that are specific and meaningful to this area of practice!
Digital Product Creator
If you love the cute, crafty portion of school-based OT, you may do well as a digital product creator. There are multiple options to get started with this, and you could even do it part-time while still working your day job. Consider posting intervention resources to Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Cards. Or, if you’re more of a processes + documents kind of person, there’s potential there too – like these assessment templates I’ve created.
Lastly, if you’re still enjoying the education piece of your job but are a little burnt out on K12 schools, consider moving into the collegiate level. Depending on your degree, there are a few options here, all the way from being an adjunct instructor to a full tenured professor. I’m a big advocate for more school-based OTs in academia (I know most of us didn’t learn enough about school-based OT in OT school!). And your students will appreciate having someone with specific and recent clinical experience.
P.S. Academia is one of the career tracks that Non-Clinical 101 covers!
I hope these recommendations for non-clinical jobs for school-based OTs were helpful! And remember, just because you’re looking to take a break from OT right now doesn’t mean you have to stay away forever (though it’s okay if that’s what you want!). It’s totally possible to work a non-clinical job for a few years and then come back to school-based practice. Or, you can even consider doing a combo of both by working part-time in the schools and part-time with non-clinical endeavors. Do what’s best for you, and never feel guilty about taking a step back from clinical work.