Typical Pathways to Employment post-Spinal Cord Injury

These are some of the typical pathways people follow to employment or study post-spinal cord injury:

  • Returning to your original employer, in your original role
  • Starting with a new employer, in the same or different role
  • Employment and workplace challenges and barriers
  • Returning to study - school/TAFE/University

Returning to your original employer, in your original role

When returning to your original employer post-spinal cord injury it is important that you, your employer, and any advice from healthcare professionals support a ‘return to work’ plan that enables you to perform your role to the best of your ability.

Alex gradually returned to his role as a Social Worker at the Alfred Hospital. He spent time working in the more general areas of the Social Work Department to trial his capability, and in his own time, re-joined his original Social Work team on a part-time basis. Alex is also a member of the Spinal Cord Injury Network of Professionals (SCIP) group that assists and supports people with a SCI in all aspects of career development.

Read about Alex's return to work here

“Due to restrictions on my work capacity and the rostering of my carers, I have negotiated a job share arrangement of twenty hours per week”.

Georgina worked as an accountant with a logistics company prior to her injury. After her injury, she returned to her original role but soon found working full time too challenging. By discussing her situation with her employer, she reduced her work hours. She now works part-time and has a happy balance of work, social life and leisure activities. Georgina is also a peer support volunteer.

Returning to original employer, in a new role or retraining in a new area of work

Returning to work with your original employer post-spinal cord injury may not be possible due to a variety of reasons such as projects having since been completed, possible physical restrictions or the desire to do something new. Good and clear communication between all parties, as well as monitoring your return to work progress, is central to achieving desirable work outcomes.

Alan was a Senior Project Manager with a large engineering consultant firm before his injury. While Alan did return to his original employer, he moved into a newly developed role, while also undertaking some work from home.

During the period of negotiating his return to work Alan “was very fortunate in that my Spire mentor was very knowledgeable in the area of disability employment dispute resolution and legal option”. This experience also motivated Alan to become a peer-support volunteer himself!

Read about Alan's return to work here.

Starting with a new employer, in the same or different role

Life after a spinal cord injury can be uncertain and overwhelming. Making the decision to go back to work with a new employer can be achieved with personal motivation, goal setting and a strong support network.

Before his injury Peter was an electrician. Unable to return to what was a very physical job, but armed with motivation and desire to provide for his family, Peter went back to study and now works part-time at AQA. Through on the job training and by undertaking certificates and short courses Peter progressed from an administration role to Peer-Support Coordinator. “It’s time to explore yourself, think about what you can do, where your mind can take you… You’ve got to start doing something”!


Employment and workplace challenges and barriers

There are challenges and barriers for anyone seeking and maintaining employment but for someone with a SCI, these challenges can be amplified, including; managing personal care needs, workplace modifications and dealing with attitudes of others.

“There are just so many advantages of working in society. It is the way we build up social networks, make friends and meet people. It gives you that feeling that you are contributing to something".

Raelene is a Research Assistant at RMIT University. Having been involved in many areas of disability advocacy and navigating her own way back to employment post-spinal cord injury, she has faced and overcome barriers, seen improvements and changes within disabilities employment rates and has learnt how to deal with the attitudes of others.

Raelene is also a founding member of the Spinal Cord Injury Network of Professionals (SCIP), a group that assists and supports people with a SCI in all aspects of career development

You can read about Raelene's pathway to employment here.

Returning to study - school/TAFE/University

Whether you acquire a spinal cord injury in high school, while undertaking secondary education or are looking to change the direction of your career through further education, it will come with a level of uncertainty and need for adjustment.

Mark worked in the bank industry pre-injury. After his accident he was inspired by his own positive experiences within the healthcare setting that he changed his career pathway and is now studying Occupational Therapy at Monash University. Mark is also a peer-support volunteer.

Sharyn sustained a spinal cord injury in year nine, an age in which an individual rarely knows what shape their professional life will take. Her pathway to employment is one of exploration and seizing opportunities. Sharyn wound her way through various vocational activities such as volunteering and further education until she became Team Leader at the Department of Health and Human Services. Sharyn is also a peer-support volunteer. “Courage, determination and goal setting are three very important essentials in moving forward”.

You can read about Sharyn's return to study here.


Stephen was undertaking VCE when he fell out a window at school. Living with a spinal cord injury, he has very ‘get up and go’ attitude. With his determination, and a strong support network, he completed his VCE and then progressed onto university where he is studying a Masters of Rehab Counselling. Stephen is also a peer-support volunteer

You can read about Stephen's journey through study here.

Paul, after acquiring a spinal cord injury in high school, saw moving onto university, like all his friends, as the natural next step. He even lived on campus! As Paul navigated his way way through his schooling and into the workforce (including returning to study in pursuit of a career change) goal setting has been the driving force behind his confidence to push through any challenges and barriers. Paul quickly discovered that community support, a reliable care coordinator and establishing a good routine was key to his success. Paul is also a peer-support volunteer.





“The hardest thing is to start (but)… I wanted to make something of myself”.

Quick Donate

Quick Donate