Not signed up?


Occupational therapist: Entry requirements

So you think you want to be a

Occupational therapist?

See how well you suit this job in Career Planner.

Try Career Planner

To practise as an occupational therapist you must be registered with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) . In order to register, you must successfully complete an HCPC approved pre-registration occupational therapy programme at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. See the HCPC website for a list of approved courses.

All occupational therapy programmes available in the UK are also currently accredited (or awaiting accreditation) by the College of Occupational Therapists. 

Programmes combine both academic and practical elements. Approximately one third of the course (a minimum of 1,000 hours) is spent on placements under the supervision of qualified senior occupational therapists.

Students gain experience in the main areas of occupational therapy and how to assess and treat patients. Study areas cover a range of subjects including biological and behavioural sciences. By the end of your training, you will be able to treat your own small case-load under supervision.

The full-time BSc in Occupational Therapy lasts three years (four years in Scotland), although part-time programmes lasting around four years are available at some institutions, usually requiring two days a week at university. Applications for undergraduate degree courses are made to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) .

Two-year accelerated postgraduate programmes are available to graduates of other disciplines. These normally last two years full time and lead to either a Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy or an MSc in Occupational Therapy (pre-registration).

You will need to demonstrate a range of skills that show your understanding of, commitment to and enthusiasm for a career in occupational therapy. Contact institutions direct as entry requirements vary between courses.

Entry without a degree is possible at occupational therapy assistant, technician or support worker level. It may be possible to progress to become an occupational therapist through undertaking an approved in-service BSc Occupational Therapy course with the support of your employer.

You are advised to visit an occupational therapy unit, within a hospital or social services, to gain an understanding of the profession before applying for a course. Contact your local hospital or local government social services department for more information on how to arrange a visit.

Work shadowing a qualified occupational therapist will provide an insight into the role. It may also be possible to speak to occupational therapists working in residential homes, homeless shelters or charities. Relevant experience of working in health, social care or a related area is also beneficial.

You will need to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service  check when applying for an approved programme.

Candidates for both pre-registration courses and jobs need to show evidence of the following:

  • communication and observation skills;
  • the ability to think outside the box and work under pressure;
  • decision-making skills;
  • assessment and report writing skills;
  • good creative and practical skills;
  • the ability to work well in a team;
  • the ability to persuade and motivate others;
  • enthusiasm, sensitivity and patience;
  • empathy;
  • organising and planning skills;
  • a flexible approach to work;
  • the ability to explain, encourage and build confidence, and develop rapport with a range of people;
  • computer literacy.

A driving licence is usually required for travel between hospital sites and to patient homes during the working day.

Relevant work experience is helpful in securing posts in more competitive areas of occupational therapy, such as paediatrics, after graduation.

UK students are usually eligible to have their tuition fees funded for full or part-time pre-registration undergraduate occupational therapy study.

For postgraduate study, contact your chosen institution direct as funding arrangements differ around the UK. Some institutions have a number of places which are NHS funded. If not, you will usually have to fund yourself, unless an employer is willing to support you financially through the training.

There may be additional financial support available through the institution to which you are applying as well as:

Assistance is also occasionally available through charities or grant-making trusts.




For more information, see work experience and internships and search postgraduate courses.


Further information


There are 5 jobs available in healthcare

View jobs >

Written by AGCAS editors
April 2014

Search graduate jobs


Spotlight on...

Sponsored links


This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.