If you have a positive attitude and are good at motivating others, then occupational therapy could be the career for you
Occupational therapists help children and adults of all ages with mental, physical or social disabilities to independently carry out everyday tasks or occupations with more confidence and independence.
You will create individual treatment programmes and suggest changes to the person's environment, whether that be at home, work or school, and may introduce the use of equipment which will help with some activities. You will review the treatments periodically, evaluate progress and make changes as needed.
As you work with a diverse range of people who all have different needs, you need to understand each person's requirements and lifestyle so that you can create the best treatment plan for them.
You'll need to:
Salaries in local government are at similar levels, although there can be variations depending on your skills and experience.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
In the NHS, you'll typically do a 37.5 hour week but may be required to work flexibly over a seven-day period. In private practice, you may work evenings and weekends to suit client needs.
Part-time and other flexible working arrangements are possible.
To practise as an occupational therapist in the UK 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 being re-accredited) by the COT.
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. If you have a relevant degree and some healthcare experience, you may be eligible for a two-year accelerated postgraduate programme leading to either a Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Therapy or an MSc in Occupational Therapy (pre-registration).
Programmes combine both academic and practical elements. You'll 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 your final year you'll be able to see patients on your own.
Search for postgraduate courses in occupational therapy.
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.
UK students are usually eligible to have their tuition fees funded for full or part-time pre-registration undergraduate occupational therapy study. Additional financial support through a means-tested NHS Student Bursary may also be available to help with day-to-day living costs. For Scotland, contact the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). If you're taking a postgraduate course, contact your chosen institution direct as funding arrangements differ around the UK.
You will need to have:
You're 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.
Relevant work experience is helpful in securing posts in more competitive areas of occupational therapy, such as paediatrics.
Within the NHS, some bigger hospitals with regional specialist departments may have dozens of occupational therapists. Smaller trusts or local authority departments may only employ a handful of occupational therapists.
Occupational therapists in local government work in social services units and in the community, visiting people at home to assess their needs for independence and care.
Other employers include:
You can also set up in private practice.
Look for job vacancies at:
Specialist recruitment agencies such as JustOT also handle vacancies.
As a newly qualified occupational therapist, you can access a variety of in-house training opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge. Regular clinical supervision, day-to-day support and training from senior occupational therapists are provided.
In order to remain registered with the HCPC, you must carry out continuing professional development (CPD). This includes keeping a record of your informal and formal learning, covering courses taken, work-based learning and your experience of delivering patient care.
The COT provides support with CPD in the form of events, workshops and e-learning. They also provide access to a range of professional networks, for example regional and new graduate networks.
As a newly qualified occupational therapist in the NHS, you may begin in a rotational post, providing the opportunity to gain experience in a range of specialties. This could include working across a range of acute clinical areas such as:
However, it's also possible to go straight into your chosen specialism, for example alcohol and substance abuse, burns and plastic surgery, mental health or stroke rehabilitation.
There are many ways in which you can develop your career, for example through:
To progress up each pay scale, you must show that you can effectively apply the required knowledge and skills.
With significant experience, you could become a consultant occupational therapist in a senior clinical leadership role with the highest level of clinical responsibility. Consultant occupational therapists work in a range of clinical practice areas, including mental health and learning disabilities. They have a wider role in influencing and driving strategic and organisational development.
With further training it is also possible to work as a high-intensity therapist as part of the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service. It's also possible to work in related roles such as care manager within primary care, industry or business.