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Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists help people overcome difficulties caused by physical or mental illness, accidents or ageing.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £21,500 to £41,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need:

To do a degree in occupational therapy, you’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including maths and English
  • 2 to 3 A levels, including at least one science subject (biology may be preferred)

To do a postgraduate course in occupational therapy, you'll usually need a degree in a related subject and some relevant paid or voluntary work experience.

UCAS has information on degree courses and entry requirements .

You can apply for student finance to cover fees and living costs.

Before you apply for a course, it's a good idea to get some experience or knowledge of the profession. You could do this by contacting the occupational therapy unit at your local hospital, to ask how you could get involved.

You could also start out as an occupational therapy support worker. With support from your employer, you could take a degree while you're working and then register with the HCPC.

Health Careers has information about occupational therapy careers.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to design and develop individual treatment programmes
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to form good working relationships with a wide variety of people
  • the ability to motivate clients who are disappointed or frustrated

3. What you'll do

You'll adapt treatment programmes to suit each client's needs and lifestyle. Main employers are the NHS and local authority social services. Your work could include:

  • teaching an older patient recovering from a stroke how to do things for themselves
  • encouraging someone suffering with depression to take up a hobby or activity
  • suggesting ways to adapt an office so that an employee injured in a car accident can return to work
  • helping clients adjust to permanent physical disabilities
  • helping people with learning disabilities to live independently

You might work with patients for several months or just for a few sessions. You'll often work as part of a team of professionals, including physiotherapists, nurses and social workers. You'll keep notes about clients' progress, and advise and support clients and their families and carers.

4. Salary

Starter: £21,500 to £25,000

Experienced: £26,000 to £34,800

Highly Experienced: £35,000 to £41,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work standard office hours, Monday to Friday.

You could work with clients at a variety of places, including:

  • hospitals
  • health centres
  • residential or nursing homes
  • GP surgeries
  • schools
  • at a client's home or workplace

You'll need mental and physical stamina as this is a very practical job.

6. Career path and progression

You could progress to senior clinician or head of occupational therapy services in the NHS. You may also be able to move into general health or social services management.

You could also go into private practice, education or research.

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Last updated: 10 August 2017