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Occupational therapist

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

Annual Salary

£25,654 to £45,838

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 40 a week

You could work: 9am to 5pm;

6%
Future employment

There will be 6% more Occupational therapist jobs in 2026.
In your local area

Day to day tasks

In this role, you could:

  • teach a patient recovering from a stroke how to do things for themselves
  • encourage someone with depression to take up a hobby or activity
  • suggest ways to adapt an office so that an employee injured in an accident can return to work
  • support patients to manage permanent physical disabilities
  • help people with learning disabilities to live independently
  • keep notes about clients' progress
  • advise and support clients and their families and carers.

Working environment

You may need to wear a uniform.

You could work at a client's home, in an NHS or private hospital, at a client's business, at a GP practice or at an adult care home.

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role
University

You can do a degree in occupational therapy, approved by the Health and Care Professions Council.

Courses combine practical placements with academic study.

You may be able to do a postgraduate conversion course if you've got a degree in a related subject like:biological science; health science; psychology

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
Apprenticeship

You can do an occupational therapist degree apprenticeship.

This typically takes 4 years to complete and is a combination of workplace learning and academic study with an approved university.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship
For more information
Work

You could start as an occupational therapy support worker. With backing from your employer, you could study for a degree part-time to qualify as an occupational therapist.

Volunteering and work experience

You'll find it helpful to get some paid or voluntary experience in care or healthcare work before you apply for training.

You could contact the voluntary services co-ordinator at your local NHS trust for further advice.

Requirements and restrictions

You'll need to:

More information

Career tips

When applying for courses and jobs, you'll be expected to have an understanding of how NHS values apply in your work.

Further information

You can find out more about careers and training in occupational therapy from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and Health Careers.

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You could specialise, for example in elderly care or services for children.

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

With experience and further training you could move on to more senior and management roles within the NHS.

There are also opportunities for occupational therapists to work overseas.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of psychology
  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work well with others
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • customer service skills
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
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