Occupational Therapist

Job Description:

Occupational therapists help people overcome difficulties in day-to-day activities caused by physical or mental health problems, learning disabilities, accidents or ageing.

Job Category:
Health Care & Social Assistance

What you will do:

You’ll adapt treatment programmes to suit each client’s needs and lifestyle.

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.


You are likely to need

  • relevant qualifications
  • knowledge of psychology
  • IT skills – to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as

  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to form good working relationships with a wide variety of people
  • counselling skills including active listening and a non-judgemental approach
  • sensitivity and understanding
  • the ability to design and develop individual treatment programmes
  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to motivate clients who are disappointed or frustrated
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become an Occupational Therapist in the UK, you typically need specific subjects and must complete further education and training in occupational therapy. Here are the common subjects and qualifications you’ll need to pursue this career:

  1. English Language and Mathematics: English Language and Mathematics are essential, as they provide foundational communication and numerical skills required for healthcare professions.
  2. Science: A strong foundation in science is important, so consider taking biology and/or chemistry. These subjects are relevant to healthcare and provide an understanding of human biology and chemistry principles.
  3. Psychology: psychology can be beneficial, as it introduces you to psychological principles and the importance of mental health, which are relevant to occupational therapy.
  4. Physical Education (PE): PE or a background in physical education can be helpful, as it introduces you to the importance of physical activity and its role in rehabilitation and well-being.
  5. Health and Social Care: While not always required, vocational qualifications in health and social care can provide insight into healthcare settings and principles.

Post School

You’ll likely need:

  • degree, or postgraduate qualification in occupational therapy approved by the relevant health authority in the country where you’d like to practice (in the UK it the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC))
  • registration with the HCPC
  • to pass enhanced background checks as you may be working with children and vulnerable adults

To do a degree in occupational therapy, you’ll usually need maths, english and at least one science subject (biology is 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.

Working Hours 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.

Career Path & Progression:

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

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