How to Become an Occupational Therapist

What is an occupational therapist?

Occupational therapists help people of all ages to fully engage in their daily lives, from their work and recreation to activities of daily living like getting dressed, cooking, eating and driving. They enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health, and prevent—or live better with—injury, illness, or disability.

How to become an occupational therapist?

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 or psychology.

You can also 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.

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.

Occupational therapist duties

Occupational therapist are diverse and depend on the employer and specialty, but some responsibilities are common to most:

  • Assess the home and work environments of clients and decide what adjustments are needed.
  • Advice on adaptive equipment to help clients with daily activities.
  • Develop physical rehabilitation programs to help clients regain lost skills.
  • Prepare clients for a return to work.
  • Educate caregivers and family members of clients on patient care
  • Keep up-to-date written and electronic records
  • Write reports and care plans and attend multidisciplinary case meetings to plan and review ongoing treatment
  • Refer patients to other specialists when needed

Occupational therapist skills

To be an effective occupational therapist, you’ll need certain skills and competencies. The following are often cited in job vacancies:

  • Interpersonal skills to connect with others and develop rapport with your patients
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Ability to explain, encourage and build confidence
  • Observation skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Flexible
  • Assessment and report writing skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Good creative and practical skills

How to find an occupational therapist job:

These jobs are advertised online, in local newspapers and at your local jobcentre. To find all the occupational therapist jobs near you, you need to:

  • Search for occupational therapist jobs on popular job websites such as; Indeed, Total Jobs and CV Library
  • Use the DWP’s Find A Job Service
  • Check local newspapers and local Facebook groups, especially groups dedicated to local jobs

What does an occupational therapist do?

The job of an occupational therapist varies depending on the job role and the company you’re working for. Check the duties and responsibilities of occupational therapist job advertisements to find jobs that best suit your skills and experience. 

The day-to-day tasks of an occupational therapist include;

  • 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

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