Occupational therapists devise and implement therapeutic, vocational and rehabilitative treatments for people who suffer from physical disabilities, mental health problems and learning difficulties. The primary objective of this form of treatment is to help patients lead normal lives and carry out daily activities.
Occupational therapy is an important form of treatment for people of all age groups, and can be used to alleviate the incapacitating effects of congenital disabilities and disorders caused by accidents, trauma, abuse, ageing or disease.
If you become an occupational therapist, you’ll conduct a complete and comprehensive study of your patients’ disabilities and their life and work habits.
Following this assessment period, you’ll design and develop rehabilitation plans, which are likely to involve re-learning basic life skills and making adjustments to patients’ homes and working environments.
This may even involve recommending that physical and structural modifications are made to people’s homes to facilitate mobility.
Furthermore, you’ll work with patients’ family members and friends, providing them with advice and helpful tips on how they can help to make patients’ lives more comfortable and fulfilling.
Finally, you’ll also be responsible for periodically reviewing treatment programmes, assessing the progress of patients, and making appropriate additions or amendments where necessary.
Salary & benefits
Occupational therapists are mainly employed by the NHS. Starting salaries range between £20,000 and £27,000, while specialist occupational therapists can earn around £24,000 to £34,000 per annum.
Advanced occupational therapists earn between £29,000 and £40,000, and if you make it up to consultant level, you could find yourself earning around £55,000 a year.
Occupational therapists tend to work a regular five-day week. However, late evening and weekend hours are common for personnel employed in trauma centres, private practices and mental health facilities.
To become an occupational therapist, it’s necessary to obtain an accredited undergraduate degree (BSc) in occupational therapy and register with the Health Professions Council.
The content of the course should also include at least 1,000 hours of clinical work experience under the supervision of senior occupational therapists.
For people who haven’t done an occupational therapy undergraduate degree, you can do an accelerated two-year postgraduate course. However, it would help if you’ve done a relevant course, such as biology, psychology or social sciences.
A full, valid driving licence may also be a mandatory requirement for many jobs. Furthermore, you’ll need to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly CRB [Criminal Records Bureau]) check.
Training & progression
Newly-qualified occupational therapists tend to undertake a series of rotations across different departments, such as trauma or mental health. Each placement usually runs for a duration of 3–6 months.
You will need to fulfil compulsory professional development criteria in order to continue working in full-time clinical practice. Opportunities for career progression include specialisation, administration and management, advanced research and working in academia.
Professional credentials awarded by the British Association of Occupational Therapists (BAOT) or College of Occupational Therapists (COT) are also recognised by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT). This opens up opportunities for overseas employment.