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Career Advice

How to become an Occupational Therapist

occupational therapyNow, in something of an ironic twist, we tackle the ups and downs, ins and outs involved in becoming an Occupational Therapist.

So what exactly is an Occupational Therapist

Most people will have heard of this career but probably have only a vague knowledge of what one is and what they actually do. Luckily TheEmployable is here to help clear things up.

The word ‘occupational’ is what throws people a little when it comes to this job title – yes, occupational therapists are active in supporting people to incorporate their career effectively into their lives, but the work is much broader than this understanding would suggest.

An occupational therapist is a healthcare professional who is involved with the assessment and treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions to prevent the effects/prevention of disability with the aim of promoting independent function within all areas of an individual’s day-to-day life.

It is a role which will bring you into contact with a huge range of people as you attempt to help them overcome varying levels of disability caused by physical and/or mental illness, injury or the effects of ageing.

What does an occupational therapist do?

On a very basic level, an occupational therapist creates and helps to administer individual treatment plans to children and adults of all ages. These treatment plans can be related to any aspect of their life but most commonly will refer specifically to their existence within the home, the workplace or education environment. The overall idea, is that with guidance and assistance the negative impact caused by any physical, mental or social issues which a person may have can be limited.

As you may have guessed it’s a rather varied role which carries a wide range of responsibility, but a few of the things that you could be expected to carry out on a daily basis are:

  • Meeting with clients in order to asses their specific issues

  • Devising a treatment plan for clients which will best help them to overcome the issues that they face

  • Providing support and advice with regards to specialist equipment which may be needed for the home, workplace or educational environment.

  • Advice on home/workplace alterations which may need to be carried out in order to make the environment more suitable to their specific needs

  • Assist people during times of transition such as moving to a different educational environment, moving house or returning to work after a period of absence

  • Liaising and co-operating with a wide range of other people including doctors, physiotherapists, social workers clients’ families, carers and employers

  • Report writing

  • Work in a training and supervisory capacity to assistants and those wishing to become occupational therapists

skillSkills and personal attributes

  • Enthusiasm, passion and dedication for the role and the help that you will be providing to people

  • An understanding for the importance of patience within the role

  • A genuine concern for the wellbeing of your clients and the willingness to go beyond the call of duty to assist them when needed

  • Great organisational skills and the ability to manage a heavy workload

  • Outstanding skills in verbal and written communication when dealing with a wide range of people

  • The ability to work as a member of a large team consisting of people from different professions

  • Highly developed administrative skills

  • Empathy for the situations in which your clients may find themselves

  • The ability to motivate and persuade the people that you are working with

  • The ability to quickly build rapport with a wide range of people

  • A desire to help build people’s confidence and motivation in relation to a wide range of issues in their daily life


As a field, occupational therapy is regulated by the Health and Care Professional Council (HCPC) which also has responsibility for the accreditation of university courses which provide a gateway into the career.

Anyone wishing to become an occupational therapist must successfully complete an undergraduate or postgraduate course which has full accreditation from the HCPC before they will be legally allowed to assume a position. Each course within this category has also been approved by the College of Occupational Therapists and (therefore) the World Federation of Occupational Therapists who are heavily involved in the setting of professional standards and ensuring that practices are carried out within the regulations put forward. The international approval of these courses means that the qualifications gained are recognised in over 60 countries across the world.

As you can imagine the courses which are required to become an occupational therapist are as wide reaching and varied as the role itself. Training incorporates both classroom-based and practical experience and will most likely include some of the following academic areas:

  • biological sciences including anatomy and physiology (the normal biological functions of the human body)

  • behavioural sciences which will include psychology

  • creative and management skills;

  • therapeutic interventions;

  • Research methods / the adaptation of living and work environments

As with an undergraduate course the level of qualification which is needed in order to be accepted will vary significantly depending on the institution to which you are applying. However, it is generally the case that they will require at least five GCSE passes or equivalent and two A levels. Most institutions will request that at least one of your A Levels is in a science subject and some will only accept those with A Level biology.

For those wishing to study towards becoming an occupational therapist as a post graduate they will usually need to have completed a primary degree in a field directly related to it.  These are up to the discretion of the university but could include subjects like biology, psychology and sociology.

If you still fancy the life of an occupational therapist then hopefully you have found this quick guide useful. But if you’ve decided it might not be the job for you, then why not check out our rather fab career directory which has lots of other great job guides.



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