Occupational therapy is about enabling people of all ages who have physical, mental or social issues to adapt to any aspect of their life with more confidence and control.
Occupational therapists work with clients in groups or on a one-to-one basis, devising treatment programmes that enable clients to achieve as much as possible for themselves.
Occupational therapists may work with people throughout their lives, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. Therapists' involvement varies greatly according to individual needs.
Clients may include people who:
Depending on the person's needs, occupational therapists may suggest strategies relating to:
Occupational therapists work with a range of other professionals, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, teachers, social workers and representatives from charitable and voluntary organisations. They also advise and support clients' families, carers and employers.
Occupational therapists usually work 37.5 hours a week. Most occupational therapists work office hours, Monday to Friday, but in some places, such as community mental health services, they may need to provide cover in the evenings and at weekends. Part-time work and flexible hours may be available.
Work settings vary and can include hospitals, residential homes, hospices, health or day centres, GP practices, schools and colleges, prisons, industrial and commercial companies and clients' homes.
Many occupational therapists travel between different locations.
Starting salaries in the NHS may be around £19,166. In the NHS, therapists working in or near London receive extra allowances.
There are over 28,000 registered occupational therapists in the UK. Most are employed by NHS Trusts, local authorities (particularly social services departments), or amalgamated health and social care trusts (particularly in Northern Ireland). Other employers include voluntary organisations, businesses, residential homes, day centres and government bodies. Some occupational therapists are self-employed.
Recently, newly qualified occupational therapists, alongside nurses and other health professions, have experienced difficulties in finding posts in the NHS. It is likely this is a temporary situation. There are increasing opportunities in other sectors, and overall numbers in the profession are growing.
Vacancies are advertised on the British Association of Occupational Therapists' website, www.baot.org.uk, on the websites of NHS Trusts and local authorities or on the NHS jobs websites - www.jobs.nhs.uk (for England and Wales) and www.hpssjobs.com (for Northern Ireland). Jobs may also be found in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy and in the local and national press.
To become an occupational therapist, it is necessary to complete a pre-registration programme in occupational therapy, approved by the Health Professions Council. For young people, the usual entry route involves a full-time BSc (Hons) degree in occupational therapy.
The minimum entry requirements for a degree course are five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) with two A levels/three H grades, including at least one science at GCSE/S grade or A level/H grade. Biology, human biology or psychology at A level/H grade are useful subjects.
Alternative entry qualifications include the BTEC National Diploma, SQA programmes and the International Baccalaureate.
The College of Occupational Therapists (the professional body for occupational therapy) recommends that students follow a training programme accredited by the college, and become student members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists.
Alternative entry routes are available:
Applicants need to show that they can get on with different kinds of people and have excellent communication and self-management skills. They should ideally have at least visited an occupational therapy department to find out more about the job.
Before their first placement, occupational therapy students will be asked to undergo a criminal records check. All students also have a health check.
A driving licence may be useful.
Full-time degree courses normally last three years, or four years in Scotland.
Approximately two-thirds of the course consists of academic study. The remaining third is spent on practice placements in some of the main branches of occupational therapy.
Occupational therapy graduates must register with the Health Professions Council before they can practise in the UK. They must renew their registration every two years and show that they have engaged in Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Occupational therapists should:
Promotion prospects are good, and may be possible to move into clinical posts, research, teaching or management.
Experienced occupational therapists can move into private practice, for example, assessing injuries that have resulted in compensation claims.
There are also opportunities to work abroad, especially in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
Health Professions Council, Park House,
184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866
Working in the NHS:
England: NHS Careers,
PO Box 2311, Bristol BS2 2ZX
Tel: 0845 606 0655
Scotland: NHS Scotland
Tel: 0845 601 4647
Wales: NHS Wales Careers
Tel: 01443 233 472
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.