Occupational Therapists (OTs) work with people who have problems with their physical or mental health, or learning disabilities. Their aim is to maximise the service care users' quality of life at home and in the workplace. They assess needs, plan and carry out activities to help people cope with and overcome problems.
To become an Occupational Therapist you will need a BSc. (Hons) degree in Occupational Therapy (usually a 3-year course). You then need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
What are the university entry requirements for an occupational therapy degree?
To apply to universities for Occupational Therapy, you should have or be working towards achieving a relevant Access to HE Diploma in Health Science or, alternatively, 3 A-Levels with at least one in a science area (Human Biology, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Sociology, Geography or Maths). Universities can advise on their particular entry requirements and they also publish these on the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) website.
With the A Level route, you may also be expected to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs.
If you complete an Access to Occupational Therapy course, you are normally only required to have GCSEs in English and Maths at Grade C or above. Access to HE Diplomas are normally aimed towards adults 18+ returning to education or wishing to change to a new career. There are no upper age limits. The Diploma qualification is equivalent to 3 A Levels. Access to HE can be studied from home via online learning or at a local college.
Most Occupational Therapy degree courses will give students over 1,000 hours of clinical experience. This enables graduates to confidently work with people in their care to analyse the environmental and physical factors at play and successfully devise appropriate interventions to help them.
What does an Occupational Therapist do?
Occupational Therapy can be one of the most rewarding areas of health care. The role is commonly thought of as mainly helping people overcome health problems to get them back to work, but it stretches much further than this. The ‘occupations’ part of the title doesn’t just relate to jobs, it encompasses everything people want or need to fulfil life roles and find meaning.
Occupational therapists have a wide range of practice and work with people of all ages. Often around 33% of an OTs caseload is children though occupational therapists work with people across the lifespan, from neonatal care to hospices. Some therapists provide early intervention therapy to children who have or are at risk of having developmental delays. Some work with the older care users to help them lead more independent and active lives.
What personal attributes are needed to become an OT?
- Good communication skills - Listening well to service care users and communicating clearly your action plan are key parts of the role.
- Flexibility – Each intervention will be different. Therapy needs to be tailored for each individual and carefully managed to assess if changes to the program need to be made.
- Compassion – OTs are usually drawn to this area by a desire to enrich the daily lives of others.
What are the pay and working conditions like?
- Salaries for occupational therapists working in the NHS start at Band 5 of the NHS Pay Scale (£22,128 to £28,746).
- Salaries for specialist occupational therapists range from £26,565 to £35,577 (Band 6) and advanced/highly specialist occupational therapists can earn £31,696 to £41,787 (Band 7).
- At consultant level, you can typically earn between £40,428 and £58,217 (Bands 8a and 8b).
- The Government has recently announced a 6.5% increase in salaries across health sector employees over the next 3 years.
Salaries in local government are at similar levels, although there can be variations depending on your skills and experience. The working week is generally 37.5 hours and some flexibility in terms of evenings and weekends may be needed.
In a nut-shell…
Occupational therapists’ goals are always functional and strive to enable people to live life to the fullest.
There are currently over 38,000 OTs employed in the UK, more than paramedics and Dietitians combined
OTs can help care service users with physical exercises to improve strength or dexterity, mental exercises to overcome difficulties with memory, or provide special programs to help overcome sensory or communication problems.
How is your degree funded?
Studying to become an Occupational Therapist allows you to you to apply for the standard student support package in the form of a student loan. Scholarships, bursaries or grants may also be available for example, through the university or your place of work.
If you would like to complete an online Access to Occupational Therapy course with Academy Online Learning to obtain the Level 3 Access Diploma in Health Science Professions for university entry, please choose your payment options below or contact us for more information by phone or email. Studying and achieving this qualification provides a flexible way to study as it is fully online and is recognised and accepted by UK universities.