: starting a career in occupational therapy, what skills do occupational therapists need?, do you need a degree to work as an occupational therapist?, occupational therapy assistant, ota, what do occupational therapists earn?

Starting a career in occupational therapy

By Dan Allard

​Along with physiotherapists and other allied health professionals, occupational therapists (OTs) play a vital role. The work is diverse, ranging from helping someone recover from a stroke to suggesting practical ways to adapt the home following an accident.

What skills do occupational therapists need?

Good occupational therapists are known for having the following attributes:

  • A caring attitude

  • Good communication and problem-solving skills

  • Patience

  • Sensitivity and empathy

  • The ability to work in a team

Do you need a degree to work as an occupational therapist?

Yes. As a protected title, you must have a degree and be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Most universities request at least 5 GSCEs and two A-Levels (a science subject is desirable) to be accepted onto a degree course. During your study, you can expect to be on campus at least four days per week. During your placement, you will be expected to work full-time, allowing you to put your theoretical knowledge into practice.

I don’t have a degree – what can I do?

If you haven’t got a degree, you can start your career as an occupational therapy assistant (OTA) to gain experience working alongside qualified occupational therapists.

Occupational therapy assistants may be able to use their experience as a way of improving their application to study occupational therapy at university. They may also be able to benefit from a degree-level apprenticeship which allows them to combine work and study.

I already have a degree – are there any postgraduate options?

If you have an existing degree in a related area (such as biological science, health science or psychology) you may be able to benefit from a fast-track, two-year course. However, you will still be expected to complete over 1,000 hours of practice before qualification.

What are the employment opportunities within occupational therapy?

The NHS or social services offer a varied occupational therapy career. Otherwise, you may choose to work in a private organisation or move into locum work allowing you to select positions that match your strengths and expertise.

What do occupational therapists earn?

As a newly qualified occupational therapists working for the NHS, you will start on band 5. As you gain more experience, your salary will increase.

Experienced occupational therapists earn around £40k, whilst consultant-level occupational therapists can earn as much as £66k-£82k (Source: Royal College of Occupational Therapists)

To find out more about how you can start your OT career, including details of what to expect in an interview or how to write your CV, please visit our careers hub .