How To Become An Occupational Therapist In The Uk

How do I become an occupational therapist in the UK?

By Gemma Raw

In the UK, occupational therapy is a highly-respected and important role. After all, occupational therapists help people of all ages overcome the challenges they face due to disability, illness, ageing or accident. Given their wide-reaching role, there are over 52 million working in the UK. A fundamental part of an occupational therapist’s role is to consider all a patient’s needs – emotional, physical, environmental and social.

As an occupational therapist, you have a wide selection of different teams you can work within. Being an ‘in demand’ role, it’s not unusual to work on new and exciting projects, and with other emergency services. The role offers exciting prospects for international occupational therapists looking for a rewarding career.

Why become an occupational therapist in the UK?

As an occupational therapist, you can either work within the NHS or social services. Therefore, you could easily work anywhere within the UK.

You can also choose the people you would like to support, including:

  • Children and young people

  • People with physical or learning disabilities

  • Those with mental health issues

  • Older people.

Occupational therapists in England and Wales are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and there’s an established ‘whole-person approach’ to care. If you choose to work in the UK, you’ll have access to a wide-range of resources and other professionals. This means that, as an occupational therapist, you’re able to see the difference you are making.

Specialist occupational therapists can earn anywhere between £31,365 to £37,890 (Band 6) and Band 7’s up to £44,503 per year.

As an international occupational therapist, you’ll be in high-demand since social services and the NHS recognise the value of employing a diverse community of healthcare professionals.

How do you become an occupational therapist?

To work as an occupational therapist in the UK, you must be registered with the HCPC. To gain registration you have to complete an HCPC approved degree in occupational therapy.

Courses are typically offered at universities, and you can study on a full or part-time basis. The course will be either an approved pre-registered university programme, usually a BSc (Hons) that takes three or four years, or a degree apprenticeship. Or you can apply for an apprenticeship position with a healthcare employer who will support you in achieving a series of level 3 qualifications in occupational therapy.

Start working in the UK as an occupational therapist

What if you’re an experienced qualified international occupational therapist though? Health and social care employers welcome international occupational therapists to the UK. However, there are a few things you need to know before starting your journey. When you register, the HCPC will want to know where you have worked before. They will also need to review and check your existing international qualifications.

By doing this, they are looking to see whether the training and experience you have matches their ‘Standards of Proficiency’. This is to ensure that you are safely able to care for patients and understand the ethical and legal boundaries of the role. This is important because the role of occupational therapist is a protected title in the UK, which is one of the reasons why it offers a good career opportunities.

What certificates will you need to register as an occupational therapist?

If you qualified as an occupational therapist abroad, you’ll need to show the HCPC a:

  • Certified copy of your qualification certificate

  • Translation of the certificate (if required)

  • Certificate of your professional status (from the regulator in the country you last worked)

  • Photocopy of a relevant English Language test certificate

You must prove, as most international healthcare professionals do, that you have a good grasp of the English language. Therefore, you must pass the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam with a minimum score of 7.0 in each category. Alternatively, you may choose to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet Based Test (IBT), and score of 100/120. However, this cannot be taken once you’ve arrived in the UK and is only valid for two years.

Additionally, you’ll also need to arrange a UK Visa, and various other documentation, which we’re more than happy to help you with.

For more information on NHS careers, please read our collection of blogs.