Occupational therapists help people of all ages to carry out everyday activities which are essential for health and wellbeing.
This page has information on the role of an occupational therapist with links to further information.
You'll work with people who have difficulties carrying out these activities because of disability, illness, trauma, ageing, and a range of long term conditions.
You'll find solutions to everyday problems, for example:
- advising on how to approach a task differently
- using equipment or assistive technology
- adapting the living or working environment
- finding strategies to meet an individual’s goals
Illness, injury, disability or ageing can make ordinary tasks such daily care (washing, dressing, eating), work or education and leisure harder to do. You'll help people find ways to continue with activities that are important to them. This might involve learning new ways to do things, or making changes to their environment to make things easier.
You'll assess and treat people of all ages and situations with a range of conditions. For example, helping:
- someone adapt to life after major surgery such as a hip replacement
- children with disabilities take part in school and play activities
- dementia sufferers develop strategies
- stroke patients
- people suffering from mental illness get back into everyday activities such as work or volunteering
- elderly people stay in their own homes by providing adaptation such as level access showers or stairlifts
In the NHS, you'll work in hospitals, clinics and GP practices. You may visit patients at home or at work. Elsewhere, you could work in:
- charities or voluntary organisations
- companies and businesses
- social services departments
- special schools
- private practice
As well as working with individual patients and their families, occupational therapists work with groups. They work in teams with other health professionals. They may also supervise the work of occupational therapy support workers.
Want to learn more?
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
As an occupational therapist working in the NHS, you would start on band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay system. With experience, further qualifications and training, you could apply for more specialist and senior posts at bands 6 and 7, such as a primary mental health worker in a child and adolescent mental health service. Occupational therapists working at consultant level will typically be on band 8A or 8B
Occupational therapists in the NHS work around 37.5 hours a week and may be expected to work flexibly over a 7 day period. In private practice hours of work may include evenings and weekends.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
Once qualified, you're encouraged to join the British Association of Occupational Therapists. Joining the professional body has many benefits including Professional Indemnity Insurance and trade union membership.
The Health and Care Professions Council Standards of Continuing Professional Development demand that all qualified health professionals must maintain a continuous accurate and up-to-date record of their continuing professional development (CPD) activities.
You'll work across a range of settings; elderly care, physical and mental health settings, paediatrics, brain injury and learning disability to name a few. Occupational therapists are found in the public, private and voluntary sectors and also in independent practice. There are also opportunities to become involved in research and education.
Occupational therapists can work within multidisciplinary teams such as child and adolescent mental health services, or as service managers in health or social care. There are also opportunities to work overseas.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
In February 2017, there were 37,898 occupational therapists registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.
The need for occupational therapists is growing, and this is being recognised nationally. Most NHS trusts advertise their vacancies on NHS Jobs. Some advertise on their own websites. You can find a list of NHS organisations NHS Choices.
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work. The same will be true if you are applying for a university course funded by the NHS. Find out more about NHS values.
To increase your chances of employability, it helps if you have thought about the area of occupational therapy you are interested in and can demonstrate knowledge in this area. To find NHS vacancies visit NHS Jobs. Or for jobs in social care look on local government websites or in sector publications. You may also want to register with a recruitment agency.
- Further information Expand / Collapse