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Career profile: Occupational therapist

Career profile: Occupational therapistThinking of becoming an occupational therapist? Get the lowdown on what the job involves, what qualifications you need and how long it takes to train.

A what?

An occupational therapist assesses the needs of people with physical or mental health problems and works out practical ways to help their patients live independent, enjoyable lives.

On the job

Occupational therapists are on the frontline of social health care so every day is different. Each day you meet new people facing new challenges. You may advise an elderly person dealing with the early stages of dementia one day and help a teenage road accident victim cope with life in a wheelchair the next. You work in a variety of environments from people’s homes to hospitals, school and prisons.

Course entry requirements

You need five GCSE passes and at least two, (usually three) A-levels. A science subject at A-level is sometimes required. Alternatives to A-levels are also considered, such as an approved access course, VCE and Scottish qualifications.

Applications are welcomed from applicants who left full time study some time ago, but they will usually need to provide evidence of recent academic study and/or relevant experience at an appropriate level.

Always check entry requirements with the institution of your choice as entry levels may vary.

What does the training involve?

Training normally consists of a three year course (or four years in Scotland) leading to a BSC in occupational therapy. The course will involve a mixture of biological science, psychology, sociology and fieldwork practice.

If you are already employed as an occupational therapy support worker or a technical instructor, however, you might be able to study part-time, in which case the course would take four years.

There are also graduate entry schemes to a two year accelerated course which also lead to a formal qualification. You are then able to apply for the necessary registration to work in the NHS or social services.

Related links

(Information taken from NHS Careers)