Occupational therapy provides practical and emotional support to enable people to facilitate recovery and overcome any barriers that prevent them from doing the activities (occupations) that matter to them. Occupational therapists consider an individual's psychological, physical, social and emotional wellbeing, and work with them to enable them to reach their full potential and maximum independence.
Occupational therapists help to maintain the health of people of all ages, enabling them to remain as independent as possible.
Occupational therapy is a flexible career as no two working days are the same, and it offers immense job satisfaction. As a registered occupational therapist you will work with individuals focusing on what’s important to them, and facilitating them to reach their goals. Occupational therapists assess each client’s situation independently as everyone's needs are different, and present their unique challenges with varying complexities and needs. The occupational therapists role is to identify the client's barriers or difficulties and deliver a service care plan to address their needs. Occupational therapists have to be able to problem solve to deliver a client-centred, holistic approach.
When you graduate from our BSc Occupational Therapy or our MSc Occupational Therapy programme at UEA, you will have developed the knowledge, skills and attitudes to become a caring and competent health care professional. You will have graduated from one of the best schools of health in the UK, and be ready to embark upon an exciting career.
Following your graduation, you will need to register with your professional body, the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC). You could also join the College of Occupational Therapists (COT). Once HCPC registered, you will be eligible to work as an occupational therapist in the UK and overseas, although to work in some countries, such as the USA and Canada you may have to sit a further exam.
Occupational therapists are in high demand across the UK, so employability opportunities following graduation are very good.
The scope of occupational therapy practice means you could be working with people at different times in their life. Your client may have had a stroke, or be an adolescent who is struggling with an eating disorder, or you may work with a mother whose child has cerebral palsy.
Occupational therapy also need educators in universities, such as practice placement educators supporting students with their clinical skills and researchers who develop new knowledge and lead the profession towards further improving the quality of people’s lives.
In most cases, you will be an integral part of a multidisciplinary team, which may include doctors, nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, psychologists and social workers.
Occupational therapy is varied. Here are some examples of how you could spend your time:
Helping children with disabilities to build their confidence, enabling them to take part in school activities.
Working with organisations to improve employees' performance.
Helping people manage their money by supporting them in learning budgeting skills and how to use banks.
Supporting people to live independently by providing systems to assist in dealing with, for example, mail, bills or negotiating with neighbours.
Working with people to identify and improve work skills, apply for jobs and stay in employment.
Helping people to access and use mainstream leisure activities.
Offering advice on adapting homes or workplaces to meet individuals' needs.
Assessing and recommending equipment.
Teaching individuals how to conserve energy by pacing themselves when doing everyday tasks.
Providing hand splints to help support and protect joints.
Providing activities to rebuild self-confidence.
Top Tip: Be adaptable. As an occupational therapist you will constantly be faced with new challenges. Excellent communication skills, a creative approach and good emotional intelligence will mean that you’ll be able to be more flexible in your approach, and respond to each individuals needs more readily.
In occupational therapy leadership is linked to ensuring high quality care for all. Occupational therapists are often good managers because they are trained to be problem solvers and to be responsive to individual’s needs. Many occupational therapists become case managers and take on managerial roles within services. Occupational therapists are trained to be creative and to think outside of the box which are key management qualities.
What would my starting salary be?
Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change pay scales and, as a recently graduated occupational therapist, you will start at Band 5, rising for more experienced and consultant occupational therapists. Pay and conditions will vary depending upon your employer and competitive rates are offered throughout the private and voluntary sectors so can vary significantly. You should always check with the employer to confirm the pay rate for any post for which you are applying.
What hours would I be working?
The average hours of work are 35-37.5 hours per week. The majority of occupational therapy jobs are Monday-Friday but your role may also cover evenings and weekends especially in mental health community services, acute hospitals, accident and emergency services and private practice.
Where could I work?
An occupational therapist can work in a variety of roles throughout their careers, such as being a clinical practitioner, manager, consultant, lecturer, researcher or self-employed. Occupational therapists can also work in different fields such as social care, mental health, work rehabilitation and neurology. This could involve working in schools, prisons, hospitals, charities, private practice or in the community.