Occupational therapists help people of all ages and backgrounds overcome a range of disabilities, which may be caused by accident, ageing, or physical or mental health conditions. They work out programmes of activities to help their patients to lead a more independent life.
You could be:
- talking to patients and health care staff to work out the patient’s needs
- developing rehabilitation programmes to meet the patient’s needs
- helping patients to regain their confidence and rebuild skills
- planning domestic, social and work activities for the patient – which could include shopping, cooking, going to a cinema or restaurant, travelling on a bus or train, or using work tools or other equipment
- helping the patient with these activities and day to day activities, such as washing and dressing
- listening to patients, their families and carers and perhaps giving advice
- advising on equipment which would make things easier for the patient, perhaps at work or home
- managing a caseload, writing reports and recording work done and progress made by patients.
Pay rates can vary depending on whether you are working with the NHS, with a private practice, or are self-employed. The current pay scales are from April 2017.
Within the NHS Agenda for Change scales occupational therapists' salaries are on Band 5, £22,440 to £29,034 a year, specialist occupational therapists are paid on Band 6, £26,830 to £35,933 a year and advanced occupational therapists are paid on Band 7, £32,013 to £42,205 a year.
- You may work in a hospital, a GPs surgery or in a clinic in the community.
- You may visit schools, day centres, patient's homes, prisons, care homes and social care settings.
- You may have to travel to see patients at different locations.
- Hours are usually regular, but you might sometimes need to do weekend or evening work.
- You would wear a uniform.
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- You need a degree in occupational therapy – the entry requirements are 4 Highers, usually including English and sometimes a science subject, preferably Biology. National 5 Maths will be required for some courses.
- In Scotland three universities offer degree courses in Occupational Therapy: Glasgow Caledonian University, Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
- If you are already a graduate with a good Honours degree in a related field you could qualify by taking an approved accelerated postgraduate programme, such as an MSc or PgDip in Occupational Therapy (Pre-Registration). These are usually two-year full time courses. In Scotland they are offered by Glasgow Caledonian University and Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.
- You could complete the Higher National Certificate (HNC) in Occupational Therapy Support at Glasgow Clyde College. Successful completion of this course leads to entry to one of the universities mentioned above. Entry to the HNC requires 2 Highers, preferably including English.
- You will require a satisfactory PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) check to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details.
- It helps if you have some work experience, often voluntary.
- When you complete your course, you register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which you must have to work in the National Health Service (NHS).
- A driving licence is useful, and may be necessary.
- There is a shortage of occupational therapists in some areas.
Most occupational therapists work in the NHS. There are also jobs with social work departments and in private practice.
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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Job Outlook Scotland
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Job Outlook Scotland and UK
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What Does it Take?
You should have:
- excellent observation skills
- excellent communication skills
- good practical skills
- a creative approach to problem solving
- good organisational skills
- a patient, caring and understanding nature – to build and keep the patient’s trust.
- enjoy helping people and solving problems
- want to help people to have the best quality of life they can
- be resourceful and imaginative
- be able to respond to a patient’s needs
- enjoy responsibility.
- Once you have gained state registration, training is on the job.
- You will keep your skills and knowledge up to date by undertaking continuous professional development (CPD). This is required for you to stay on the state register.
- The Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) offers short courses including interactive learning to help with your CPD.
- You might specialise in a particular client group, such as children and young people, or type of disorder for example cardiac rehabilitation or burns and plastic surgery.
- You could move into a senior post or into management.
- You might take further qualifications, perhaps for teaching or research work.
- You may be able to work abroad.
For further information on how to become an occupational therapist, you should read the Occupational Therapy Careers Handbook 2017 published by the College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT) on their website.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
Tel: 0300 500 4472
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the UK-wide regulatory body responsible for setting and maintaining standards of professional training, performance and conduct in the following health care professions: Arts Therapists; Audiologist; Biomedical Scientist; Chiropodist and Podiatrist; Clinical Scientist; Dietician; Occupational Therapist; Operating Department Practitioner; Orthoptist; Paramedic; Physiotherapist; Practitioner Psychologist; Prosthetist and Orthotist; Radiographer; Speech and Language Therapist. (The HCPC may regulate other healthcare professions in the future.) The HCPC website contains a register of all approved courses in the above professions.
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