Study Occupational Therapy, why & how to study
Occupational Therapy enables people of all ages to adjust to daily life and work after an illness, accident, or ageing. See what it’s like to study the area, and if the career is for you.
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Occupational Therapy is the support given to people with mental or physical disabilities. Occupational therapists create individual treatment programmes to help patients better navigate everyday life.
Patients include those who've lost some independence due to disability, ageing, illness, trauma or a variety of long-term health conditions. Occupational therapists improve patients’ lives by helping them learn new ways to do things and changing their environments to make tasks easier.
Undergraduate degrees in Occupational Therapy include:
- Occupational Therapy (Extended Degree) BSc
- Occupational Therapy BSc
- Occupational Therapy MOccTh
Options may include an integrated foundation year or master’s degree. Courses include practical placements.
Degree apprenticeships are sometimes available, where you can work and earn at the same time as gaining a qualification. You have to apply through an employer, and you’re not eligible for student loans.
Entry requirements for an Occupational Therapy degree at a university usually range from 112–120 UCAS points, although some unis may have higher or lower requirements. This could include the qualifications below.
- A Levels: AAB–BCC
- BTECs: DDD–DMM
- Scottish Highers: BBBC
- International Baccalaureate: 33–27
- Universities will usually ask that you have studied: a science or social science at A Level (or equivalent), but this isn’t required by all unis
Other good subjects to have studied include:
- Some unis may ask for an essay-based subject, such as English
- General studies or critical thinking A Level may be excluded
- You’ll also need five GCSEs (grades C/4 or above) including one in science
Experience that would look good on your application:
- Shadowing or talking to an occupational therapist in your local NHS service about their work
- Experiences that build your communication skills with diverse people, like work in a day centre or care home, or in a hospital or healthcare setting
- Volunteering work supporting disabled children, homeless people or the elderly
- Independent reading into the different areas of work involved – you could start with the Royal College of Occupational Therapy website
Other requirements for this subject include:
- Pass in the practical element of science taken at A Level
- Courses usually involve practical experience working with members of the public. You’ll need to complete a DBS disclosure check (for criminal records) for public protection and safety
Typical modules for courses in this subject include:
- Inter-professional working in health and social care
- Investigating trends in occupational therapy practice
- Leadership and enterprise: essential skills for practice
- Occupational performance through the lifespan
- Occupational perspective of population health
- Professional reasoning for occupational therapy practice
- Structure and function of the human body
You'll be heavily assessed while working on placement. This is based on a knowledge and skills framework that's fully explained to you once you begin the course. When not on placement, assessment methods may include:
- Group projects
- Practical and clinical sessions
- Written exams
Degrees typically lead to professional accreditation and the ability to work as an occupational therapist.
- Use of special equipment, such as wheelchairs and hoists
- Physical strength when moving and lifting equipment, patients or clients
- Designing adaptations to living environments
- Development and management of therapeutic groups
- Communication and other interpersonal skills
- Problem solving
- Empathy and nurturing
- IT literacy
- Degrees must be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and may be accredited by the Royal College of Occupational Therapists
Occupational Therapy graduates in the NHS can expect an entry-level salary of £25,500 (Band 5). Most OT roles are commonly graded Band 5 or Band 6, which has an upper income of around £39,000 – with higher earnings for those who manage a department or team.
If you move into other arenas, salaries for a special educational needs teacher range from £28,000–£46,000 in England. A high-intensity therapist, who may use CBT therapy to improve mental health outcomes, is normally on NHS Band 6 or 7, earning nearly £46,000.
Courses are highly vocational, so students generally go on to practise as occupational therapists. Or you could use your skillset in a range of other roles, although some require further training:
- Clinical researcher
- Community-based mental health OT
- Health improvement practitioner
- High-intensity therapist
- Home modification specialist OT
- Special educational needs (SEN) teacher
- Social worker
- Wellness coach
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- How to become an Occupational Therapist
If you already have a first degree in a related subject, you can take a graduate-entry pre-registration course to qualify as an occupational therapist. Graduates of Occupational Therapy may also continue their studies to specialise in certain areas, through postgraduate courses such as:
- Advanced Occupational Therapy MSc
- Art or Music Therapy MA
- Developmental and Therapeutic Play PGCert/PGDip/MA
- Rehabilitation MSc
Other subject areas that might appeal to you include:
- Counselling, Psychotherapy & Occupational therapy
- Health Studies
- Social Work
- Speech & Language Therapy
Get in touch with our experts by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your question about studying Occupational Therapy. We’ll be happy to hear from you!