what is an occupational therapist?

An occupational therapist provides treatment to patients with disability or long-term illnesses to help them perform daily activities like moving around and taking care of themselves. As an occupational therapist, you help patients improve the quality of their lives by adapting to their conditions and learning independence. You also recommend assistive devices and teach them how to use the tools to accomplish tasks.

As an occupational therapist, you work with seniors, young children and adults. You assess their difficulties in accomplishing tasks and teach them ways to improve the activities. You also recommend pain management strategies when participating in intense workouts.

what does an occupational therapist do?

While occupation refers to the profession or a job, it denotes daily activities that improve independence in occupational therapy. For instance, people with illness and disabilities have difficulty eating, bathing, doing office work or laundry. Your job is to ensure your patients perform simple activities without affecting their condition.

Most occupational therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centres, outpatient clinics and nursing homes. You will provide services to people with arthritis, spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke or cerebral palsy. You can also work in schools to evaluate children with disabilities and assist them with school activities. Maintaining skills needed for daily activities helps them recover.

Would working as an occupational therapist suit your compassionate nature? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an occupational therapist position role.

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average salary of an occupational therapist

According to National Careers, the average salary of an occupational therapist ranges from £25,654 to £45,838 per year. Your entry-level salary will be low, but it increases as you gain skills and experience. Some companies also award employees end of year bonuses and overtime pay. The compensation package includes health insurance schemes, pension benefits and various allowances related to the role.

how to increase your salary as an occupational therapist

Your earnings as an occupational therapist depend on your qualifications, years of experience and specialism. Hence, to increase your salary, acquire additional training or certifications that improve your skills and expertise. As you gain experience, the roles you undertake become complex, and the pay structure will reflect the additional responsibilities. 

Your employer also impacts your earnings and extra benefits. For instance, an occupational therapist working in a hospital has a different pay structure from those working in schools or nursing homes. Large organisations also have attractive compensation packages compared to small or medium-sized hospitals or companies. However, you are likely to gain more experience in small organisations since you handle diverse clients. Large companies require an occupational therapist to focus on one specialism.

Close up - Smiling female looking away
Close up - Smiling female looking away

types of occupational therapists

An occupational therapist can specialise in the following areas:

  • paediatric occupational therapist: when you enjoy working with children, you can specialise in paediatric occupational therapy. Your role is to assist children who cannot perform daily tasks due to disabilities. You will help kids develop general functioning like feeding, walking and crawling.
  • geriatric occupational therapist: as a geriatric occupational therapist, you work with elderly patients to help them manage routine tasks easily. Your work involves assisting elderly patients in coping with arthritis, Alzheimer's, low vision and recovering from a stroke.
  • mental health occupational therapist: when you specialise in mental health, you help clients overcome substance abuse, mood disorders and depression. You create wellness programmes to assist in stress management.
  • physical rehabilitation: occupational therapists can help patients with physical rehabilitation. Your job is to guide clients on accomplishing tasks despite their physical problems. You also train patients to use specialised equipment and assistance devices.

working as an occupational therapist

Working as an occupational therapist is an exciting career if you enjoy working in the healthcare sector. Let's explore the specific roles and work routines.


education and skills

Some of the routes for becoming an occupational therapist include:

  • university course: you can join the occupational therapy profession through a degree course in occupational therapy. The Health and Care Professions Council often approves the institutions for studying occupational therapy. The courses cover academic study and practical placements. If you already have a bachelor's degree in psychology, health science or biological science, you can do a postgraduate conversion course to join occupational therapy.
  • apprenticeship: occupational therapists' apprenticeship degree usually takes four years to complete and includes workplace learning and academic study. The entry requirements for degree apprenticeships are 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 and A-Levels. 

skills and competencies

Some of the skills include:

  • communication skills: as an occupational therapist, you should explain exercises and treatment plans in simple terms. Exceptional communication skills help you handle patients of all ages.
  • problem-solving skills: you need to be an excellent problem-solver to succeed as an occupational therapist. Each treatment plan relies on the patient's condition, and problem-solving skills help you identify the best options.
  • organisational skills: your documentation and patient files should be updated regularly, and you need to keep track of your client's progress. Organisational skills help you maintain a schedule and attend to each patient on time.


FAQs about working as an occupational therapist

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