NHS Careers > Explore by career > Allied health professions > Careers in the allied health professions > Occupational therapist

Occupational therapist

Occupational therapy is the assessment and treatment of physical and psychiatric conditions using specific activity to prevent disability and promote independent function in all aspects of daily life.

Hear from real-life occupational therapists in our exclusive film.

Click here to read the full video transcript.

The role

Occupational therapists work with people of all ages to help them overcome the effects of disability caused by physical or psychological illness, ageing or accident. The profession offers enormous opportunities for career development and endless variety.

Being a registered occupational therapist takes patience, ingenuity, determination, common sense, a sound knowledge base and enthusiasm. Most of all, it requires an interest in working closely with people to enable them to lead full and satisfying lives as independently as possible.

Occupational therapists work in hospital and various community settings. They may visit clients and their carers at home to monitor their progress. When a course of therapy is completed, the therapist will analyse how effective it has been.

Hear from real life occupational therapists in our exclusive video

A variety of settings

Occupational therapists work with young children, adolescents, adults and older people in these areas:

  • physical rehabilitation
  • mental health services
  • learning disability
  • primary care
  • paediatrics
  • environmental adaptation
  • care management
  • equipment for daily living
  • research posts

They can work in a variety of settings:

  • community centres
  • education establishments
  • GP practices / primary care
  • hospitals
  • housing associations
  • clients homes
  • industrial and commercial organisations
  • prisons
  • residential and nursing homes
  • social services and council departments
  • schools
  • charities and voluntary agencies
Entry requirements and training

More information on the entry requirements and training needed to be a occupational therapist.

Career prospects

Demand for occupational therapists in health and social services varies between regions and employment sectors. You may need to be prepared to move to secure your first post. The NHS sometimes offers rotational posts, which give you the chance to work in a range of specialities. Or you might go straight into a specialism of your choice.

You may choose to develop your career through further specialist work, or through research. Occupational therapist consultants can combine these two roles in this very senior role. Alternatively you might go on into management or teaching positions.

More information about furthering your career in occupational therapy.

Support and assistant practitioner roles in occupational therapy 

There are opportunities to work in assistant roles in occupational therapy. 
Staff working in a support role at a more advanced level may be known as an assistant practitioner.

How to apply for job vacancies

Once you have completed a pre-registration programme in occupational therapy and have registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, you will normally be in a position to apply for jobs.

Job vacancies for occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants/clinical support workers and technical instructors are advertised in a range of places. Most NHS trusts will advertise their vacancies on the NHS Jobs website. Some will also advertise in trade journals and trust websites.

For a list of trusts, please visit the NHS Choices website.

Further information

College of Occupational Therapists
Education Department
106-114 Borough High Street

Tel: 020 7357 6480
Fax: 020 7450 2299
Website: http://www.cot.org.uk/

View two videos and read more information about a career in occupational therapy on the College's website