Occupational therapist

Occupational therapist imageYou’ll work with people with physical, mental or social disabilities to help them do everyday activities.

You’ll spend time with individuals to find out what they usually do in their day to day life and any challenges they face. You’ll then help them find ways to overcome these challenges.

Role overview

  • helping people to adjust to their disability
  • providing specialist equipment to help with mobility
  • supporting people to adapt their home or vehicle to make them more accessible
  • helping people to cope with memory or sensory loss
  • teaching someone who’s recovering from a stroke how to do things themselves
  • advising housing departments on mobility issues.


Everyone working in social care needs English, number, digital and employability skills including team work and problem solving skills. What core skills do I need to work in social care outlines some of the skills you need and has short activities to help you think about transferable skills from your previous experiences.

There are also some specific skills needed to work in this role. These include:

  • planning and organisational skills
  • communication skills
  • the ability to form good working relationships.

Getting started

You could start working as an occupational therapy support worker who works with an occupational therapist to give people practical support. You don’t necessarily need any qualifications to do this role. What’s really important is that you have the right values and behaviours to work in social care.

Your employer might ask that you have qualifications in English and number skills. It might also be helpful to have a social care qualification such as a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care.

Employers could support you through an in-service course to become an occupational therapist.

Getting qualified

To practice as an occupational therapist, you’ll need a degree in occupational therapy that’s been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and be registered with the HCPC.

Each University has different entry requirements for their degrees but you’re likely to need three A-Levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications, and five supporting GCSE’s including English, maths and science.

It might also be useful to have experience working in a social care or health role on your University application. You could gain this experience through a work placement, from your personal life, through volunteering or as part of a traineeship or apprenticeship.

If you already have an undergraduate degree you could do a postgraduate diploma or masters in occupational therapy.


When you start in your role your employer should put you through an induction. This might include training necessary for your role such as health and safety, moving and handling and first aid. You might also receive specific training such as autism awareness, communication skills or working with people with dementia.

There may be opportunities to progress into senior occupational therapy roles and supervise others or work in different services with different people. If you already have an undergraduate degree you could do a postgraduate diploma or masters in occupational therapy to develop your knowledge.

You might also choose to go into other social care roles such as a rehabilitation worker, manager or commissioner. Read more on the Job roles in social care page.



Case studies

  • Penny Marks-Billson
    Penny works as an occupational therapist and supports people who have just left hospital or are at risk of going into hospital.
  • Hanna Munro
    Hannah works as a senior occupational therapist and supports six care homes with fall prevention, mobility assessments and rehabilitation.

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