Occupational therapist: job description

Occupational therapist: job description

Occupational therapists help adults and children of all ages to overcome physical and mental problems that are the result of disability, injury or illness.
Occupational therapists work to enable people with disabilities to lead full, satisfying and independent lives.

What does an occupational therapist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Specific duties vary depending on the field of work and whether therapists are based within hospital or community settings.

However, common responsibilities of the job include:

  • undertaking patient assessments of physical, communication, interaction and cognitive skills
  • planning and providing appropriate treatment and activities
  • giving advice and arranging support for family members, carers and clients
  • undertaking general administrative tasks, for example writing reports, making telephone calls, maintaining records and case notes
  • liaising with doctors, family members, carers and other professionals and keeping them updated
  • planning further treatment and reviewing progress
  • assessing treatment success at multi-professional case conferences/meetings

Typical employers of occupational therapists

  • NHS trusts
  • Local authority social services departments
  • Nursing and residential homes
  • Day care and health centres
  • GP practices
  • Prisons
  • Industrial organisations

Vacancies are advertised online, by recruitment agencies and careers services, in newspapers and publications including Opportunities, Occupational Therapy News, the British Journal of Occupational Therapy and their respective websites. NHS trusts also produce regular vacancy lists.

Qualifications and training required

To become an occupational therapist you will need to study an accredited occupational therapy degree. Graduates with other first degrees in relevant subjects must obtain an accredited two-year postgraduate qualification. Prior relevant work experience is helpful for entry onto all courses, particularly for postgraduate degrees, as these tend to attract strong competition.

Although the NHS funds the majority of degree course places, most postgraduate students are self-funding.

Key skills for occupational therapists

  • Patience
  • Determination
  • Enthusiasm
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • An interest in working closely with people
  • Good teamworking skills