NHS Scotland Guide to Careers as an Occupational Therapist

Occupational Therapists have a highly rewarding role. They help people to overcome physical, psychological or social problems arising from illness or disability, by concentrating not on what they are unable to do, but on what they may be able to achieve. It involves initiative, creative thinking and problem solving.

As an Occupational Therapist, you would be an autonomous professional, with your own caseload of patients, but you would also be part of a highly skilled multi-disciplinary team. You would look at your client’s difficulties in the context of their lifestyle and environment.

They might have problems with tasks such as washing, dressing and cooking, for example, or might need help with getting back to work after an accident. Together you would plan an intervention, based on the client’s own needs and expectations.

You would advise on practical issues such as disability equipment, as well as teaching personal coping strategies and using activities to stimulate people who are de-motivated or depressed.

The range of types of clients and individual problems means that you will need to be practical, adaptable and creative. You will also need patience and good communication skills. You should enjoy working in partnership, both with other healthcare professionals and with patients’ families and carers.

Entry Requirements
For entry to a degree course in Occupational Therapy, the usual requirement is three/four Highers, including English and a Science subject (preferably Biology), plus Standard Grades (1-3) in other subjects.

However, entry requirements vary between courses and alternative qualifications may be accepted   check prospectuses for details.

Training normally consists of a four-year course leading to a BSc (Hons) in Occupational Therapy. There are also graduate entry schemes to two-year accelerated courses, which also lead to formal qualification. You are then eligible to apply for the State Registration necessary to work in the NHS or social services.

In most cases, Assistant posts are not yet a route to qualifying as an Allied Health Professional. However, there are some in-service courses open to those Occupational Therapy Assistants with suitable qualifications that enable applicants to enter the undergraduate programme as a second year student.

Career Prospects
Demand for Occupational Therapists in health and social services is strong and growing. You will be able to choose from many different posts for your first job. The NHS offers rotational posts, which give you the chance to work in a range of different specialities, or you might go straight into a specialism of your choice.

Other options include research or teaching. If you are interested in management, there are opportunities in Occupational Therapy Management or in general management with both health and social services.

Scottish Universities offering Occupational Therapy Degrees
Glasgow Caledonian University
Queen Margaret University College
Robert Gordon University

Further Information
The British Association / College of Occupational Therapists