How to become an occupational therapy assistant: Sarah's story

What’s your job?

I’m an occupational therapy assistant specialising in neurosciences, which is the scientific study of the nervous system. We work with patients who have been in road traffic accidents, had brain tumours or who have spinal injuries.

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Two years ago, I didn’t know what occupational therapy was. Since I was a young child, I have always been hooked on drama and wanted to be an actress. I took A-levels and started a degree in drama. I realised drama wasn't for me and joined the Addenbrooke's Hospital staff bank. I worked in many different areas until someone asked if I was interested in occupational therapy. After some research, I discovered it required many of the skills that I already had. I got the job as an assistant and haven’t looked back. The next step is to do my degree so that I can work my way up and become an occupational therapist. I’m taking the part-time route while I work.

Sarah - occupational therapist

Best thing about your job

I find this job very rewarding, but also very challenging. You never know what kind of day you’re going to have – it’s constantly changing. You have to be very creative and think on the spot.

What motivates you?

Knowing that I make a difference in people’s lives every day. I don’t think there’s a morning that I’ve woken up thinking that I didn’t want to go to work. I feel like I’m really important to a lot of people here.

What to expect if you want to become an occupational therapist

  • Salary: From £24,907 to £62,001
  • Working hours: On average 37.5 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be an occupational therapist?

  • Entry requirements: You could get into this role via a university degree in Occupational Therapy approved by the Health and Care Professions Council. You'll usually need two or three A-levels, or equivalent, for a degree. You may be able to do a postgraduate conversion course if you've got a degree in a related subject like Biological Science, Health Science or Psychology. Alternatively, you could start as an occupational therapy support worker and, with backing from your employer, study for a degree part-time to qualify as an occupational therapist. Another possible route is via an occupational therapist degree apprenticeship. Getting paid or voluntary experience in care or healthcare work before applying to courses or roles will be really helpful.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Check out the NHS website for more information about working as an occupational therapist.

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