Occupational therapist


Career outlook for occupational therapist

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would motivate and support people to overcome physical difficulties caused by physical or mental illness, an accident or ageing. You’d help people lead full and independent lives and, where possible, prevent disability.

Working with your patients on a one-to-one basis, you’d create a treatment and activity programme to suit each person.

For example, you could:

  • Teach an older patient recovering from a stroke how to dress themselves
  • Support someone who has depression to take up a hobby or activity
  • Suggest ways to adapt an office so a person injured in an accident can go back to work
  • Help someone adjust to permanent disabilities

You would keep notes about their progress. You’d advise and support patients, and their families and carers.

The people who need your help may be angry, disappointed or frustrated because of their circumstances. You’d need to be able to motivate and encourage them. You’d need to understand people’s priorities and lifestyles and devise treatment programmes to suit each person's needs and lifestyle.

Some patients may have conditions such as motor neurone disease or multiple sclerosis, which means that they gradually become less mobile and more disabled. You would try to encourage a positive attitude, which can help people stay active for as long as possible.

With experience, you could specialise in an area such as:

  • Burns or plastic surgery
  • Cardiac or stroke rehabilitation
  • Paediatrics
  • Orthopaedics (spinal injury)
  • Community disability services
  • Mental health

You could work with patients for several months or just for a few sessions. You would often work as part of a team of professionals, including physiotherapists, nurses and social workers.

You can see more about this role in the National Health Service on the Occupational therapist page on the NHSScotland Careers website.

Working conditions


You would usually work around 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Part-time work is often available.


You could work with clients at a variety of places, including hospitals, health centres, residential or nursing homes, GP surgeries, schools, in the client's own home or at a workplace


You may need to travel between clients, so it would help you if you were able to drive.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Listening
  • Verbal communication
  • Problem solving
  • Empathising
  • Social conscience
  • Developing a plan
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Motivating others
  • Taking responsibility

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Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on Apprenticeships.scot.


You need an honours degree (SCQF Level 10) or postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 11) in occupational therapy.

Entry to a degree (SCQF Level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers or a relevant HNC/HND.

To enter a postgraduate course (SCQF Level 11) you will usually require an honours degree in a relevant subject.

You can enter an Occupational Therapy Support Higher National Certificate (SCQF Level 7) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.  


Useful subjects

  • English (required by many courses)
  • Maths (required by many courses)
  • Science subjects (required by many courses)
  • Care
  • Social studies such as psychology

You will also need

 To be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

Helpful to have

Qualifications that show experience with care, health and wellbeing such as:

  • Skills for Work Health Sector (SCQF Level 4/5)
  • Health and Social Care (SCQF Level 6)
  • SQA Wellbeing Award (SCFQ Level 3-5)