School and University students
Turning your talents into a rewarding career
As well as core skills and traits like team working, creative problem solving, communication and empathy, you’ll need a relevant qualification.
We recommend choosing a degree in occupational therapy but if you already have a degree, you can then go on to study for a BSc or follow a postgraduate programme in the field.
Alternatively, if you’re based in England, you can gain an occupational therapy degree through an apprenticeship. This route is provided by an employing organisation like the NHS or a social care service. You’ll become fully qualified by spending part of your of time in paid work (80%) and part in a learning environment (20%).
The grades and qualifications you’ll need to gain a place on a degree course vary, so we’d recommend visiting the websites of the universities you’re interested in.
Generally speaking though, you’ll need a minimum of five GCSEs at A–C or National 5 in Scotland, at 4-5, including English, Maths and often a science subject.
You’ll then also need evidence of successful study at Level 3. Examples of this could be three A-levels, a Welsh Baccalaureate, four Scottish Highers or an Irish Leaving Certificate. Other options include a BTEC Diploma in a health and social care-related subject or an access course. Most universities will also want to carry out an interview, and having some work experience would be beneficial.
If you’re thinking about what subjects to study, you might like to consider Human Biology, Psychology or Social Sciences, and Health and Social Care.
For apprenticeships, employers will usually be looking for evidence of successful study at Level 3 or higher. Experience is also usually taken into account during the application process.
One of the best ways to decide if a career in occupational therapy is for you is to shadow an occupational therapist – or to arrange to speak to one if shadowing isn’t practical. We’d recommend getting in touch with services in your local area. And you can find out more about work experience on our main website.
Funding and support
Many students undertaking occupational therapy courses will have access to additional financial support – and you won’t have to pay it back. This is an extension to the NHS Learning Support Fund. It includes a training grant of £5,000 a year, help towards travel and accommodation costs for clinical placements, and regional incentives. You can see the full list of support initiatives on the NHS careers site.
You can also take out a student loan from the Student Loans Company, even if this is your second degree.
Royal College of Occupational Therapists support
Student membership with RCOT will give you access to a range of resources and opportunities, all designed to support you while you’re learning. This includes tips for your application, and preparation for practice.
Membership is open to anyone who’s enrolled on an occupational therapy degree-level programme in the UK, or studying a RCOT-recognised support worker qualification. You can discover more on the student membership section of our main website.