Occupational therapy assistant

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 therapy assistants (OTAs) support the work of occupational therapists (OTs).

Work Activities

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

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for occupational therapists

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

Pay And Opportunities

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


Entry routes and training

Most people working as an occupational therapy assistant will start work and have on-the-job training. It is helpful to have gained knowledge and skills through relevant work experience, for example, working with disabled people in a health and social care role.

Some people enter after completing relevant health and social care qualifications.

You might be able to enter and train through an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Health - Clinical Healthcare Support, or an Advanced Level Apprenticeship in Health - Allied Health Profession Support.

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.

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