Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy is an exciting and challenging profession because each patient has individual requirements and the treatment needs are constantly changing. Occupational therapy is a constantly developing profession.

Occupational therapists are unique members of the health team. They enable people of all ages to function within their physical, psychological and social limitations and to regain or maintain their maximum potential with regard to personal care, work and leisure.

They are concerned with people who are treated through active participation in purposeful activities in order to enable them to regain their health, return to their community and to enjoy quality of life. These therapists use a problem-solving approach by first scientifically assessing patients’ physical and mental abilities. In this way problems that may affect the way in which patients are able to care for themselves, hold down a job, attend school or participate in games or sport and utilise their leisure time, are identified.

Treatment plans are specifically designed for patients, taking into account their individual needs and backgrounds. Activities are chosen for their potential to help each patient reach predetermined treatment objectives. Thus, the patients contribute to their own recovery by becoming actively involved. In the case of permanent disability, patients are taught how to use their remaining skills.

Sometimes occupational therapists need to make suggestions with regard to adaptations to patients’ living and working environments, or to provide them with adapted devices to enable them to function more independently. These therapists can also play a preventative role through treatment programmes in deprived communities.

Programmes may be devised for the improvement of physical functions such as power and dexterity of the hands; improvement of mental health, such as social adaptability; improvement in self-care, self-management and personal independence; and promotion of the normal development in a sick or disabled person.

Occupational therapists use everyday activities as a treatment medium. Activities include personal management activities, work activities, recreational activities and play activities. The tools and equipment used are in accordance with each activity.

The main aim of occupational therapy is to help a person to regain self-confidence and to be able to act independently in spite of physical, psychological and social limitations.

Personal Requirements

  • highly developed sense of responsibility
  • sensitive and have empathy
  • emotional stability
  • patience and perseverance
  • good sense of humour
  • desire to work with people
  • willing to get involved with disabled people
  • good health and physical stamina
  • creative and have original ideas for problem-solving
  • practical and have manual dexterity

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: BOccupational Therapy or BSc (Occupational Therapy) - UKZN, US, UL, UCT, UFS, Wits. The duration of the course is 4 years.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Occupational Therapy, Medical Orthotics, Prosthetics & Arts Therapy.    


  • general hospitals
  • psychiatric hospitals
  • special schools for physically disabled children
  • special schools for children with behavioural and learning problems
  • homes for the aged
  • training centres for the mentally handicapped
  • non-governmental organisations
  • universities
  • specialised units such as workmen’s rehabilitation units
  • welfare organisations
  • self-employment, in own private practice

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) 
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

Occupational Therapy Association of South Africa 
Corner of Stanza Bopabe and Richard Streets
Hatfield Bridge, 1A
Tel: (012) 362-5457

Getting Started

  • make appointments to talk to occupational therapists and ask to observe them at work
  • try to get a vacation job working with an occupational therapist - even if unpaid

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Study to become an Occupational Therapist at Stellenbosch University

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