Physiotherapists are trained professionals who people recover from injuries and health issues. These techniques are non-surgical and typically involve massage treatments and rehabilitation exercises. To become a physiotherapist you will need to acquire a relevant degree.
It’s a rewarding career choice with the chance to make a big difference in people’s lives. If you think physiotherapy might be a career path for you, or you’re just exploring your options, keep reading. Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to become a physio.
What do Physiotherapists do?
Most physiotherapists work in hospitals, doctor’s offices, care homes, hospices, fitness centers, and at the home of people who need treatment. You’ll typically work as part of a team with other medical and therapy specialists who are involved in a patient’s treatment. In some roles for private companies like gyms and sports teams, however, you might be working alone.
A typical day for a physiotherapist includes:
- Treating patients' individual injuries.
- Manipulation, exercise, and massage treatments.
- Engaging with people of all abilities.
- Establishing rehabilitation goals and plans.
- Writing progress reports and gathering data.
- Having discussions with patients, specialists, and families.
A physiotherapist’s role is to encourage and facilitate recovery and rehabilitation. This requires you to be both assertive and friendly to help patients. Some other important traits for a physiotherapist to have include:
- Patient: rehabilitation can take time and persistence.
- Compassionate: physiotherapy involves understanding the challenges involved.
- Knowledgable: physios need to know the biology and science involved to treat patients effectively.
- Positive: physiotherapy can take its toll on a patient's mental health; keeping upbeat is vital.
- Flexibility: having a plan B or C is vital in case treatment doesn’t go to plan.
- Good communicator: you will work with people of all abilities so being able to communicate well is important.
- Trustworthy: physiotherapy often involves seeing people at their most vulnerable so it's important to be trustworthy and professional so patients feel comfortable.
Why become a Physiotherapist?
People become physiotherapists for a variety of reasons. For most, being able to help people get over trauma, injury, or illness is extremely rewarding giving great job satisfaction. It’s a job that is in great demand with excellent prospects.
While most physiotherapists earn around the average wage, there is also plenty of opportunity for career progression and to improve your salary with managerial and specialist roles.
Some of the best physiotherapists work for the world’s biggest sports teams, helping top players in recovery from injury. As well as the chance to work with some of the world’s best athletes, physiotherapists can find themselves paid well above the average.
Education and qualifications
To get into physiotherapy, you’re going to need a physiotherapy degree by taking a course approved by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
There are both BSc and MSc physiotherapy degrees offered by most universities and typically take between 2-4 years to complete. In most cases, this is a full-time course and requires considerable study. Courses involve hands-on learning, classroom study, as well as exams, and observation.
Undergraduate entry requirements for a physiotherapy course typically include:
- 2+ A Levels (or equivalent)
- One of your A Level subjects must be biological science or physical education.
- GCSEs in maths and English and one science subject.
Post-graduate study is available for those with a degree in a relevant subject such as biological science, sports science, or psychology.
Taking a physio degree
During a physio degree, you will learn best practices, improve your interpersonal skills, and expand your knowledge.
Years one and two of a physiotherapy degree focus on learning the responsibilities and duties of the role including learning various types of treatment. The course will expand your knowledge of the human body with a particular focus on musculoskeletal anatomy.
During years two and three you will receive a clinical placement where you will work with an NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, physiotherapy company, charitable orgsanisation, or sports club. Degrees require a minimum of 1000 hours of clinical placement to become a recognised physiotherapist.
After earning their degree, graduates need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to be recognised as a professional physiotherapist.
Nowadays, there are also physiotherapy apprenticeships available for those already working in the field. This is an ideal route for physio assistants and technicians that want to further their careers but still want to earn at the same time.
Degrees still take 2-3 years to complete and you will be able to work around 30 hours a week.
While not universal, an increasing number of universities are now offering physiotherapy apprenticeships. Check your chosen university’s website if this is a suitable route for you and see if an apprenticeship is available.
Salary and hours
Most physiotherapists will work between 35-40 hours per week. As you will be working mostly with the general public, working hours are generally between 9 AM and 5 PM. A physio’s starting salary is £25,000, with an experienced physiotherapist earning £45,000+.
Working for the private sector can mean more money, with some physios earning upwards of £100,000.
Training and career prospects
Once you’ve begun your career as a physiotherapist, in most roles you will receive on-the-job supervision and mentoring to help develop your skills and knowledge. This Continuing Professional Development (CPD) involves courses, programmes, and briefings and is something that the HCPC requires.
As well as the day-to-day challenges and rewards, physiotherapists can also take HCPC training courses to further their expertise. This can include medicine prescriptions, injection training, and more. Having these skills under your belt can lead to more responsibilities and better pay.
Some physios also choose to undertake an Advanced Clinical Practitioner apprenticeship. This is a work-and-study course that leads to a Masters Degree and recognition as an Advanced Clinical Practioner.
Career-wise, physiotherapists have many different avenues to explore. Most physios will have the chance to undertake managerial roles within a workplace. These include responsibilities such as team organisation, budget responsibilities, and developing overall strategies for treatments.
Some physiotherapists will also go on to work with private practices and hold consultancy roles once they’ve found a specialisation. This could include specialisations such as child development where it’s a physio’s role to help children reach developmental milestones.
There are also opportunities to work in more demanding environments. This includes working with armed forces or with charities overseas. These can provide a wealth of experience that can further your skills and perspective.
Physiotherapy is a rewarding and diverse career path. While training towards becoming a physiotherapist requires considerable effort and hard work, the ability to help people every day and get paid for doing so makes this a good choice for compassionate, determined people with good people skills.