As a physiotherapist, you’ll take a scientific approach to health and wellbeing. You’ll help people recover from injuries or operations, or relieve them of the difficulties they face through ageing or disability.
You’ll see people’s lives improve before your eyes, as they progress through the treatment you give them.
As a physiotherapist, you’ll focus on maximising the movement of your patients to improve their health and wellbeing. You’ll make people’s lives easier as they use your expertise to learn to deal with:
You’ll meet patients on a daily basis. Depending on each individual’s needs, you might recommend exercises, carry out massages, use high-tech ultrasound equipment, and possibly even hydrotherapy pools.
Once a patient’s mobility problem has been diagnosed, you'll work with them to agree a treatment plan. You'll also promote good health and advise people on how to avoid further injury.
You might work alone or as part of a team, but you’ll have plenty of choice when it comes to places to work.
What are the pay and conditions like?
Your standard working week will be around 37.5 hours and may include a mix of shifts, such as nights, early starts, evenings, and weekends.
You will be able to claim £2,000 a year towards childcare costs through the NHS Learning Support Fund, and there’s funding available for adult dependants and some placement travel costs too. If you have a disability, there are grants to help with essential costs while studying via the Disabled Students’ Allowance.
If working on the NHS you will have access to one of the best pension schemes in the UK, as well as access to exclusive health service discounts and benefits at some of the most popular brands.
Where you could be working?
Physiotherapists are needed in nearly every hospital department, such as outpatients, women’s health, paediatrics, and occupational health.
Physiotherapy is also provided in the local community. You could be based in a health centre and might treat patients in their own homes, day centres, nursing homes or schools.
Many physiotherapists work in private practice providing services such as sports injury rehab. There are also some highly specialised fields that physiotherapists work in, for example mental health.
What are your career development opportunities?
Physiotherapy provides a large range of career development opportunities. Whether you have a desire to become a highly specialised practitioner, work in academia or as professional leader and manager of services – physiotherapy offers a career pathway with something on offer for everyone.
As a physiotherapist, you will need to be a good communicator who can be hands-on and give simple explanations of conditions and treatments to clients.
It’s vital to have a good chat and get as much information about your clients’ injuries and conditions as possible, so that you can provide the best level of care. That means you need to be both a good communicator and a good listener.
Are you a confident person?
As a physiotherapist you will be an autonomous practitioner, using a range of skills to diagnose and treat your patients, sometimes in the absence of someone more senior to refer to. You will therefore need to be confident in your decision-making skills and be able to assure your patients that your knowledge is current, and your treatment offer is based on the best available evidence.
Can you adapt?
Being able to adapt to new situations is a vital part of becoming a physiotherapist. You will be presented with patients who suffer from a wide range of problems. Being able to switch from one to the other – and provide tailored advice for each individual – is crucial.
You could be asked to treat someone who has been involved in a traumatic car accident and needs help in their recovery. You may also see patients suffering with long-term mental or physical conditions. Your knowledge and ability to adapt will be key in giving all patients the best level of care.
Are you a patient person?
Physiotherapists often see patients who may be on a long road to recovery. Part of the skill of being a physiotherapist will be knowing how to work with those patients and to help them sustain their motivation to engage in what could be a lengthy treatment programme. This requires patience, but you will also need to draw on the skills and techniques you are taught in your training to best understand how to engage with and support the patients you are working with.
Are you a team player?
A core part of your role as a physiotherapist will be to work alongside people from a variety of other healthcare professions such as doctors, occupational therapists and nurses. You will need to communicate with a broad spectrum of people quickly and efficiently to ensure that your patients receive the treatment they need. Therefore it is essential that you have the ability to build effective working relationships.
In order to work as a physiotherapist it is essential that you complete an approved programme at a recognised university.
A full-time degree BSc (Hons) can take three years and a part-time course will take six years. A two-year accelerated master’s course is also an option if you already have a relevant degree.
Once you’ve successfully completed your degree you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) before you can start practising.
Entry requirements for an undergraduate degree include:
two or three A levels, including a biological science and/or PE
five GCSEs (grades A – C), including English language, maths, and at least one science
Or the equivalent qualifications:
a BTEC, HND or HNC, including biological science
a relevant NVQ
a science-based Access course
equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications.
a previous degree or a full practising qualification in a related area
Each university sets its own entry requirements, so it’s important to check with them directly.
In most cases, the results of an interview and other selection processes are considered, as well as academic qualifications. It’s also a good idea to spend some time with a registered physiotherapist to get some first-hand experience of what the role’s really like.
People with a degree in a related subject can apply to train as a physiotherapist via an MSc or Postgraduate diploma. These programmes are usually shorter, around 2 years.
Applying with a degree apprenticeship
A part time degree apprenticeship BSc (Hons) with a healthcare provider is another way to become a physiotherapist. Apprenticeships give you the chance to earn a living while gaining your qualification.
Occupational therapists empower people to overcome the difficulties they face with living independently. They improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities, illnesses, traumas, ageing, and long-term conditions.