If you are interested in helping people improve their physical health, this could be a perfect career for you.
Physiotherapists work with patients to improve their range of movement and promote health and wellbeing. To become a qualified physiotherapist you need a physiotherapy degree or postgraduate award approved by the Health and Care Professions Council.
You will need to have an interest in human anatomy and physiology, plus patience and sensitivity. You must also be interested in the health and wellbeing of patients.
As a physiotherapist your work could include:
- helping patients with spine and joint problems, especially after an operation
- helping patients recovering from accidents, sports injuries and strokes
- working with children who have mental or physical disabilities
- helping older people with physical problems become more mobile.
You could work in various areas and departments, such as paediatrics, outpatients, intensive care, women's health and occupational health. You could use a variety of treatments and techniques including:
- physical manipulation
- therapeutic exercise
You would keep accurate records of patients' treatment and progress, and you would often work closely with other health professionals, such as nurses, occupational therapists, health visitors and social workers.
You would typically work 37.5 hours a week. You could be based in a hospital or the community, in a health centre, clinic or GP surgery. You may also visit patients in their own homes.
If you work for local authorities, voluntary organisations or the private sector, you may be based in a nursing home, fitness centre or sports clinic.
Salaries for physiotherapists in the NHS are between £21,388 and £27,901 a year. Specialist physiotherapists can earn up to £34,500 a year. This can rise to around £40,00 as an advanced physiotherapist or team manager.
Salaries in the private sector are usually similar to those in the NHS.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
To become a chartered physiotherapist you need a physiotherapy degree or postgraduate award (see below) approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This will make you eligible for state registration and membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). Check the HCPC and CSP websites for a list of course providers.
To do a degree in physiotherapy, you will usually need:
- three A levels including a biological science (PE may be accepted by some universities)
- at least five GCSEs (A-C) including maths, English and a science.
Check with universities for exact entry requirements as other qualifications may also be accepted, for example a health- or science-related Access to Higher Education or Level 3 Diploma in Applied Science.
When applying for a course, it may be helpful to have some relevant paid or voluntary experience in a healthcare setting.
You may be able to find paid or volunteering opportunities within the NHS, and with local charities and other organisations in your area. A good way to find these is to check the NHS volunteering pages and the Do-it volunteering website. The CSP also has some useful information about getting work experience.
When you apply for a course you will have background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). However, a criminal conviction does not automatically prevent you from working in the NHS. The admissions tutor for your course can give you details.
- Disclosure and Barring Service (Home Office website)
Alternative entry routes
You could prepare for entry to a physiotherapy degree by doing an Apprenticeship in healthcare. Schemes vary between NHS Trusts, but will normally include clinical placements and working towards a qualification, such as the Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support. To find out more contact your local NHS Trust and visit the Apprenticeships website.
Accelerated postgraduate courses
If you have a first class or upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject (such as a biological science, psychology or sports science) you could qualify as a physiotherapist by taking a fast-track postgraduate course. Contact the CSP for more details.
Training and development
Once you are working as a qualified physiotherapist, you will be encouraged to expand your knowledge and skills. You can do this by attending workshops and taking specific training courses as part of your Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
Check the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists website for details of a wide range of training and CPD courses.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a physiotherapist, you will need to have:
- an interest in anatomy, physiology and health science
- a genuine concern for the health and wellbeing of patients
- excellent communication skills
- good teamwork skills
- the ability to use your initiative
- good interpersonal skills
- the ability to be firm yet encouraging
- patience, sensitivity and tact
- good organisational and administrative skills.
Health and Care Professions Council
184 Kennington Park Road
Tel: 020 7582 0866
PO Box 2311
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
14 Bedford Row
Tel: 020 7306 6666
Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150850
You will find most jobs in the NHS. However, you could also work with local authorities and in the private sector, such as at day centres, schools, hospices, care homes, fitness centres and sports clinics.
With experience you could become self-employed and set up your own private practice. Within the NHS, you could progress to senior physiotherapist or move into health service management.
You could go on to specialise in an area such as orthopaedics, sports therapy, occupational health, or working with older people or children. Other related areas of work include research and teaching.
You may find the following useful for vacancies and further reading:
Related industry information
The health sector is represented by Skills for Health Sector Skills Council, which comprises three sub‐sectors:
- National Health Service (NHS)
- Independent Healthcare Sector (such as private and charitable healthcare providers)
- Third Sector (healthcare) (such as small local community and voluntary groups, registered charities, foundations, trusts, social enterprises and co‐operatives)
The health sector is made up of hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, dental practices, the ambulance service, nursing homes, residential care homes, complementary medicine and a huge range of other health related activities, from sight tests in opticians to research in medical laboratories. Most people in the health sector work in the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), which includes:
- primary care (organisations which the public goes to first) – Doctors/General Practitioners (GPs), NHS Walk in Centres, NHS Direct, Out of Hours Emergency Care
- secondary care (organisations which the public are referred onto) – Ambulance Trusts, NHS Trusts/hospitals, NHS Foundation Trusts/hospitals, Mental Health Trusts, Care Trusts (provide joint health and social care activities)
NHS policy in England is directed from the centre by the Department of Health. Local organisations, known as Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), are in charge of providing and commissioning services, controlling the majority of the budget. PCTs are overseen by 10 regional organisations called Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).
The independent sector includes companies and charities that offer hospital and specialist services usually after referral from a doctor. Operations and other work are carried out in private hospitals, independent treatment centres, mental health units and hospices.
- The health sector is the largest employer in the UK, representing 5.5% of the working age population of the UK and 7.3% of the working age population that are currently in employment.
- It is estimated that the sector employs over 2 million people, including:
- over 1.5 million people in the NHS (72%)
- over 0.5 million people in the Independent Healthcare sector (26%)
- almost 40,000 in the voluntary sector (2%)
- 56% of the workforce has a higher education qualification (or equivalent).
- The age profile for the sector shows an older than average workforce, which is due in part to the fact that it takes some professions a long time to train and can mean that people enter the sector later.
There is a varied list of jobs in the sector ranging from a diverse number of clinical roles, to support and infrastructure staff, for instance: Allied Health Professionals (AHPs); Ambulance Staff; Dental Staff; Doctors/Medical staff; Nursing staff; Midwifery Staff; Healthcare Scientists; Health Informatics Staff; Management; Wider Healthcare Team; Complementary Therapists.
- Skills for Health
- NHS Careers
- Careers in healthcare ‐ A guide to working in voluntary organisations
- NHS Employers
NHS Careers has sections on: