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Joining the profession: Physiotherapy

By Gemma Raw

Do you like the idea of helping people improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life? Are you caring, patient, a good communicator and a team player? A physiotherapy job could be a good career choice. Here's our handy guide to joining the profession.

What do physiotherapists do?

Physiotherapists work with people to help them maximise their mobility. They use a variety of techniques and therapies for treatment and rehabilitation of patients who are affected by physical problems caused by illness, disability, injury or ageing. The physiotherapist role also involves advising people on how to avoid injury.

How do you qualify as a physiotherapist?

To qualify as a physiotherapist you must successfully complete a degree-level qualification in physiotherapy, via a full-time or part-time course, or a degree apprenticeship. You then need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Where do physiotherapists work?

Many NHS physiotherapists work in hospitals, where they are needed in just about every department, from Intensive Care to Geriatrics. With an increasing focus on community care, you may also work at a local health centre or clinic, treating patients on site or in their own homes. Outside the NHS, there are physiotherapy jobs in private hospitals, clinics and specialist partnerships, as well as in sports and health clubs.

What does a typical day involve?

Physiotherapists usually treat people over several consultations, so a typical day would probably involve a mixture of initial assessments and treatment or therapy sessions. Treatment plans can involve movement and exercise, manual therapy techniques such as massage and manipulation, aquatic therapy and other techniques, such as electrotherapy and ultrasound. Other responsibilities include: writing up patient notes and reports, providing advice on injury prevention or condition management and liaising with other health professionals, such as doctors, nurses and occupational therapists. 

How much can you expect to be paid?

NHS physiotherapy jobs are covered by the Agenda for Change pay rates. For 2018-19, salaries for newly qualified physiotherapists are in the Band 5 category (£23,023 to £29,608 pa). More experienced physiotherapists can earn between £28,050 and £36,644 pa (Band 6). Specialist or advanced physiotherapy practitioners can earn at Band 7 rates (£33,222 to £43,041 pa).

What opportunities are there for career development?

Continuing professional development (CPD) is a requirement of HCPC registration and, as an NHS physiotherapist, you should be given plenty of opportunity to enhance your knowledge and skills. You can specialise in areas such as care of older people or children or you can work towards an advanced physiotherapy practitioner role (find out more here).

Is there a professional organisation for physiotherapists?

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's 58,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and support workers. Membership benefits include professional insurance, legal services and workplace representation.