How to switch to a career in physiotherapy
By Dan Allard
If you are looking for a role which allows you to support patients in recovering from serious illness or injury, you may have thought about switching to a career in physiotherapy.
But how do I switch to a career in physiotherapy?
What qualifications do I need?
To work as a physiotherapist, you need to have an approved qualification. Broadly speaking, this means that you will need to enrol in a physiotherapy degree course which has been approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Full-time degree courses require three years of study, whilst part-time options are also available.
If you have previously been working in a similar role (such as a physiotherapy support worker), your employer may fund a Level 6 apprenticeship. This is the equivalent to a degree-standard qualification.
Once you are fully qualified, you will need to register with the HCPC to be allowed to work. Only those with an approved qualification and confirmed registration may call themselves a physiotherapist.
I already have a degree – can I enrol in a postgraduate physiotherapy training programme?
Physiotherapy is a science, so if you have a BSc degree in a related area (such as biological science, or sports science), you can apply for a two-year postgraduate training course.
Do I need previous physiotherapy experience?
If you are applying for a degree, then you do not need prior experience. However, your application may be supported if you have worked in roles focusing on body movement, such as a chiropractor, a physiologist, or a personal trainer.
Where can I get work experience?
Your application could stand out if you undertake some relevant voluntary work. Many clinical settings may be unable to offer work experience opportunities however, you could approach private practices for shadowing opportunities or speak to community groups such as St John’s Ambulance or local sports teams and offer additional support.
You could also speak to local care homes or special schools to ask if they have any work experience opportunities available.
What career opportunities are available once I qualify as a physiotherapist?
Once you are qualified, there are many different ways to progress your career. Within a clinical setting, such as an NHS physiotherapy job, you can choose to focus on rotational work, whereby you switch between different departments, or you can specialise in particular areas such as MSK physiotherapy.
There is the opportunity to work in permanent roles within the NHS and private settings, or in bank or locum physiotherapy jobs.