The career path of a physiotherapist
By Dan Allard
As a trained physiotherapist, there are many ways for you to progress in your career; here’s what you can expect.
Physiotherapy support work roles
Many physiotherapists start their career in support work; these are unqualified roles that allow future physios to gain valuable experience and insights. As support workers, they cannot call themselves a physiotherapist (as it is a protected title) and they do not need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). However, they are expected to adhere to the professional values and behaviours as set out by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).
Physiotherapy support workers may be eligible to study for a Level 6 apprenticeship which will enable them to qualify as a physiotherapist.
Within the NHS, career progression is strong. There are plenty of opportunities to gain clinical experience across a variety of different departments – and as you start your career you should expect to work in a rotational role. You may spend time working in orthopaedics to support patients manage back pain or sports injuries. Alternatively, you could move between intensive care wards or cardiology departments to help patients recover from illnesses.
You will start at Band 5 but generally between 12-18 months, you may be able to move into Band 6 roles, giving you greater responsibility and increased pay.
Specialising in niche areas of physiotherapy
Some physiotherapists enjoy the challenge of working with patients affected by neurological conditions such as strokes or multiple sclerosis. Others may choose to work with specific age groups or prefer to work in musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapy jobs.
As you progress your career, physiotherapists can also develop new areas of clinical practice. For example, they may wish to train in areas such as injection therapy and supplementary or independent prescribing. This will require additional training (which will need to be confirmed with the HCPC) but can provide greater scope for professional development and could lead to higher pay scales.
Physiotherapy managerial opportunities
Working as a physiotherapy team lead or head of a department may involve moving away from frontline patient care, and focusing on more strategic tasks such as budgets, staff training, or service delivery. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists’ leadership development programme is designed for those wishing to move into managerial roles.
Advanced Clinical Practice roles
The CSP states that “Advanced physiotherapy practice is a level of practice rather than a specific role.”
Advanced practitioners can expect to make more complex decisions, with focus on intervention as well as preventative care. Those looking to move into job roles such as Extended Scope Practitioners (ESP), Advanced Practice Physiotherapists (APPs), or Consultant roles will need to show that they have the ability to work in unusual contexts, have strong leadership skills and can initiate and influence clinical service delivery.
Physiotherapists can upskill themselves with a Level 7 Advanced Clinical Practitioner apprenticeship (equivalent to a Master’s degree) which will give them the additional training and knowledge for these advanced practice job roles.
We recruit for a wide range of NHS physiotherapy jobs across the UK. To find the best job match for your skills, please upload your CV .