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Physiotherapists provide an essential service in keeping the population mobile, helping patients regain their confidence and abilities to function as they normally would. Find out what it takes to join this noble profession, and just where it can take you.

What is a physiotherapist?  

Physiotherapists play a crucial role in healthcare, focusing on restoring movement and function to individuals affected by injury, illness, or disability. Their primary objective is to enhance quality of life by maximising physical abilities, reducing pain, and preventing further injury. 

What does a physiotherapist do? 

One of the key responsibilities of a physiotherapist is assessing a patient’s condition through various diagnostic methods, such as observing movement patterns, evaluating muscle strength and joint flexibility, and reviewing medical history. Based on this assessment, they develop personalised treatment plans tailored to each individual’s needs and goals. 

Treatment interventions may include manual therapy techniques, exercise prescription, electrotherapy modalities, and education on proper body mechanics and ergonomics. Physiotherapists often work closely with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, occupational therapists, and chiropractors, to ensure comprehensive care for their patients. 

In addition to treating acute injuries and chronic conditions, physiotherapists also provide rehabilitation services for individuals recovering from surgeries, strokes, or sports injuries. They may specialise in areas such as orthopaedics, neurology, paediatrics, or sports medicine, allowing them to address a wide range of conditions and populations. 

To excel in a physiotherapist role, individuals should possess strong communication and interpersonal skills, as they often work closely with patients to motivate them throughout their rehabilitation journey. Patience, empathy, and the ability to adapt treatment plans based on patient progress are also essential qualities for success in this field. 

Furthermore, a solid understanding of human anatomy, biomechanics, and exercise physiology is crucial for accurately diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders. A background in science or a healthcare-related field, along with completion of a recognised physiotherapy programme, are typically required to practice as a physiotherapist. 

Overall, individuals who are passionate about helping others, enjoy working in a dynamic healthcare environment, and have a strong desire to promote physical wellbeing, would be well-suited for a career in physiotherapy. 


Types of physiotherapists  

There are many different types of physiotherapist roles to specialise in: 

Musculoskeletal physiotherapist: specialises in treating issues related to muscles, bones, joints, and soft tissues, often working in hospitals, clinics, or private practices. 

Neurological physiotherapist: focuses on rehabilitating patients with neurological conditions such as strokes, Parkinson's disease, or multiple sclerosis, helping them improve movement and function. 

Respiratory physiotherapist: works with patients who have respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis, helping to improve breathing and lung function. 

Cardiovascular physiotherapist: assists patients recovering from heart surgery, heart attacks, or other cardiovascular conditions, helping them regain strength and endurance through exercise and lifestyle changes. 

Paediatric physiotherapist: specialises in treating children with developmental delays, injuries, or disabilities, focusing on improving movement, coordination, and motor skills. 

Geriatric physiotherapist: works with elderly patients to maintain or improve mobility, balance, and independence, often addressing issues like arthritis, osteoporosis, or falls prevention. 

Sports physiotherapist: provides care to athletes of all levels, treating sports-related injuries, preventing re-injury, and helping athletes optimise performance through tailored exercise programmes and rehabilitation techniques. 

Women’s health physiotherapist: focuses on issues specific to women, such as pregnancy-related pain and pelvic floor dysfunction, offering treatments like pelvic floor exercises and manual therapy. 

Occupational health physiotherapist: works with employees to prevent and manage work-related injuries, assessing ergonomic setups, and providing rehabilitation to facilitate a safe return to work. 

Orthopaedic physiotherapist: specialises in the assessment and treatment of orthopaedic conditions, including post-operative rehabilitation, fracture management, and joint replacements. 

These are just a few examples, and there are many other areas within physiotherapy, depending on patient populations and settings.   

What do you need to become a physiotherapist? 

Typical requirements for budding physiotherapists include: 

Physiotherapist qualifications: a bachelor’s degree in physiotherapy from a programme accredited by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. 

Skills: in order to become a physiotherapist, it’s important to have strong communication skills, empathy, problem-solving abilities, manual dexterity, physical fitness, and a good understanding of human anatomy and physiology. 

Experience: clinical experience can be gained through internships, placements, or volunteer work in healthcare settings and is hugely beneficial to those looking to enter the field. Additionally, completing a supervised physiotherapy placement as part of your degree, is usually required. 

Registration: after completing your degree, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council to legally practise as a physiotherapist in the UK. This typically involves providing evidence of your qualifications and completing a registration process. 

Continuing professional development (CPD) is also important for physiotherapists to stay up to date with advancements in the field and maintain their registration. 

Physiotherapist role and responsibilities  

The responsibilities of a physiotherapist typically include assessing and treating patients with physical problems caused by illness, injury, disability, or ageing. They develop treatment plans, conduct therapeutic exercises, provide manual therapy, educate patients about managing conditions, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals for comprehensive care. They also often engage in health promotion and preventive healthcare activities. 

Typical working hours for a physiotherapist can vary depending on the setting and employer. In a hospital or clinic setting, it's common to work standard full-time hours, which are typically around 37.5 to 40 hours per week, often Monday to Friday. However, some physiotherapists may work evenings or weekends to accommodate patient needs. Those in private practice may have more flexibility in their schedules. 

In 2024, physiotherapists can earn a maximum £45,400 in the North East and North West; £52,500 in London; £48,900 and £51,500 in Northern Ireland and Scotland. 

Find out what physiotherapists, and a host of other roles in the health and care sector, can expect to earn across other regions of the UK in our health & care salary guide 2024.  


Physiotherapist career prospects  

Physiotherapy employment opportunities can be found across the NHS, independent sector and in private practice.  Some of the best areas in the UK to find physiotherapist roles include London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. These cities tend to have larger populations and more healthcare facilities, and therefore more job opportunities. 

According to a recent Nuffield Trust report, NHS physiotherapist numbers have only increased by 3.3 per cent over the last ten years, outlining the potential for growth of physiotherapy as a vital part of the NHS workforce. 

Visit our health and care pages to either find professionals for your teams, or to begin your health and care job search

See what a career in health and care has to offer, with help from our health & care salary guide 2024, complete with insight into current and predicted salaries by region, along with the benefits that really matter to professionals.