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How to become a physiotherapist

Interested in getting people on the road to recovery and making a positive impact? Discover how to become a physiotherapist with FutureLearn.

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From helping patients recover from heart attacks to dealing with sports injuries, the role of a physiotherapist is incredibly diverse and rewarding. If you’re fascinated by the human body, are passionate about helping others recover from injuries, or are simply intrigued by the connection between science and care, becoming a physiotherapist may be for you. 

To learn how to become a physiotherapist, it’s important that we clue you in on everything there is to know first. In this article, we’ll look at some of the key points to think about, including what a physiotherapist does, the qualifications and skills required, and how much money they earn.

What does a physiotherapist do?

Physiotherapists work with people who have various physical conditions, injuries, or disabilities. They use a combination of manual therapy, exercise, and unique techniques to prevent further issues, manage pain, and help recovery, therefore giving patients the chance to enjoy a better life.

This mostly involves hands-on therapy, which means a specialist set of skills is needed as well as extensive training.

Some of the main responsibilities you’ll have as a physiotherapist will be:  

  • Helping to improve functional and physical abilities
  • Assessing patients and determining what treatment they need
  • Preventing mobility issues from getting worse
  • Creating therapy plans for recovery
  • Tracking a patient’s response to treatment and referring them to other health professionals when needed
  • Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle

As well as the above responsibilities, the types of conditions you may need to treat include:

  • Neurological disorders (stroke, multiple sclerosis)
  • Cardiovascular diseases (chronic heart disease, heart attack rehabilitation)
  • Neuromusculoskeletal (back pain, sports injuries, arthritis)
  • Respiratory (asthma, cystic fibrosis)

What qualifications do you need to become a physiotherapist?

The qualifications needed to become a physiotherapist in the UK largely apply to most nations. Firstly, you’ll need to complete a physiotherapy degree. To get onto a course, not only will you have to achieve the right results to be accepted at your chosen university, but you’ll also need to demonstrate a passion for both the profession and caring for people.

Once you’ve completed your degree, you’ll need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), so you can practise professionally. Once registered, even as a practising physiotherapist you’ll need to attend regular training to keep improving your knowledge and skills.

Another route that’s worth considering is a degree apprenticeship. This encourages you to work and gain practical skills. You can find a full list of physiotherapist training providers on the GOV.UK website.

What skills are required to become a physiotherapist? 

So that you can perform your role effectively, there are some essential skills that you’ll need. Some of these include:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Physical strength and stamina
  • Organisational skills 
  • Great time management skills
  • Patience and empathy
  • The ability to work both independently and part of a team
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • A willingness to help others

How long does it take to become a physiotherapist?

This will mostly depend on whether you decide to study full-time or part-time at university. Full-time studies will mean you complete the course after approximately three years, whilst part-time will take four to six years depending on the intensity at which you study.

How much can you earn as a physiotherapist?

In the UK, if you choose to work for the NHS, you’ll be paid on the Agenda for Change (AFC) pay system, typically starting on band five. How much you earn will depend on your level of experience, for example:

  • Experience below 2 years – £28,407
  • 2 to 4 years – £30,639
  • 4+ years – £34,581

If you set up your own successful practice then you could earn much more. However, as a general rule, the average physiotherapist’s salary in the UK is £37,893.

For those in the US, physiotherapists can earn an average salary of $73,184. 

Other average salary expectations from around the world include:

What careers are available as a physiotherapist?

There are various areas you could specialise in, such as orthopaedics, sports therapy, occupational health, or working with older people or children. 

If you choose to work for the NHS in the UK, it’s likely you’ll follow a conventional working structure as you progress. This could eventually lead to you becoming a senior physiotherapist or landing a role in health service management.

For most physiotherapists, the ultimate goal is to gain enough experience to become self-employed and open up their own practice. This gives you the potential to earn more money and specialise in an area you’re passionate about, whilst also giving you more flexibility and freedom.

How to become a physiotherapist: additional learning

Physiotherapists are the unsung heroes of the healthcare sector, dedicating their work to helping and empowering patients. Day-to-day work as a physiotherapist can be incredibly rewarding as you have the opportunity to make a genuine impact on someone’s life. 

Whether you want to become a physiotherapist or pursue a career in another healthcare field, FutureLearn has tons of suitable courses to help you with your studies. Explore our wide range of healthcare and medicine courses and take that first step towards transforming lives.

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