You might be under the impression that physiotherapy careers are all about massaging professional athletes when they have cramp and recommending bizarre exercises for people to do when they’re watching TV. However, there’s so much more to a career in physiotherapy than the common stereotypes might lead you to believe.
Essentially, physiotherapists help people of all ages who are temporarily or permanently suffering from physical disabilities and debilitating conditions. These healthcare professionals work in hospitals and community settings to treat patients with all kinds of ailments - just about anything from sporting injuries and persistent joint problems, to paralysis resulting from strokes and neurological conditions.
Physiotherapists carry out assessments to evaluate their patients’ range of movement and ability to carry out everyday tasks. They then plan and develop bespoke treatment plans, which help patients to regain their independence and mobility by using purposeful activity.
A broad range of treatments can be implemented by physiotherapists to improve their patients’ strength, stamina, balance and exercise tolerance, including therapeutic exercise, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, heat therapy and joint manipulation.
Salary & benefits
A substantial percentage of physiotherapists in the UK are employed by the NHS, and therefore salaries are determined by NHS salary bands.
Newly-qualified physiotherapists earn between £21,000 and £26,000, while specialist physiotherapists earn between £25,000 and £35,000.
Higher up, consultant physiotherapists can earn up to £40,000 and beyond.
Private physiotherapists charge on a session-by-session basis and can earn considerably more.
Typically, physiotherapists work between 37 and 40 hours per week. However, late hours and weekend work are common for junior physiotherapists in the first few years of service.
NHS personnel work in hospitals, multi-specialty clinics and other similar facilities falling under the NHS trust umbrella. Self-employed or freelance physiotherapists can work in a variety of facilities, including sports clubs, schools, colleges, universities, leisure and fitness centres or private clinics.
Inter-city travel on a day-to-day basis may be required for physiotherapists who visit patients at their homes or in community facilities. The job requires high levels of fitness, stamina and physical activity, since manual therapy may include lifting and moving patients.
To become a physiotherapist, it’s necessary to obtain an accredited undergraduate degree (BSc) in physiotherapy and register with the Health Professions Council (HCP).
An alternative route for candidates with an undergraduate or foundation degree in another area of healthcare involves completing a postgraduate certificate or diploma, which is approved by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).
To thrive in this line of work, physiotherapists need to be kind, patient, caring and understanding. Patients may be unmotivated and uncooperative and therefore will need constant encouragement and reassurance. Consequently, it’s also important for physiotherapists to have fantastic communication skills.
Training & progression
Initial training for physiotherapists in the NHS involves doing a series of planned rotations in different areas (3 or 4 months each). Upon completion of these rotations, physiotherapists continue in their chosen department under the supervision of senior colleagues.
All practising physiotherapists are required to annually renew their registration with the Health Professions Council by complying with continuing professional development (CPD) requirements set by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Postgraduate qualifications in specialist areas are useful for career progression.
Opportunities for career progression might involve moving into private clinical practice. However, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy recommends at least two years of NHS practice and additional training before making a move into private sector employment.