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Physiotherapists use a variety of techniques and therapies in the treatment and rehabilitation of patients who are affected by physical problems caused by illness, disability, injury or ageing.

A structured career path exists within the NHS, and there are also opportunities within the private sector.

What does a physiotherapist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Physiotherapists work with a variety of patients including physically disabled children, women before and after giving birth, athletes, patients who are in hospital or attending clinics and people within the community.

Tasks can include:

  • helping patients recover from accident, illness or injury
  • organising therapeutic physical exercise sessions
  • providing massages
  • using specialist techniques such as electrotherapy and ultrasound
  • collecting statistics
  • writing reports
  • liaising with professionals such as doctors and nurses
  • providing education and advice about exercise and movement
  • keeping up to date with the latest advancements in the profession

There are good opportunities for promotion: a structured career path exists within the NHS, and openings commonly occur within the private sector. Alternatively physiotherapists can specialise or move into teaching, research and managerial positions.

Typical employers of physiotherapists

  • Private/sports clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Community centres
  • Charities
  • Industrial organisations
  • Special schools
  • Mental health and learning disability services
  • Local and professional sports clubs and centres

Relevant experience gained via voluntary work, placements or through employment as a physiotherapy support worker or assistant is very beneficial. Jobs are advertised on the websites of NHS trusts and on NHS Jobs, on the website of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and in specialist publications such as Frontline, Physiotherapy Journal (along with their respective websites).

Qualifications and training required

To qualify as a state registered physiotherapist you will need to take a physiotherapy degree approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). You will then need to register with the HCPC.

Full-time physiotherapy degrees typically take three years. There are also some two-year accelerated physiotherapy degrees suitable for those who already have a degree in a relevant subject, such as sports or life science.

To get onto a physiotherapy degree course you usually need two or three A levels, including a biological science and/or PE, along with five GSCE passes including English, maths and at least one science, or equivalent qualifications.

Key skills for physiotherapists

  • Good time management
  • The ability to build a rapport with patients from a variety of backgrounds and communicate with their relatives and carers
  • Tolerance and patience
  • Good physical health and fitness
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Teamworking skills

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This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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