How to become a physiotherapist

Why study physiotherapy?

If you want a rewarding career in which you can make a positive difference to people’s lives, physiotherapy could be a great option. Physiotherapists help patients build strength and rehabilitate following injury, surgery, or even the natural ageing process.

Physiotherapists are responsible for diagnosing problems and drafting rehabilitation programmes for their patients. They give advice about lifestyle and exercise and use manual therapy such as massage to aid healing and recovery. They can also train in other therapies including electrotherapy.

Physiotherapy graduates are highly in demand, in both the public and private sectors. You will find varied career opportunities, including work in a private practice, in national health services, or for sports teams.

If you are a compassionate, caring person who would like a practical job, you should consider becoming a physiotherapist.

Should I become a physiotherapist?

To be a physiotherapist, you should have a real passion for helping people live better lives. Teamwork is important, as you will be working with other healthcare professionals. Essential qualities of a physiotherapist include excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the desire to work in an active role, rather than at a desk.

Working in physiotherapy, you can expect:

  • Fantastic graduate prospects
  • A variety of career paths
  • Job satisfaction
  • Opportunities to work in almost every country
  • A good salary, with plenty of room for progression.

How long does it take to become a physiotherapist?

  • Bachelors degree - 3 to 4 years
  • Degree apprenticeship - 30 months
  • Masters degree (for those with a relevant bachelors degree) - 2 years

Any of these qualifications allow you to go straight into work as a junior physiotherapist, once you have applied to join the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) register.

Physiotherapist education requirements 

If you would like to get the qualifications you need to train as a physiotherapist, you can choose to study A Levels or Foundation.

A Levels

Student in a classroom at Bellerbys College

To pursue a career in physiotherapy, you will need three good A Levels, including biology and/or physical education.

Foundation

A group of students learning at Bellerbys College

Study a respective alternative to A Levels with a foundation programme. Achieving at least 70% in a foundation course can help you to attend a top ranking university. 

How to become a physiotherapist

There are three main routes into physiotherapy following A Levels or a foundation course:

Many UK universities offer undergraduate degrees in physiotherapy. Full-time courses take three or four years, and often include a work placement. You will learn theory in lectures and seminars, and practical training in labs. You will also have clinical practice in hospitals, rehabilitation centres and patients' homes.

For this route, you will usually need three A levels with a minimum of ABB, including Biology. Depending on which universities you are applying for, you will also need five to seven GCSEs (grades A-C), including English Language, Maths and at least one science. There is also an English language requirement for entry to UK universities. This is usually a minimum of IELTS 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.5 in each band.

You can register with the Health and Care Professions Council on completion of a bachelor's degree.

The most practical option is a degree apprenticeship, where you study for a BSc in Physiotherapy while working with a healthcare provider. You will spend some time at university, but you will mainly learn through work-based modules. Once you complete a programme approved by the HCPC, you can apply to register to be a licensed practitioner and start work. The usual entry requirements are GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics, English Language or Literature, and a science subject at grade C or grade 4, or above. You will also need three good A Levels or equivalent, including a natural science subject.

You can search for vacancies on the NHS Jobs website and Find an Apprenticeship website.

If you already have an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject (such as human biological or behavioural science, sports science or a health-related profession), you can become a qualified physiotherapist by studying for a two-year postgraduate degree. 

Courses include a combination of lectures, seminars and practical placements in both years of study.

Career progression opportunities for physiotherapists

What can I do with a physiotherapy degree?

There are a variety of roles you can go into with a degree in physiotherapy. Related jobs include:

  • Physiotherapist
  • Sports therapist
  • Animal physiotherapist
  • Higher education lecturer

Other jobs you can pursue with a physiotherapy degree include:

  •  Health service manager
  •  Dance movement therapist
  • Personal trainer
  • Exercise physiologist

Career progression

There are a variety of career progression opportunities for physiotherapists.

If you start in a hospital, you will initially move around different departments, gaining as much experience as possible. You can then start to specialise and become an advanced practitioner. If you would like to move into management, this is an option, as is teaching, training or research.

You may also choose to work in the private sector, progressing to opening your own practice and becoming self-employed. 

Physiotherapist job profile

Physiotherapist helps an elderly man lift weights

Want to become a physiotherapist? Find out about careers, key skills, day-to-day responsibilities and salaries.