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How Do I Become a Physiotherapist?

The muscular system is the specific focus of physiotherapy.
To become a physiotherapist, an individual must attain a high GPA and obtain a post-baccelaureate degree.
A physiotherapist working with a client.
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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2014
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A physiotherapist, or physical therapist (PT), is a trained allied health professional who treat physical impairments due to injury, illness, prolonged inactivity or aging. The specific focus of physiotherapy is the muscular system. To become a physiotherapist, education must be obtained by an accredited school. An accredited school has a program which has undergone extensive review by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, also known as CAPTE accreditation. This accreditation ensures the quality of educational courses and that of the instructors.

In order to become a physiotherapist, you must obtain a post-baccalaureate degree. In other words, you must continue your education beyond a bachelor’s degree and obtain a master’s or doctorate degree. Though no specific undergraduate degree is required, focusing on a science major is your best bet. You must also obtain licensure after schooling and maintain it in good standing.

To become a physiotherapist, you must attain a high grade point average (GPA), typically a minimum of 3.0, especially in the sciences, including chemistry, biology, statistics and physics. Many programs also require at least one anatomy and physiology course prior to acceptance. Volunteering is also an important determining factor in acceptance into physiotherapy studies. Colleges tend to favor those who have volunteered in a physical therapy setting, as a physical therapy aide for example, in addition to other community service activities. Letters of recommendation from a licensed physical therapist are also required before acceptance into a physical therapy program.

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A physiotherapist is responsible for implementing treatment protocols. Because of this, to become a physiotherapist, extensive knowledge of the body and how it works is essential. Understanding the effects of injuries, diseases and illnesses is also important to minimize pain symptoms and maximize functional capabilities. Expertise is required regarding specialized physical therapy equipment, exercise treatment protocols, general mobility skills, activities of daily living and specialized modalities such as heat/ice applications, ultrasound and electric stimulation for pain relief, among other things. Physiotherapists are also responsible for knowing and recognizing warning signs that may impede progress or threaten client health.

In order to work as a physiotherapist, or physical therapist, state licensure must be obtained and maintained. Fees for state licensure testing and acquisition vary from state to state. To continue practicing as a physiotherapist, the PT must follow the continuing education requirements of the state in which they are employed or risk forfeiture of the right to practice physical therapy. Licenses are typically renewed every two years.

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anon356729
Post 19

How much money do they earn every month?

anon320291
Post 17

In the UK, you must study BSc physiotherapy and register with the HPC to practice and legally call yourself a physiotherapist. As a physiotherapist, you will train in core areas that include orthopaedics, respiratory, paediatrics, ITU, musculoskeletal, care of the elderly, community rehab and neurology. As a qualified Physio, most jobs are rotational which means you will work in each speciality for three to four months at a time. After roughly two years of this, you can then choose to specialise by getting a static position in the specialty of your choice.

What is described in the article above is the musculoskeletal specialty, which is an area that appeals to many. It is important to remember when thinking about applying for Physio that only a small part of your training or work will be in this area and you will spend most of your time on wards, helping people get back on their feet and working with social services to get people home after an admission. This is still a very rewarding and great experience, but if you primarily want to work with outpatients in a musculoskeletal role and don't want to do any community or inpatient stuff, then you should consider other courses like sports rehab, osteopath or fitness/ personal trainer.

If you're happy to do rotations, then Physio is a good choice of course as you get HPC registered so you can work for the NHS, and the training and experience you get in the NHS as a junior physio is unbeatable, plus there are more options on what further training you can get (e.g., prescribing, injecting, sports medicine).

You will need a background in science, for example, an A level in biology/ human biology, pe, etc.. But psychology and social sciences will be useful too. Some work or real experience will strengthen your application. I got onto my degree program as I had a background in complementary therapies and experience working with patients.

anon314289
Post 16

Great article. I can see how it would be beneficial for someone seeking certification in PT go a step further and get certified in physiotherapy. I have a friend looking for physiotherapy in Toronto and I know that he will appreciate this article.

anon309843
Post 15

I am currently studying a bachelor degree in Physiotherapy at Southampton University. They also do a great Masters degree in the subject which I am interested in doing as well.

The largest employer of physiotherapy degree graduates is the NHS, but other options include social care, the independent sector; including private hospitals, clinics and nursing homes, the armed services, education and industry.

MrsPramm
Post 13

@anon153314 - My father had a Masters in Physiology, and he sometimes worked as a sports physiotherapist (although more often he was a coach). I think there are a couple of different ways to get into it though, depending on what you want to do.

You might want to ask around your friends and see if anyone knows a physio that you could ask a few questions to figure out what's your best option.

irontoenail
Post 12

@musicshaman - I think it would depend on what classes you have completed and what school you want to go to. There probably is some overlap, and if nothing else, it certainly won't hurt your application to have pre-med classes on it.

The best thing for anyone who isn't sure what it will take or if they have the right credits or whatever to do, is to go to their school and ask for help. They want you to come to their school, so they will be more than willing to explain what it will take for you to do that.

Just make sure that you find a decent school to attend. There are some shady places out there.

anon275715
Post 11

I am currently studying for a BS degree in physiology. Can I study physiotherapy after my degree program without having to study medicine?

anon158917
Post 9

I am currently a Probation Officer, but am looking to change career paths and do something I have always been interested in, to become a physiotherapist. However, it has been a long time since I was in school. I left school with GCSEs. What would I need to do to get on the right track of study. I currently work full time, and am a full time mother!!

anon153314
Post 8

I need to know what degree in science you need to be a physiotherapist.

anon146368
Post 7

I am currently studying in 11th grade with a full IB programme, and i only take one science which is biology. I really want to be a physiotherapist though i don't take chemistry. However, chemistry is one of my favourite subjects and I have a background about it. Can I do chemistry on my first year of university? and would universities accept me if i didn't take it in high school?

anon122593
Post 4

i am looking for the requirements i need to meet

to become a physiotherapist. i have passed 12th grade with physics, chemistry, biology and english. I want to know how what marks i need in each of these subjects. i learned something from this page. thank you for your help. --emma

musicshaman
Post 3

If I started with a pre-med degree, but later left because of health reasons, is it possible to use that credit towards becoming a physiotherapist?

CopperPipe
Post 2

I'm considering becoming a either a physiotherapist or personal trainer, so I've been looking up articles on both how to become a physiotherapist and personal trainer.

Although they are quite different jobs, I was surprised at the amount of overlap that can occur.

Of course, it depends on what courses you elect to take, and what you decide to specialize in, but I was surprised at how much training these two disciplines had in common.

StreamFinder
Post 1

I really appreciate how this article didn't just skate over the requirements for becoming a physiotherapist, but went into depth about the background you might need, and the things you might not think about needing, like training in daily activity modality.

Nice job.

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