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Physiotherapy – an innovative and rewarding career

6 August 2008 - 4:55pm

Train to help people make positive changes to their health and lifestyles

A career in physiotherapy involves working with people to make positive changes to their health and lifestyles. Physios work in health promotion, preventative healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation, with patients ranging from children to the elderly, with a variety of conditions from sports injuries to mental health issues.

Physiotherapy – present and future

Physiotherapy is vital to the modern NHS, making it an innovative and pioneering career. There’s going to be increasing demand for physios to help improve the quality of people's lives by providing specialist advice, and by promoting healthy, active lifestyles.
The Government has been reviewing the NHS to identify the best way to make safe and effective healthcare more personalised and closer to home, and speed up access to treatment.

Modern lifestyles are making problems like obesity and heart disease worse and the UK population is getting older, so a key aim of the review is to focus on working with patients to prevent illness and help them take personal responsibility for staying healthy. This will offer enormous opportunities for physiotherapists to take a lead in providing excellent patient care. Now is an exciting time to work in healthcare.

Career prospects

There’s room for physiotherapists, including the newly qualified, to be really lateral and entrepreneurial when thinking about their careers. There’s a huge range of employment opportunities in different sectors, so physios aren’t restricted to working in the NHS.
For example, private practice – treating patients in independent clinics for a similar range of conditions as you’d see in the NHS; occupational rehab – getting people back to work after accidents or illness; working as a team physio at a sports club – helping athletes reach their full potential and aiding their recovery from injury. There are also opportunities in policy development and research, helping to develop the groundbreaking services that make physiotherapy such a vital part of modern healthcare.

Physiotherapy is a science-based degree that develops communication skills, team working, research and problem solving. As well as the above opportunities for careers as a professional physio, the subject has major educational value and graduates are rewarded with widespread employability.

Studying at university

  • Full time: The majority of physiotherapy courses require 3 or 4 years of full-time study, including clinical placements.
  • Part time: There are a number of part time physiotherapy courses in the UK with the same entry requirements and learning outcomes as full time courses. Some of these programmes have been set up primarily for physio assistants wishing to become chartered physiotherapists.
  • Accelerated programmes: Applicants who already have a degree in a relevant subject such as a biological science, psychology or sports science, may be eligible for an accelerated 2-year degree programme leading to a physiotherapy qualification.

What qualifications are needed to apply?

Please note that entry requirements will vary from university to university.
England, Wales and NI: School leavers are normally required to have three A2 level subjects at a minimum of Grade C (one should be biological science) and four A1 levels at Grade B including a biological science. Students should also hold a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C and above taken at one sitting and include maths, English language and sciences.

Scotland: A typical student profile is five SCE Highers at grades AABBB taken at one sitting (minimum of two sciences).

Eire: School leavers should have an Irish Leaving Certificate with a minimum of four passes in subjects at higher level - two at B grade and two at C grade.

See our qualifying programmes page for details of all UK university physiotherapy programmes.

Physiotherapy as a clearing option

Around 15 universities that offer physio courses will be going into clearing this year. Interested school/college leavers should keep an eye on the clearing lists in the national press. In terms of entry qualifications, universities will still want to be assured that prospective students have the aptitude, both academically and in terms of communication skills, to be a physiotherapist.

Case Study - Nick Southorn

Nick Southorn, 26, from Lancashire, graduated from the University of Manchester in 2008 “While I was thinking about what to study I researched plenty of health careers, like medicine, optometry, pharmacy and nursing. I wanted to join a profession that reflected the active and independent sides of my personality, and physiotherapy fitted that perfectly.

“I was attracted by the prospect of new challenges and never having two days the same, and by the chance to form close, cooperative relationships with patients. The massive range of career prospects for physios amazed me, and the opportunities to progress to a hospital specialist or consultant appealed too.

“The majority of my course was based around a problem solving model and was taught by really experienced and down-to-earth people. The most important lesson I learnt was how to find factual answers based on research and evidence. A lot of it was self-directed and that gave me a sense of control over my study. Some subjects like anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics were taught theoretically in a lecture theatre, and we also had practical lessons that were fantastic for getting to grips with the hands-on stuff.

“Every student has to complete 1,000 hours of clinical education, usually made up of five or six different placements giving a real appreciation of the scope of physiotherapy practice, and a chance to see how physios fit into medical teams.

“Whatever your background is, studying physiotherapy is an exhilarating experience. It’s often hard work but that makes it all the more worthwhile. I graduated with a new group of close and loyal friends, and words fail to describe the feeling of first seeing a patient make improvements because of my time with them. No matter what area of physiotherapy you decide to work in, you can be proud in the knowledge that you’re making a real difference to people’s lives.”

Useful information and websites

The CSP has two new information leaflets aimed at prospective physiotherapy students and new physiotherapy students, available online or by calling 0207 306 6666:

NHS careers website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

The NHS has produced a short DVD video 'Ten reasons to choose physiotherapy'. See the ten reasons website for more information visit www.tenreasons.net

Burnett, J., 2006. Getting into Physiotherapy Courses. 4th ed. Trotman. For more information see the publisher's website: www.trotman.co.uk

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