Careers In Physiotherapy

No matter what stage you are at in your career – contemplating a career in physiotherapy, applying for a degree programme, starting out as a newly qualified physiotherapist, looking into post-qualifying education, thinking of coming to work in the UK or returning to work after a career break – this section of the site has something to offer you.

The following Q & A is designed to explain the in’s and out’s of achieveing the neccessary qualifications to pursue a career in Physiotherapy.

  • Q:   What is physiotherapy?
    A:   Physiotherapy is a science-based healthcare profession, which views human movement as central to the health and well being of individuals. Physiotherapists identify and maximise movement potential through health promotion, preventive healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation. The core skills used by chartered physiotherapists include manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and the application of electrophysical modalities. Fundamental to the physiotherapist’s approach, however, is an appreciation of the psychological, cultural and social factors which influence their clients and the patient’s own active role in helping themselves maximise independence and function.Physiotherapy is an autonomous profession and practice is characterised by reflective behaviour and systematic clinical reasoning, both contributing to and underpinning a problem-solving approach to patient-centred care.
  • Q:   What do physiotherapists do?
    A:   Chartered physiotherapists work to combat a broad range of physical problems, in particular those associated with neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. They can work alone or, increasingly, with other healthcare professionals in multi-professional teams.
  • Q:   Is physiotherapy the right career for me?
    A:   Getting started
    Choosing a career is an important decision. It is advisable to find out as much as you can about the reality of physiotherapy before deciding whether it is the occupation you are looking for. The following covers some of the things you will need to consider. It is important that you have a good understanding of what physiotherapy is before you fill out your UCAS application form.

    Useful sources of information are:

    Trotman & Co Ltd, Richmond, Surrey (1996). Physiotherapy – A Questions and Answers Careers Book. Trotman & Co. GB. ISBN 0 85660 278 7

    The Spinal Injuries Association (SIA) in partnership with the Organisation of Chartered Physiotherapists in Private Practice (OCPPP) have produced a video called Gaining Ground. The video has been produced for those interested in learning more about the role of rehabilitation following spinal cord injury. Gaining Ground follows four young people from the point of hospitalisation to the time they are able to rejoin the community, recording their feelings as they learn new skills needed for life in a wheelchair and the relationship they form with their physiotherapist. The video is priced at £20.00 (plus £2.00 p&p UK). For further information please contact – Spinal Injuries Association, 76 St James’s Lane, London N10 3DF, Tel. 020 8444 2121

  • Q:   What qualifications are needed in order to apply?
    A:   Physiotherapy programmes demand the ability to study, and to apply sound scientific and professional knowledge to problem-solve.The minimum entry requirements are the same as those for all degree programmes. However, the competition for places means that conditional offers of a place are set higher than the minimum. A variety of qualifications may be accepted and it is important to check directly with the individual university before you apply.

    England, Wales and Northern Ireland
    School leavers are normally required to have three A2 level subjects at a minimum of Grade C and above (one should be biological science) and normally four A1 levels at Grade B including a biological science. In addition to the above, students should hold a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C and above. The latter should be taken at one sitting and include Mathematics, English language and a spread of science subjects. The typical A’level profile of a school leaver accepted for all programmes in 2002 was 24 A’level points (the equivalent of 3 Bs).

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

    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.

  • Q:   What about alternative qualifications?
    A:   A range of other qualifications, equivalent to the above, may be accepted but prospective students are strongly advised to contact the institutions to which they intend to apply for their specific requirements. Examples of other qualifications are:
    BTec/HND National diploma in Health Studies (science) with distinctions/merits in all units
    GNVQ in Health & Social Care /Science (most institutions require a Biological Science A2 Level in addition to these)+
    NVQ Level III in appropriate topic plus A2 level Biology at least Grade C or above
    International Baccalaureate
    Certain Access courses (individual institutions should be asked which Access courses they recognise for entry to their physiotherapy programme)
    Open University foundation course in science (S103) – Level 2 Human Biology & Health SK220 or Level 2 Health & Disease U205
    Degree: normally 2:1 honours degree in a related academic discipline
  • Q:   Studying at University
    A:   Full time programmes
    It takes three or four years of full-time study to become a Chartered and State Registered Physiotherapist. This will include a large amount of study in your own time, and lengthy clinical placements, which may not necessarily be in your home town.
    It is worth bearing in mind the extent of the time commitment involved in the study programme. You must be sure that your private commitments can be managed, given the large number of assignments that you will have to do. It really is a “full-time” programme and you must be certain of your personal commitment to study. Details of these programmes can be found on the list of Universities which accompanies this leaflet.

    Part time programmes
    There are a number of part-time physiotherapy programmes in the UK. A few of these programmes have been set up primarily for physiotherapy assistants wishing to train as chartered physiotherapists. Details of these programmes can be found on the list of Universities which accompanies this leaflet.

    Accelerated programmes
    There are a number of accelerated physiotherapy programmes in the UK offering licence to practice physiotherapy. Applicants who have already obtained a degree in a relevant discipline such as a biological science, psychology or sports science, (first class or upper second class honours graduates), may be eligible to study for an accelerated Masters degree programme. On successful completion, graduates will be eligible to apply for state registration and membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. Details of these programmes can be found in the list of Universities. {mospagebreak}


  • Q:   What are the non-academic requirements?
    A:   As well as having the ability to cope with the academic demands of an honours degree course in science, admissions tutors will also be looking for evidence of the following qualities and skills in potential students:
    communication, helping and caring skills
    sensitivity and tolerance
    ability to use initiative
    potential to undertake an intensive course of study
    reliability, honesty and trustworthiness
    enthusiasm, dedication and determination
  • Q:   Will I be interviewed?
    A:   Some courses offer applicants places without an interview whereas others interview all potential students. When interviewing, admissions tutors expect applicants to have carefully researched the course of training, the scope of physiotherapy practice, career opportunities and the role of other healthcare professionals.
  • Q:   How do I check entry requirements?
    A:   Please note: Each physiotherapy programme has its own individual entry requirements. Applicants are advised to write directly to the universities of their choice, enclosing a large stamped addressed envelope, for a prospectus, which will include specific details of entry requirements. Alternatively, telephone the Admissions Tutor at each university for more specific information about their own programme.
  • Q:   How do I fund my study?
    A:   In England and Wales, funding is via a NHS Means-Tested Bursary. An application for a bursary is normally made through the relevant university physiotherapy department on your behalf once you have been offered a place. Students who are awarded bursaries also get their course fees paid and are eligible to apply for a Student Loan.

    A Means-Tested bursary means that your income or that of your spouse/parents will be taken into account, and the amount of the grant will be reduced in proportion of that income.

    Further information is available from:

    NHS Student Grants Unit
    22 Plymouth Road
    Tel: 01253 655 655
    Fax: 01253 655 660

    The NHS (Wales) Student Awards Unit,
    Human Resources Division
    The National Assembly for Wales
    Cathays Park
    CARDIFF   CF10 3NQ
    Tel: 02920 826886

    Student Awards Agency for Scotland
    3 Redheughs Rigg
    South Gyle
    Tel: 0131 476 8212

    Northern Ireland
    Department of Higher and Further Education
    Training and Employment
    Student Support Branch
    4th Floor, Adelaide House
    39-49 Adelaide Street
    Belfast   BT2 8FD
    Tel: 0289025 7777

    Students who have received previous funding
    If a student is accepted to fill one of the ‘bursary places’ on their programme, then the student will receive the NHS bursary regardless of any LEA mandatory awards previously made. Any queries about funding should be addressed to the admissions tutor of the university which has offered you a place. {mospagebreak}

  • Q: Any other information 

    A:   Mature students
    Physiotherapy is a profession, which is open to the older student. At present, approximately 34% of all UK Physiotherapy students are over 21 when they begin training. Before you can be accepted on to a physiotherapy programme, you will need to show evidence of successful recent academic study, which should be science related.

    If you have no qualifications beyond GCSE level, then it will be necessary for you to obtain some form of qualification. Please refer to list of alternative qualifications. If you already hold a degree, you will not necessarily have immediate access to physiotherapy. If it is several years since you completed your degree, particularly if it was in an arts subject, then it may be advisable for you to study Biology or Human Biology A level.

    Overseas applicants
    If you were educated under a non-British system, you must hold a certificate which will admit you to a degree course of study at a University of your own native country, before you can apply to a Physiotherapy programme. If your native language is not English, or if you have a foreign matriculation certificate, you must obtain either the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English, or GCSE standard English Language before you can enter physiotherapy training.

    Criminal records
    Because physiotherapists work with children and other vulnerable people, any criminal record should be disclosed. The nature of certain criminal convictions will debar successful students from gaining State Registration to practise as a physiotherapist. Applicants who have a criminal record are advised to discuss the matter with the Admissions Tutor directly at the university before applying. All students are subject to a police check before commencing the course and again prior to registering with the Health Professions Council on graduation.

    Equal opportunities
    The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, and the physiotherapy programmes it approves, work towards equal opportunities of access. They welcome applicants regardless of their sex, age, race, ethnic or national origins, sexual orientation, social class, family responsibilities, political and religious beliefs.

    Health screening
    The demands of a physiotherapy programme are such that the student must be medically fit. Before you are accepted onto a physiotherapy programme, you will be subject to a full health assessment.

    Applicants with visual impairment
    Students with a visual impairment can now train on mainstream physiotherapy programmes with support from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). Students are advised to discuss ways of getting onto a physiotherapy programme and the specific support required with:

    Manager, Physiotherapy Support Service RNIB
    RNIB Resource Centre
    University of East London
    E15 4LZ

    Applicants with other disabilities
    Sympathetic consideration is given to applicants who have a physical disability, or serious back injuries, including a careful assessment of the extent of their disability to ensure that they can meet the demands of the physiotherapy programme. If you have any queries about this or any of the above, please contact the Admissions Tutor at the universities you wish to apply to, directly.