• 08 September 2021
  • 7 min read

How To Become A Physiotherapist

  • India Gooderham
    Cancer Exercise Specialist
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Mat Martin
    • Laura Bosworth
    • Richard Gill
  • 0
  • 205
“It’s a good idea to remain open to trying different specialities, I never thought I would end up LOVING palliative care!”

India gives us the complete guide to getting into Physiotherapy. From where to begin, to what you can expect to be paid as a newly qualified Physio.

Topics covered in this article

What Kind Of Person Might Choose To Become A Physiotherapist?

My First Steps To Becoming A Physiotherapist

What Qualifications Will You Need To Be A Physiotherapist?

Gaining Experience

My First Post As A Physiotherapist

What To Expect From First Your Job As A Physiotherapist?

What Salary And Pay You Can Expect As A Physiotherapist?

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Physiotherapist (Key Soft / Personal Skills)?

What Are The Career Opportunities For An Experienced Physiotherapist?

What Kind Of Person Might Choose To Become A Physiotherapist?

I met all manner of different characters during my time working as a Physiotherapist, there didn’t seem to be a particular ‘type.’

Ultimately, you need good people/communication skills, to be compassionate, caring and have the desire to work hard in your studies and then as a professional.

Once you are enrolled on a Physiotherapy degree, it’s like a full-time job with lots of study time and placements.

It’s not the classic ‘Uni experience’ in many ways as you will have lectures 5 days a week which is very different to the schedule for the majority of other more part-time degree courses.

That’s not to say you won’t make great new friends and have some fun nights out!

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My First Steps To Becoming A Physiotherapist

At the age of 17, I got my first job, as a healthcare assistant in a residential home for the elderly.

On the one hand, I loved being with the elderly residents, listening to their stories, setting up morning activities for them and being open to hearing all their pearls of wisdom.

On the other hand, I worked very hard, in an under-staffed environment and had my first experience of helping with personal care.

Personal care means helping people with washing, bathing, dressing and toileting.

As a 17-year-old this came as quite a shock to me, I found it very difficult at first, coping with bodily odours, heavy lifting (moving and handling was not a thing at the time!!) etc.

Then one day I had a revelation, I thought to myself; ‘if my grandparents were to become less well and needed my help with personal care, would I hesitate to assist them? Of course not!”

I then thought about the fact that most of these residents were someone’s grandparents, so what was the difference?

From that day onward I started to enjoy being able to care for and support people in whatever way I could.

Each day I knew I was making a positive difference to the lives of others and enjoyed high job satisfaction.

I have such lovely memories of the elderly people I cared for at that time and it taught me that a caring profession was the way for me.

The skills I learnt during that time stood me in very good stead for becoming a Physiotherapist.

What Qualifications Will You Need To Be A Physiotherapist?

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 GCSEs (grades A-C), including English language, maths and at least one science.

Gaining Experience

Work experience is a must before embarking on a Physiotherapy degree, I would advise aiming to get some experience in a few different specialities.

Contact your local Physiotherapy department to see if you can come and ‘shadow’ a Physio for a week, maybe ask if you can gain experience on an in-patient unit, out-patient clinic and perhaps other specialities so that you can receive a broad experience.

If you are interested in private sector work or with sports teams etc then these are also avenues to explore and gain experience.

When you go for a university interview they are going to be very interested to hear about your work experience and even more impressed if they get the sense that you have experienced how diverse the profession is. Trust me, I learnt this the hard way in my first university interviews!

It’s really important to have a ‘real’ expectation of what the profession entails.

During your studies you will work and learn in a variety of settings/ specialities.

In my experience people are often shocked about the huge variety of roles of a Physio, sometimes you will be working on an intensive care unit in a large hospital, at other times in a school with children with learning disabilities and then perhaps on a stroke unit assisting with personal care as part of a rehabilitation session.

My First Post As A Physiotherapist

My first post as a Physiotherapist was in a small community hospital on a Care of the Elderly Ward.

It was a lovely place to find my feet, a small ward and a supportive multidisciplinary team (MDT).

I had a fantastic senior who mentored me, I received weekly tutorials and could shadow and work alongside her.

It was a time to put my skills into practice and to learn to become an autonomous practitioner and a valued member of the MDT.

What To Expect From First Your Job As A Physiotherapist?

The answer to this question is very broad.

Firstly, ask yourself where do you want to work?

I would suggest answering this question with an idea of how you want your career to progress.

In the UK, the natural pathway is to go and work for the NHS, however I know a number of people who chose not to do this.

During your degree, you will most likely have got a good idea of what you enjoyed most but it’s a good idea to remain open to trying different specialities, I never thought I would end up LOVING palliative care!

Would you like to work purely in musculoskeletal (MSK) out-patient clinics or some other static speciality?

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Do you want to work in a rotational position, providing you experience on different wards/ specialities?

Do you want to work abroad?

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

Let this guide you when you start applying for jobs. The two most popular choices are:

• NHS: You will begin work as a rotational band 5, and rotations vary depending on the hospital trust you work for.

You will gain experience in many areas such as MSK, neurology and respiratory and work in a number of settings ranging from critical care through to MSK outpatients and the community.

Later on, you can apply for a Band 6 position which allows you to specialise and you can choose to be static or rotational.

• Private: More often than not they are MSK focussed, with a mixture of private, insurance and medico-legal cases such as whiplash and work associated injuries.

Sessions are typically 30 minutes long with a high caseload.

What Salary And Pay You Can Expect As A Physiotherapist?

Starting salaries for qualified physiotherapists (Band 5) range from £24,907 to £30,615. Senior physiotherapists can earn between £31,365 and £37,890 (Band 6).

Salaries in private practice are higher and it's possible to achieve a salary of around £75,000 with the right combination of skills, knowledge and experience. You normally need around 5 years’ experience to be get a private MSK job.

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Physiotherapist (Key Soft / Personal Skills)?

I believe that to thrive as a physiotherapist a person should possess the following personal skills:

• Initiative

• Patience

• Sensitivity

• Tact

• Excellent communication skills

• Ability to work in a team

What Are The Career Opportunities For An Experienced Physiotherapist?

An experienced Physiotherapist can become a Senior Physiotherapist working normally in a static specialty and can become a ‘specialist’ in that area.

As you progress and move up through the banding and pay scales you will take on more responsibility and normally more managerial roles.

The NHS offers great opportunities for career progression, if that is what you wish to do.

Experienced Physiotherapists can gain jobs as MSK Physios in the private sector.

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About the author

  • India Gooderham
    Cancer Exercise Specialist

India Gooderham’s background is as a Specialist Physiotherapist working in oncology and palliative care in the UK. She is now working as a Cancer Exercise Specialist and Cancer Yoga teacher and is founder of ‘Gentle Recovery’, an online rehabilitation and wellness platform for people affected by cancer. Her mission is to serve, educate and empower people at any stage of their cancer journey through exercise, yoga and wellness online programmes and 1-2-1 online coaching.

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  • India Gooderham
    Cancer Exercise Specialist

About the author

  • India Gooderham
    Cancer Exercise Specialist

India Gooderham’s background is as a Specialist Physiotherapist working in oncology and palliative care in the UK. She is now working as a Cancer Exercise Specialist and Cancer Yoga teacher and is founder of ‘Gentle Recovery’, an online rehabilitation and wellness platform for people affected by cancer. Her mission is to serve, educate and empower people at any stage of their cancer journey through exercise, yoga and wellness online programmes and 1-2-1 online coaching.

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