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How to become a Physiotherapist

How to become a physiotherapist
Photo: How to become a Physiotherapist
To become a physiotherapist in Australia you will need to complete a tertiary physiotherapy qualification such as a Bachelor of Physiotherapy. Graduates can then apply for registration with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia.  

If you're looking for an active and varied job, have a genuine interest in people, are good with your hands, and are interested in health and science, then you might be well suited to a career in physiotherapy.

What is a physiotherapist?
Essentially a physiotherapist is a health professional who assesses and treats people who are suffering physical problems caused by disease, injury, illness or ageing. Using non-surgical procedures they aim to lessen pain, improve movement, and restore functionality as much as possible to improve a client's quality of life.
Study routes to physiotherapist careers
There are several paths to choose if you're considering a career in physiotherapy and this really depends on what type of physiotherapy career you envisage for yourself. For example, if you're looking to work in a support role such as a physiotherapy assistant, then you could consider studying for a Certificate level 111 or 1V, taking a Diploma Course or one of several short courses. Typically these courses last from just a few weeks to a whole year of full time study.  To become a physiotherapist you will need to take a four year Bachelor degree in physiotherapy or a five year double degree.

Once a person has graduated with a physiotherapy degree they may wish to specialise in a particular field which will involve further postgraduate study, usually in the form of a Master’s Degree.

Where can you study physiotherapy?
In Australia, physiotherapy can be studied through TAFE, University or private college.

  • TAFE institutes offer courses for various Diploma level qualifications such as the Diploma of Practice Management which can help an individual get accepted for a higher education physiotherapy course. They usually include a mixture of theory and practical learning with clinical placements being necessary in some courses.
  • There are now many Australian universities where physiotherapy can be studied. All courses have a large component made up of work experience which gives students a chance to increase their knowledge, hone their skills and meet useful contacts within a professional environment. Some physiotherapist degrees also offer an Honours stream for high achieving students in their third and fourth years. Successfully completing an Honours degree can give students a competitive edge in the job market.
  • There are a handful of private colleges which offer physiotherapy courses and these typically tend to be at Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma levels. They also offer short courses in subjects such as Assessment and Treatment of Sports Injuries or Clinical Practice Management.

Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance, Specialising in Physiotherapy
This practical online course will prepare you for a wide variety of roles in allied health assistance, while introducing you to the specialist skills needed to deliver exercise programs and support physiotherapy treatments. You'll learn how to deliver and monitor exercise and mobility programs, and assist in client movement and rehabilitation. A work placement will help you build your contacts and your readiness for work.  Career outcomes include: Physiotherapy Assistant, Sports Physiotherapy Assistant, Physiotherapy Aide, Allied Health Assistant.

What subjects do you need to have studied prior to University acceptance?
Physiotherapy usually requires prerequisite subjects which can vary from one university to another along with a good foundation in English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, health and physical education. For some courses, students may be required to sit the Undergraduate Medical and Health Science Admission Test and undergo an interview process. Most courses also require a healthy Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) score in the low to high nineties.

Physiotherapy courses include:

  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (physiotherapy)
  • Bachelor of Science (physiotherapy)
  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy/Bachelor of Exercise Science
  • Graduates who wish to embark on a physiotherapy course will normally have to have completed a science degree before applying for a two year Master of Physiotherapy degree.

How to study physiotherapy
A great many physiotherapy courses can be studied part time, online or by distance learning. Whilst most Bachelor degrees in physiotherapy require full time study, other qualifications can be more flexible which is of great benefit to those individuals with existing work or family commitments.

Becoming registered to work as a physiotherapist
Australian law requires for all physiotherapists to be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia before they can practice. Registration can be applied for through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) four to six weeks before graduation. As soon as a graduate's name appears on the Register of Physiotherapists, they are free to practice.

Ongoing training requirements
To ensure that they are giving their clients the very best possible care, all registered physiotherapists are required to take part in 20 hours of Continued Professional Development (CPD) every year. This training can involve such things as presenting education sessions at work, attending lectures, reviewing journals and participating in online courses.

Click here to visit our Physiotherapy practice hub.

Click here to search for health courses.

Salary Expectations
The salary of a physiotherapist varies depending on their amount of experience and level of qualifications as well as on the size and type of their employer. Generally speaking physiotherapists can expect to earn on average anywhere between $53,000 and $89,000.

Before enrolling for any physiotherapy course, take care to ensure that you understand what qualifications are needed for your career choice and remember the most important thing is to choose a course which will suit your needs and lifestyle.


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