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Are you looking for a career in health that is active, interesting and varied?  Does the idea of helping a person overcome an injury and improving their quality of life appeal to you? Physiotherapy may be the field for you.

Physiotherapists play an essential role in assessing and treating people who are experiencing physical issues due to illness, injury, disability or ageing. Using non-surgical procedures they aim to lessen pain, improve movement, and restore functionality as much as possible. With the help of physiotherapy, people can regain their mobility, independence, and confidence.

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“If you like maintaining a good balance in your life, connecting with people, movement and activity, helping and caring, I don’t think you’ll find a better profession than physiotherapy”, says Dr Brad McIntosh, Managing Director at Sydney Physiotherapy Solutions.

“There are so many options and pathways available that you’ll find something great to sink your teeth into.”

Here is a summary of what it takes to become a practising physiotherapist and what to expect along the way.

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Study routes to physiotherapist careers

Physiotherapists have a highly specialised skill level. In Australia, there are several paths to choose if you want to pursue a career in this field, and this largely depends on what type of physiotherapy career you are seeking.

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.

Physiotherapy courses include:

  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (physiotherapy major)
  • Bachelor of Physiotherapy/Bachelor of Exercise Science
  • Master of Physiotherapy degree
There’s a growing demand for physiotherapists in Australia

Over the last five years, the number of people working as physiotherapists have grown significantly, according to Job Outlook Australia. This is expected to continue to rise rapidly, from 23,300 in 2018 to 39,800 by 2024, providing an increasing number of job opportunities. In fact, there are likely to be around 7,900 more people working in this industry by 2024 when compared to 2019. 

What subjects do you need to have studied  before undertaking a course?

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.

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.

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.

What other skills does it take to be a physiotherapist?

Physiotherapist and Associate Lecturer at the University of Queensland, Curtley Neslon, says that “my advice would be, if [you’re] thinking about physiotherapy, then give it a go.”

“There's many aspects of physiotherapy that we can do, and it's a really rewarding job.”

“I think the most important skill to have as a physiotherapist is in communication strategies.”

“Communication is so important. To be able to build rapport with your patients, to help them, to build that trust with them, to be able to help them get the best out of their healthcare is really vital.”

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.

Aside from CPD requirements, physiotherapy is a career where you will constantly be learning.

“A good practitioner (and leader) is always learning, so I try to add something to my learned experiences every day”, said Dr McIntosh.

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 $58,000 and $95,000.

“You probably won’t make the same amount of money as you would in medicine, finance or law, but you will always feel valued and important, and that you are doing something to make people’s lives better - and that's worth a lot”, Dr McIntosh says.

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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