How do you become a physiotherapist?

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Physiotherapists are qualified health professionals who work with patients to improve their physical health and mobility, often following an accident, sports injury or operation. They may work with children who are disabled, teaching them alternative techniques to overcome their disabilities. With older people, the focus is on minimising the pain while allowing them to stay independently mobile as long as possible.

Physiotherapists work in a wide range of settings – from hospitals and doctors’ surgeries to sports clubs, gyms and specialised sports clinics. Many physiotherapists also pay home visits if their patient’s movements are so severely restricted that they are unable to go to the clinic.

Do you have what it takes to takes to be a physiotherapist?

In this role you will be working one-on-one with all your patients, which means you have to be a people person and enjoy interacting with your patients on a daily basis. Excellent communication skills are crucial in this role as you will need to explain to patients how to perform different exercises and also advise them on the lifestyle changes they need to make and the precautions they need to be aware of. While do not need superhero strength to work as a physiotherapist, you do need to be fit and physically capable of supporting your patients while performing certain exercises or when helping them learn to walk. Last but not least, you need to be compassionate, empathetic and patient. If you think you meet all of the above requirements, the next step is to apply to a physiotherapy programme.

Becoming a physiotherapist in the UK

To practise in this field, you must first obtain a degree (BSc) in physiotherapy from a programme approved by the Health and Care Professions Council or HCPC. Most full-time courses are 3 years. Part time courses vary from 4 to 6 years. If you already have a BSc degree in a relevant subject, you can enrol in a 2-year accelerated MSc course. Different courses have different curriculums but all involve extensive practical work with patients.

These are just a few of the many institutes in the UK that offer HCPC approved physiotherapy degree courses (click on each one to find out more):

Oxford Brookes University

University of Hertfordshire

Cardiff University

Plymouth University

University of Brighton

Robert Gordon University

Brunel University London

University of Salford

Bristol, University of the West of England

University of Nottingham

Eligibility criteria for physiotherapy programmes in the UK

While the exact criteria may differ from one programme to another, most require applicants to have a mix of good academic grades and relevant workplace experience.

Academic qualifications: To get into a physiotherapy programme you will usually need to have obtained 2 or 3 A levels or equivalent in biology. Some programmes may accept physical education or PE as an essential subject instead of biology. You will also need to have obtained 5 GCSEs (grades A-C), including maths English language and at least one science subject.

Workplace experience: Workplace experience demonstrates to the interviewers that you have taken the trouble to get a better understanding of physiotherapy. That can give your application a tremendous boost. You can find opportunities at private physiotherapy clinics, the physiotherapy department at your local hospital, sports clubs and nursing homes.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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