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How do I get Started in a Physiotherapy Career?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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A physiotherapist is a licensed health care professional who helps people overcome physical disabilities, injuries, and illnesses. He or she designs and conducts patient-specific rehabilitation programs so that individuals can regain strength, learn to care for themselves, and return to work. A person who wants to get started in a physiotherapy career must be prepared to complete a master's or doctoral degree program from an accredited physiotherapy school, pass licensing exams in his or her state or country, and complete an internship that may last up to one year after graduation.

A high school student who wants to eventually obtain a physiotherapy career can prepare by taking advanced biology, chemistry, anatomy, and health courses. Such classes initiate the student with the various functions of the human body and strategies to prevent and treat various physical ailments. Many students volunteer in school athletic programs or community sports associations in order to gain practical experience identifying, treating, and designing rehabilitation schedules for different injuries. Students typically apply to four year undergraduate universities in their senior year of high school.

An undergraduate can generally major in a number of different subjects, though most students pursue degrees in health, biology, sports science, or physical therapy. A hopeful physiotherapist usually receives both classroom and laboratory instruction, gaining advanced knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and health care procedures. Near the end of a bachelor's program, a student can take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and begin applying to physical therapy programs at accredited graduate schools.

Gaining admission into a physiotherapy school can be difficult, as competition for openings is usually very strong. Schools generally accept students with the strongest educational records, GRE scores, personal essays, and letters of recommendation. Once admitted, a student receives extensive classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction on the fundamentals of physical therapy. He or she prepares for a physiotherapy career by observing and assisting experienced therapists in a clinical setting. Master's degree programs typically last about two years, while doctorate programs can take three to four years to complete.

A graduate must take a licensing exam administered by his or her state or country before practicing independently in a physiotherapy career. Exams test an individual's knowledge of various procedures, safety measures, and ethics. After becoming licensed, a new physiotherapist often works as an intern at a hospital or physical rehabilitation clinic for about one year, gaining essential hands-on experience under the supervision of established professionals. Once an internship is completed, the individual can pursue many physiotherapy career opportunities in hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By batta — On Jan 21, 2013

Do you by any chance know if physical therapy jobs opportunities are still considered scarce? I would hate to complete university and have no employment offers. This is the only chance I'll get.

By anon309851 — On Dec 19, 2012

Getting into a career in Physiotherapy is not easy, however, a strong education in Physiotherapy will help you immensely. First, you must check out all your options, and there are so many brilliant universities that offer well-respected courses in Physiotherapy and similar.

By anon305428 — On Nov 26, 2012

A masters degree in physiotherapy is essential once completing the bachelor degree in physiotherapy.

By LittleMan — On Sep 06, 2010

How does the training for physical therapy assistants compare to that of physical therapists? I guess they learn physiotherapy exercises and that kind of thing too, right?

Is is possible to get a physical therapy assistant job without going through all that training?

By EarlyForest — On Sep 06, 2010

My boyfriend is working in an occupational therapy career, and he had to go through some of the same stuff this article talks about.

It really is quite a serious job, and I think that people tend not to realize what goes into any kind of physiotherapist career, whether it's sports physiotherapy, occupational therapy, or rehabilitation.

Therefore, I'd advise anybody who thinks they may want to start a physical therapist career to really look into it -- it's quite the commitment, and even though it's usually pretty easy to find jobs with a physical therapy degree, it's not something you should go into lightly.

By Charlie89 — On Sep 06, 2010

This is a great article -- I really like how you tell people what steps they should take going all the way back to high school.

My daughter had considered a physical therapy career (she wanted to work in sports therapy), and even though she eventually decided to go a different career path, I did some research about it.

This article provides a great summary of the steps needed to start a physiotherapy career. Very informative and well done.

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