The ultimate guide to starting a career in physiotherapy 

Whether you're in school thinking about what you would like to do as a career, or someone looking for a career change later in your working life, our ultimate guide to starting a career in physiotherapy will give you all the information you need to know about kick-starting your journey to becoming a physiotherapist. 

Why get into physiotherapy? 

Physiotherapy is a recognised and respected medical profession. As a physiotherapist you will be responsible for helping people who are not physically able to do what they’d like to do get back to feeling their best. 

Physiotherapy is for everybody and you will be able to help people of all ages and backgrounds, making no day the same. 

You will be making invaluable changes and improvements to someone’s quality of life, and constantly growing and learning in your practice, bringing benefits to both you and your patients. 

There are many reasons why you should get into physiotherapy, but if you are caring and eager to continue to learn and develop, then this is the career choice for you. 

How to get into physiotherapy?

To become a physiotherapist you will need to study physiotherapy at university and obtain a BSc or MSc degree in physiotherapy.  This can take between 2-4 years depending on the type of degree you start and your previous qualifications. Most courses are full time, but there are now a few places where you can study part-time and complete your degree through the apprenticeship route, whilst earning money and working as a Physiotherapy Assistant or Technician while you learn. Read more about apprenticeships in Physio below.

You will also need to study and pass A-level subjects at school such as science and/or physical education to get on to a physiotherapy degree course. 

What qualifications do you need to be a physiotherapist?

To successfully be accepted onto a physiotherapy degree course at university you will need the following qualifications:

  • Two to three A-levels
  • Five GCSEs (grades A-C)

You will need to study the subjects of biological science and/or physical education (PE) at A-level, along with GCSE level subjects of English language, maths and at least one science. Although specific entry requirements are set by each University and do vary.

You may also get onto a physiotherapy degree course with other qualifications such as:

  • BTEC, HND or HNC which includes biological science
  • Relevant NVQ
  • Science based access course
  • Equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications
  • A previous degree or a full practising qualification in a related area

Once you have a physiotherapy degree you will need to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to become a fully qualified physiotherapist. 

Why study physiotherapy?

Studying physiotherapy at university is a very rewarding experience and will provide you with an array of skills.

There is more to physiotherapy than massage and sport, and through studying physiotherapy at university you will learn about the different elements of what it takes to be a physiotherapist. These elements include exercise prescription, research methods, pain management, rehabilitation, care of the acutely unwell patient, child development and much more. 

A physiotherapy degree course involves learning in practice which gives context to the time you spend studying the theory part. This means once graduated you will feel well prepared for a career in physiotherapy. 

As shown on the Physiotherapy Subject League Table, the graduate prospects for physio students are high. The physiotherapy degree course provides students with good skills which will always be in demand, so studying physiotherapy and obtaining a degree is truly a great investment in your future.  

Where to study physiotherapy?

A physiotherapy degree is a two to four-year course that you can carry out full or part-time. It is available to study at many world-wide universities.

Over 40 universities in the UK offer physiotherapy degree courses and you can view which universities offer this course at the bottom of this page. 

What do you study on a physiotherapy degree course?

Courses differ at each university, but all involve a lot of theory about human anatomy, physiology, the control of movement, tissue repair and recovery as well as practical work with each other in Uni, and with patients on your clinical placements. The course also focuses on what it is to be a professional, and how you learn and develop as an individual.

Year one

The first year of the physiotherapy degree course focuses on underpinning the basic theory needed to be a physiotherapist such as understanding the human anatomy.

You will be introduced to important physiotherapy skills such as exercise prescription, analysing how the body normally moves and functions. You will learn new skills such as measuring lung volumes, measuring movement and some treatment skills such as massage and some electrotherapies.

Modules on the course may include:

  • The physiotherapist as a professional
  • Exercise and health promotion in physiotherapy practice 
  • Applied anatomy 
  • Foundations in physiotherapy 
  • Clinical reasoning in contemporary healthcare 

You will also gain relevant work experience to help you develop your interpersonal and professional skills and see first-hand what it’s like be a physiotherapist. 

Year two

In the second year of your physiotherapy degree you will cover modules such as:

  • Musculoskeletal physiotherapy and rehabilitation in outpatient settings
  • Physiotherapy management in acute care settings
  • Physiotherapy rehabilitation and management of long-term conditions
  • Research methods in healthcare 
  • Healthcare across practice settings

You may also go out on your first clinical placement programme which could be from 4-8 weeks with a sports team, private physiotherapy company, charity or more usually the NHS CCGs that are close to your university, or you will source your own. By the end of your course you will need to have completed a minimum of 1,000 hours of clinical placement activity to be able to register as a qualified physiotherapist.  

Year three

During your final year you will continue your placement experience while working on your dissertation. Your dissertation will give you an opportunity to do an in-depth evaluation of an area of physiotherapy that you are most interested in.  

The modules during your final year may include:

  • Clinical practice placements
  • Research for evidence-based practice
  • Professional development in contemporary physiotherapy 

A physiotherapy degree course is not hard in terms of the content but there is a lot to learn in limited time, however if you are dedicated to learning and are passionate about becoming a physiotherapist you will succeed. You will need to be fully committed to the course and take the time to learn as much as you can during the years at university. 

Student placements 

As placements are such a vital part of your physiotherapy degree course, it’s important that you make the most of this opportunity to prepare for becoming a qualified physiotherapist once graduated. 

At Ascenti we offer students musculoskeletal (MSK) physiotherapy placements as part of the NHS services we deliver across four different regions in the UK. 

You can find out more about where we offer these placements, what to expect and how to apply to our grad scheme here.

Physiotherapy apprenticeships

Physiotherapy apprenticeships are not common in the UK however there are a number of Universities (Coventry, Salford, Teeside, Sheffield Hallam and University College Birmingham for 2021) which offer this route to qualification. You still need to meet the entry requirements as for any other physiotherapy degree, but you also need to have a job in a related area such as a Physiotherapy Assistant, Physiotherapy Technician or Rehabilitation Assistant and be working at least 30 hours a week. You continue to be paid whilst you are completing your degree over 2-3 years. Normally you will attend university 2-3 days a week and work the other days, but this may vary. As this is a relatively new development, more places are likely to offer this route in time. You need to be highly motivated and learn well independently as there is more of an expectation to study in your own time.

Physiotherapy apprenticeships are something we are considering in the future but are not able to support individuals at the moment, however, our Graduate Physio Scheme is designed to enable graduates to find their feet in their first job as a physiotherapist with our award-winning clinical development and training programme. Find out more about joining our Graduate Physio Scheme here.

Physiotherapy degrees

If are thinking about becoming a physiotherapist then there are many universities in the UK that do courses in physiotherapy. 

Which universities offer physiotherapy degrees?

Over 40 universities in the UK offer physiotherapy degree courses. 

The universities that offer the course are:

  • Birmingham City University
  • University of Birmingham
  • Coventry University 
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Lincoln
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Wolverhampton
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Central Lancashire 
  • University of Cumbria
  • University of Huddersfield
  • Keele University 
  • Leeds Beckett University
  • University of Liverpool
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Northumbria University
  • Sheffield Hallam University
  • University of Salford
  • University of Sunderland
  • Teesside University 
  • York St John University
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Essex
  • University of Hertfordshire 
  • Canterbury Christ Church University
  • University of Brighton 
  • Brunel University 
  • University of East London 
  • King’s College London
  • London South Bank University
  • St George’s University of London
  • St Mary’s University 
  • Oxford Brookes University 
  • Bournemouth University 
  • University of Gloucestershire 
  • University of Plymouth 
  • University of Southampton
  • University of the West of England
  • University of Worcester
  • University of Winchester
  • University of Ulster
  • Edinburgh Napier University
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • Queen Margaret University
  • Robert Gordon University 
  • Cardiff University 
  • Wrexham University