Need to know

For many, the idea of getting a degree in physiotherapy comes from personal interest in sports or fitness. Such inspiration is necessary, given that physiotherapists are primarily concerned with human function and movement. However, before making the decision to study this subject, you should fully understand that liking fitness is not the same as working as a health practitioner. The fitness industry and the health sector have completely different professional environments.

The most established and widely known treatment of physiotherapy is massage, but there are various other physical approaches that physiotherapists are using to treat more severe conditions such as asthma, stroke, heart disease and mental health. In fact, the massage type of work is only 20%-30% of what treatment might be. As a physiotherapist, you are also expected to give exercise prescription, use electrical stimuli and carry radiological tests. Therefore, to enter this profession, you must have good knowledge of anatomy. An interest in fitness or sports by itself won’t help you cope with challenging anatomy classes. You should have basic knowledge of chemistry, physics and biology, and be prepared to learn new languages.

Most physiotherapy programmes are similar in content and involve both lecturers in theory and training on clinical practice. Typical theoretical courses include pathology, anatomy, physics and physiology. You will also investigate psychological, social and cultural factors in courses like psychosocial studies and medical sociology. These courses teach you how to help clients take more active roles in their treatment.

Another important factor that you should consider is whether your health condition allows you to carry out the work of a physiotherapist. This is a physically demanding profession in which you will often help patients walk after surgery, especially in a rehabilitation setting.

Last but not least, there are many specialisations within physiotherapy. You should have a clear idea of which specialisation you are interested in before starting your degree. This is because most physiotherapy programmes, especially at postgraduate levels, allow you to choose optional modules according to your career ambition. For example, you could choose between rehabilitation studies, musculoskeletal physiotherapy, neurological physiotherapy, occupational health and community physiotherapy.

We strongly advise you to do your research and speak with experienced physiotherapists before making your decision.

Why should I study Physiotherapy at postgraduate level?

This might seem a little unusual but physiotherapy is one of the few health care professions where a Master’s degree is just as competitive as a Bachelor’s degree. Moreover, many physiotherapy master  programmes do not require students to study physiotherapy or health sciences at undergraduate level to apply. Therefore, earning a master’s degree is a strategic and cost-effective way for those who wish to switch their career to physiotherapy but do not have a first degree in health science. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can further advance your skills and gain more clinical experience with a master’s degree in physiotherapy.

A master’s degree in physiotherapy is not only a qualification, but also a training opportunity where you develop professional skills to work in clinical setting. At this stage, you will be trained to make clinical judgement and work in a team to implement treatment. You will also learn how to be an educator and manager in this field, something that are beyond the scope of an undergraduate course.

With a master’s degree in physiotherapy, you are well prepared for senior positions such as consultant physiotherapists and hospital managers.

Does it make sense to study Physiotherapy abroad?

What seems to be the major disadvantage of a physiotherapy degree abroad is that it might not qualify you to practice in the UK. In order to do so, you normally need to complete a programme approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which makes you eligible to register with them. You can easily find a full list of HCPC-approved programmes in the UK on their website, but we are not aware of any equivalent list for international programmes.

However, registering with an overseas degree is possible, as long as your degree is from a recognised university. HCPC advises that “all applicants qualified outside the UK should apply for registration well in advance of the date on which they wish registration to begin.”

Despite this issue, studying abroad is a beneficial experience for prospective physiotherapists.

Physiotherapy has increasingly become a popular and competitive subject at British universities. As a result, many students are turning to universities abroad to get their physiotherapy qualifications. Australian universities have good reputation for physiotherapy education. So do European universities!

Through communicating with patients in your clinical placement, you can also learn a new foreign language, which would give you a head start in the graduate job market. If you prefer keeping your career options open, studying physiotherapy abroad is definitely for you.

Examples of postgraduate opportunities in Physiotherapy

Master in Clinical Exercise Physiology, University of Southern Cross

What grades do I need to get in a Master's programme in Physiotherapy?

The typical candidate for a master’s degree in physiotherapy would hold a bachelor’s degree in exercise science or human movements or equivalent, such as human biology or a behavioural science. Entry requirements vary between countries and institutions, especially for a health science subject like physiology. Therefore, you should carefully check with your chosen university to clarify whether you are eligible for the programme or not.

In addition to undergraduate qualifications, applicants are often expected to have first aid certificate and criminal record check.