What does a physiotherapist do?

Tasks:

  • Administer ability tests to identify physical problems in patients
  • Design treatment programs for patients
  • Treat patients to reduce pain, improve circulation and strengthen muscles
  • Review, monitor, assess and evaluate programs and treatments
  • Consult with other health professionals about patient needs

What skills do I need to be a physiotherapist?

To be a physiotherapist, you should have an interest in human movement, heath and a desire to help people to maximise their mobility. Physiotherapists need to demonstrate sensitivity, compassion and integrity and have communication and interpersonal skills that engage and motivate their patients. Being able to solve problems and work collaboratively with other health professionals is also important. Building trust with colleagues and patients is also essential.
Skills/attributes
  • High level of physical fitness
  • Interest in anatomy, physiology and health science
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Genuine concern for health and wellbeing of patients
  • Initiative and problem solving skills

Specialisations

Physiotherapists generally begin their careers working in private practices or on specialist allied health teams in hospitals and other health facilities. Later in their careers they may choose to specialise in a specific area.

Paediatric physiotherapists

Paediatric physiotherapists assist in early detection of health problems as well as diagnosing, treating and managing infants, children and adolescents with a variety of injuries, disorders and diseases affecting muscles, bones and joints. Treatments focus on improving gross and fine motor skills, balance and coordination, strength and endurance as well as cognitive and sensory processing and integration.

Neurological physiotherapists

Neurological physiotherapists work with people who have neurological disorders or diseases. This can include Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, brain injury, spinal cord injury and stroke. Common problems include paralysis, impaired vision, poor balance and difficulty walking. Neurological physiotherapists work to improve these areas of dysfunction.

Sports physiotherapists

Sports physiotherapists help athletes perform at their best by identifying and treating sports injuries. They develop treatment programs to help with recovery and also give advice on prevention. They may work with professional sports people in teams with coaches and sports scientists, or may work with amateurs.

Study pathways for physiotherapists

To become a physiotherapist you need either a four-year undergraduate degree in physiotherapy, or a related undergraduate degree with a two-year master’s degree in physiotherapy.

Getting Started

You may wish to enter the field of physiotherapy as a therapy assistant, which requires you to complete a vocational qualification in allied health assistance, specialising in physiotherapy support.

Skill Building

A tertiary qualification in physiotherapy, which includes a mandatory supervised practice component in a clinical setting, is required to qualify as a physiotherapist.

Professional Development

The Physiotherapy Board of Australia requires physiotherapists to continually upgrade professional knowledge and skills.

Industry Recognition

In order to practice in any state or territory, you must register with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia.

Getting a job after graduation

Put your training to good use and get the best professional head start in your physiotherapy career. Take a look at our sample resume and cover letter and put your best foot forward when you apply for physiotherapy jobs.

Job Prospects and Salaries

Like other sectors of the health industry, demand for physiotherapists has been strong and will continue, especially with growing health needs from an ageing population.