Physiotherapist job description

A physiotherapist helps those who have been affected by injury, illness, or disability, via movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They are crucial in preventing injuries and assisting in rehabilitation of patients. Physiotherapists can work with people of all ages across the lifespan, from babies to people at the end of their life.

There are many different specialisms within physiotherapy, with the largest being musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiorespiratory physiotherapy.

What would a typical day look like for a Physiotherapist?

A typical day can vary depending on the workplace, but activities for physiotherapists working in a clinical role can include reviewing patient cases, patient assessments, treatment sessions, specialised treatment, rehabilitation, assistive device prescription, and completing patient progress documentation.

Physiotherapists can also work in research, education, and leadership roles. Research could include designing and running studies into physiotherapy treatments or devices and exploring patients’ and clinicians’ experiences. Physiotherapists in education may work in universities, teaching physiotherapy students, or may provide training and study opportunities for qualified physiotherapists. Leadership roles can take many forms, including running clinical teams and taking on more strategic roles in the healthcare system.

Throughout their careers physiotherapists will engage with all four of these pillars of practice in different ways, but elements of each will be incorporated into any role a physiotherapist takes on.

Where could I work?

Physiotherapists are recruited by a wide range of employers including the health service, higher education, independent and private practice, the voluntary sector including charities, the prison service, industry, and sports clubs.​

What would my starting salary be?

Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change pay scales, and as a recently graduated physiotherapist you will usually start at Band 5. Pay and conditions will vary depending upon your employer, and competitive rates are offered throughout the private and voluntary sectors. You should always check with the employer to confirm the pay rate for any post for which you are applying.​

What hours would I be working?

37.5 hours per week is standard in the NHS, which may include evening and weekends. You may be on-call, and seven day working and shift patterns are likely to become more usual in the future. Outside of the NHS, your hours will be dictated by the context of where you work.​

What is the career progression like for a Physiotherapist?

Physiotherapists can progress into specialist areas, take on leadership responsibilities and take part in research or education. They may run their own physiotherapy practice, work for companies and charities outside the NHS, and some physiotherapists combine different areas and roles.

To explore this career in more depth visit: NHS Health Careers​

Are there more specialised roles in Physiotherapy?

Musculoskeletal physiotherapy

Musculoskeletal physiotherapy focuses on disorders and problems with the musculoskeletal system which includes tissues and structures such as muscles, bones, joints, nerves, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and spinal discs. Physiotherapists working in this field may treat people who have received an injury, are undergoing surgery, or have a disease affecting this system, such as osteoarthritis. They can undertake advanced training to become specialists in the field, and may focus on one specific area of practice, such as the spine.

Neurological physiotherapy

Neurological physiotherapy is concerned with the treatment and management of neurological disorders and injuries. This may include working with individuals who have experienced a stroke, a traumatic brain injury, or a spinal cord injury, or with people who have a long-term condition such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Physiotherapists may take part in specialist training to focus their practice further and gain additional skills.

Cardiorespiratory physiotherapy

Cardiorespiratory physiotherapists focus on the cardiac and respiratory systems. They may treat problems such as breathlessness, retained or increased secretions in the lungs, increased work of breathing (patients having to try harder than normal to breathe), and decreased exercise tolerance. They may work with people with conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. They may also work with patients who have experienced a cardiac event such as a myocardial infarction to help them rehabilitate, and with preparing patients for and helping them recover from surgery to prevent secondary complications, such as chest infections. As with other physiotherapy specialisms, they may undertake further training after qualification to enhance their skills and practice.

Do I need a degree to be a physiotherapist?

Yes, to be a physiotherapist in the UK you need to have completed either a BSc or MSc pre-registration degree in physiotherapy.

Our graduate success

Hear from our alumni on their graduate success and their career achievements and future aspirations:

Our students and alumni