What Training Is Required for a Physiotherapist Career?

Physiotherapists, also known as physical therapists, help patients who are living with physical limitations. Read below for details regarding the training you will need to become a physiotherapist. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Physiotherapy Overview

Physiotherapists, or physical therapists, are required to have a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and licensure to practice in the United States. Physical therapy graduate degree programs train students to help people recover from physical injury and illness, by focusing on improving their movement and managing their pain. Physiotherapists develop a plan of care and assist in the physical rehabilitation process.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Interpersonal skills, physical stamina and dexterity, compassion, analytic and observational skills
Work Environment Hospitals, rehabilitation centres, pediatric and geriatric care centres, home health agencies, athletic centres, orthopaedic settings
Median Salary (2018) $87,930 (for all physical therapists)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 28% (for all physical therapists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In order to become a physiotherapist, you must complete a graduate degree program in physical therapy accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). A bachelor's degree is required for admission into these programs and, though a specific major isn't usually stipulated, most schools require that you have completed a certain number of prerequisite courses in the sciences and human health to qualify for entrance. Some programs may also require that you have participated in paid or volunteer work involving physical therapy in a clinical setting.

Currently, CAPTE-accredited programs include both masters and doctoral options. However, the American Physical Therapy Association put forth a statement called 'Vision 2020,' which announced a mission that ideally all physical therapists will hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) by the year 2020 (www.apta.org). Given this, it's important to consider enrolling in a DPT program.

Doctoral Degree Coursework

A doctoral degree program provides extensive, hands-on training in clinical methods and equipment that you will use to treat patients. You rotate and practice in paediatrics, orthopaedics, geriatrics, and sports clinics. Typical coursework often covers the following topics:

  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Neuroscience
  • Musculoskeletal rehabilitation
  • Biomechanics
  • Pharmacology


All states require you to be licensed in order to practice as a physiotherapist. Although requirements vary by state, you must generally pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE); the five-hour exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and consists of 250 questions (www.fsbpt.org). You may need to take continuing education credits in order to maintain licensure.

Career Overview

Physiotherapists work with patients in order to improve their overall mobility and well-being. In physiotherapy, you often work with patients after they experience an injury or physical trauma. Using a variety of techniques, you create and implement a plan of treatment that is specific to each patient's needs. You help restore patients' bodies to full functionality through stretching, heat therapy and prescribed strength-building exercises.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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