How to Become a Physiotherapist

The first step for getting into this field, is to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then that's probably the case:


Those who become physiotherapists have an interest and aptitude in helping people who have difficulty with physical mobility due to injury or illness. They are typically passionate about promoting overall health, fitness and wellness. They are also typically individuals who enjoy careers that involve both physical and mental dexterity.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a physiotherapist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed in the United States

To become a physiotherapist in the United States, you will need to successfully complete a graduate degree program in physical therapy that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).


To qualify for admission into such a program, you will need a bachelor’s degree. Some schools will not have a preference as to what field your undergraduate degree is in, while others may require that your undergraduate degree is in a related field, such as anatomy, exercise science, kinesiology, nutrition, nursing, or any number of others that related to health and health science.


Most Physical Therapy graduate programs however, require that you have at least completed a certain number of prerequisite courses in the sciences and human health during your undergraduate years, in order to qualify you for admission.




Education Needed in Canada

In Canada, you must complete a Master’s degree in Physiotherapy (MSc PT). In order to enter professional physiotherapy practice in most provinces, you must also pass the national Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) upon graduation from a Physiotherapy program. 


Since physiotherapists are committed to lifelong learning, they must continuously and upgrade their skills through post-graduation continuing education programs.


Physiotherapy programs include a mixture of classroom and hands-on learning by offering lectures, labs, group work and clinical placements. Classroom-based work typically involves courses in areas such as anatomy, physiology, pathology and biomechanics. The hands-on component of physiotherapy programs typically requires students to complete a minimum of 1,000 clinical hours.



Physiotherapist Job Description

Physiotherapists (also known as Physical Therapists in the United States) aim to improve and maintain the physical performance of patients by preventing, managing and treating pain and physical impairments caused by injury and illness. Physiotherapists also promote general health, fitness and wellness when working with patients and clients.



Physiotherapist Job Duties

• Assess the level of mobility, strength and endurance of the patient, and determine its impact on work or play activities

• Diagnose physical condition of patient

• Establish treatment plans with the goal of restoring strength, mobility, function and reducing pain

• Provide injury prevention and health problem prevention advice to patients

• Regularly measure patient’s progress and make any necessary adjustments to treatment

• May confer with physicians and other health care professionals regarding patient’s condition

• Advise patients on how to manage their health conditions independently



Who Hires Them?

Physiotherapists are hired by organizations that are involved in preventing and managing pain, physical impairments and disabilities caused by injury or illness. Organizations that hire physiotherapists include:


• Physiotherapy clinics and multidisciplinary clinics (for example, chiropractic clinics)

• Child development centres

• Community health centres

• Fitness centres, health clubs and spas

• Sport and recreation facilities

• Home care and continuing care facilities

• Hospitals and rehabilitation centres


Physiotherapist Salary

The salary level of physiotherapists can vary, depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, whether or not they own their own clinic, and many others.


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Physiotherapists occupational group earn an average wage of between $32.88 and $49.67 per hour.


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics the median salary of workers in the Physical Therapists Occupational group is $76,310 per year. 




Typical Working Conditions

Work Schedule: Physiotherapists typically work normal weekday working hours, although they can vary depending on such factors as the hours of the facility they work in and whether or not they own the physiotherapy service they work for.


Work Environment: The job of a physiotherapist can be physically demanding, as they are frequently moving, bending, stooping, kneeling, crouching and lifting. Physiotherapists may also be required to move heavy equipment and lift patients or help them to turn, stand, or walk.



Career Advancement Possibilities

A career as a physiotherapist is one that has many opportunities for growth. Physiotherapists that demonstrate a high level of skill, knowledge and competence in their work may find many opportunities for growth, such as moving into supervisory or management positions, teaching positions, or they may decide to open their own physiotherapy clinic or service. 



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Careers Similar to "Physiotherapist"

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Physiotherapist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist


Massage Therapist

Physical Therapy Assistant

Recreational Therapist




Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a physiotherapist.


Occupations in Alberta:Physiotherapist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Healthcare:Physical Therapists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Careers:Physical Therapist (PT) Education Overview.” (n.d.). American Physical Therapy Association website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Careers:Becoming a PT or PTA.” (n.d.) Canadian Physiotherapy Association website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.



Relevant Scholarships

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Physiotherapist can be found on our Exercise Science Scholarships and Kinesiology Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a physiotherapist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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