Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
To get on a course that could lead to a career as a physiotherapist, useful subjects include:
- Human Biology
- Physical Education
A Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare, taken in S5 or S6, could help you gain new skills and valuable work experience.
Find out more about apprenticeships at apprenticeships.scot.
If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.
College and university
Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.
At college, you could do an HND in Sports Therapy or an HND in Applied Sport Science.
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
Three universities in Scotland offer undergraduate programmes in Physiotherapy, approved by the HCPC:
- Glasgow Caledonian University
- Queen Margaret University
- Robert Gordon University
Pre-registration undergraduate programmes take 4 years full-time.
If you already have a relevant qualification and healthcare experience, you can do a master’s in Physiotherapy. A postgraduate pre-registration course usually takes 2 years.
For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.
Functional movement is a key part of what it means to be healthy. This means that physiotherapy plays a significant role in enabling people to improve their health, wellbeing and quality of life.
As a physiotherapist, you'll care for people who have many different types of conditions such as:
- multiple sclerosis
- back pain
- neck injuries
- sports injuries
- mental health problems
What you’ll do
Some of the typical tasks of a physiotherapist include:
- caring for children and young people with cerebral palsy, helping them to increase their muscle strength and activation
- helping the rehabilitation of people who are recovering from a heart attack, stroke, injury or surgery
- helping older people to improve their mobility
- using therapeutic ultrasound to reduce pain or increase circulation
- using hydrotherapy to strengthen weak muscles
You could use a range of equipment such as:
- exercise bikes
- parallel walking bars
- walking aids
- gym balls
- high-tech equipment for specialist therapy
You’ll need these skills:
- caring for people
- working in a team
- communicating with people
- problem-solving skills
- persuading and motivating people
- observation skills
Who you’ll work with
Physiotherapists work independently or in multidisciplinary teams with other healthcare professionals including:
- occupational therapists
- health visitors
- social workers
- healthcare support workers
You could work in:
- health centres
- a person’s own home
- nursing homes
- day centres
- outpatient departments
To work as a physiotherapist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
Did you know?
There are over 55,500 registered physiotherapists in the UK and over 2,900 working in NHSScotland.
Learning and development
The professional body for physiotherapists in the UK is the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). You can become a member once you’ve qualified as a physiotherapist.
During your career, you'll have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date with Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The CSP provides courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills.
With training and experience, you may choose to specialise in a particular area of practice such as:
- sports injuries
- critical care
- care of the elderly
- working with children
- caring for cancer patients
You could also progress to advanced or consultant physiotherapist roles. As head of a physiotherapy service, you would be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget.
There are also teaching and research opportunities.