Physiotherapist: Job Duties & Career Information

Learn the difference between physiotherapists and physical therapists. Find out the education and licensure requirements for this career, as well as some alternative career options.

Career Definition for a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists and physical therapists are essentially the same, but the term 'physiotherapist' is used more often abroad and 'physical therapist' is used more often in the United States. Physiotherapists and physical therapists help accident victims, medical patients, and chronically disabled people maintain and improve their physical wellbeing by designing, implementing, and supervising custom treatment plans. They supervise patients' progress and make adjustments to treatment plans as needed. These therapists can help patients maintain or restore flexibility, strength, and range of motion.

Required Education Bachelor's degree and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree
Job Duties Include designing, implementing, and supervising custom treatment plans; supervising patient progress; making adjustments to treatment as needed
Median Salary (2017)* $86,850 per year (physical therapists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 28% growth (physical therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Physiotherapists and physical therapists must complete a bachelor's degree before enrolling in a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program from an accredited college or university. These 3-year DPT programs include courses in gross anatomy and applied physiology along with a hands-on practical experience requirement.

Licensure Requirements

Physiotherapists and physical therapists must obtain a license from the state in which they work. Licensure requirements include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. Some physical therapists go on to specialize in a particular type of therapy, such as geriatric physical therapy, and become board certified in that area.

Skills Needed

Physiotherapists and physical therapists need to be sensitive to their patients' needs and disabilities and must have excellent communication and motivational skills. They should also be physically fit enough to properly demonstrate the activities in their treatment plans and must possess strong organizational skills.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for physical therapists are expected to increase at a much-faster-than-average rate of 28% from 2016 to 2026. This rate of growth is mainly due to the aging population that is remaining active after retirement and at higher risk of injury. The median salary among physical therapists was reported as $86,850 in May 2017 by the BLS.

Alternative Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Physical Therapy Assistant

For those who want to work in the field of physiotherapy but do not want to complete a doctoral degree, the job of a physical therapy assistant may be a good fit. Physical therapy assistants (PTAs) help patients with exercises and equipment and may treat patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. PTAs must complete associate's degrees from accredited programs and then become licensed or certified in the state in which they work. Like physical therapists, the BLS projects that jobs for PTAs will grow at a much faster-than-average rate of 31% from 2016 to 2026. These workers had a median annual salary of $57,430 in May 2017, according to the BLS.

Audiologist

Like physiologists, audiologists help people with disabilities, but audiologists concentrate on hearing and balance issues. Audiologists examine patients' inner and outer ears to diagnose and determine the proper treatment for ear problems. To become an audiologist, one must complete a doctoral degree program in audiology and obtain a state-issued license. Professional certification is also available, but not always required. Audiologist positions are expected to increase at a much-faster-than average rate of 21% from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. The BLS reported in 2017 that these workers had a median annual salary of $75,920.


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