The duties of a physiotherapist

Updated April 17, 2017

A career in physiotherapy, or physiotherapy (PT), means you'll be working in a health care field that specialises in assessing and treating patients of all ages with physical limitations due to serious illnesses, disabilities, work or sports-related injuries, stroke, and complications of ageing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, job growth in the physiotherapist field over the next six years will be around 27 per cent.


Physiotherapists perform initial assessments, review existing medical records, and surmise a diagnosis before developing treatment plans for patients. They work closely with patients to assist with neuromuscular, respiratory, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal rehabilitation processes. Often treatment plans require intense daily or weekly routine physiotherapy.

A physiotherapist’s overall objectives are to identify the issue(s) causing the patient physical pain and then develop a rehabilitation strategy to help the patient regain strength and independence within his or her body. Physiotherapists may also be responsible for assisting with body strength exercises, recording computerised prognosis, helping patients review discharge instructions and scheduling follow-up appointments. Many patients who go through physiotherapy require long-term observation and care.

A physiotherapist who works in a large hospital may be responsible for supervising other PT assistants. Such positions include duties such as hiring, firing, and preparing and discussing performance evaluations.


Physiotherapists should possess strong skills in human anatomy with a fundamental understanding of bones, muscles and other musculoskeletal systems. This knowledge is important when diagnosing, treating and preventing future injury. A career in physiotherapy also demands one be physically able to transport, elevate and often support an immobilised patient’s body weight.

Physiotherapists must also be willing to listen attentively to a patient's issues and be readily available to answer questions. Additionally, excellent interpersonal and written and verbal communication skills are required when note-taking and interacting with family members and colleagues.

For a physiotherapist to provide patients with quality care, he must continually review advanced medical techniques and treatment programs. Physiotherapists refer patients who need specialised services and treatment, and educate patients and the general public on exercise advice.

Education and Salary

Before a physiotherapist is authorised to practice independently, a master’s or doctorate degree in a medical science field with a physiotherapy concentration is required. After graduation, a physiotherapist must pass a state board physiotherapy certification exam in order to practice in her respective state. Also, once a physiotherapist concludes an accredited physiotherapy program, a state licensure must be obtained. Additionally, physiotherapists acquire valuable work experience as a resident practitioner under the direction of a licensed physiotherapist, typically before taking the exam.

The annual salary for physiotherapists ranges from £28,651 to £46,439 in 2010, according to In 2006, the median income revolved around £43,030. The discrepancy in scale varies due to factors such as geographic location, working environment and specific job title. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), locations including Nevada, California, and New Jersey currently offer the highest wages for physiotherapists.

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About the Author

Roe Gillis is a writer, photographer and career specialist who has published articles covering business, travel, medical concerns, family and news. She has an associate degree in journalism from Pensacola State and a background in human resources.