How To Become A Physiotherapist (Physio) In Australia: Explained

(825 Votes, Average 4.6 out of 5)

Students want to know how they can become physiotherapists in Australia.


Are you interested in healthcare and helping people live a better lifestyle? Then a career as a Physiotherapist might be the perfect fit for you.


Physiotherapists are skilled health professionals who work to manage pain and improve their patients' mobility. They usually assess and treat patients with physical illnesses, severe conditions, or recovering from surgery or injuries.


You usually need a bachelor's degree in physiotherapy to work as a Physiotherapist. Having a postgraduate qualification is also common in this role. Registration with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is required.


This blog is the perfect place to learn all about a physiotherapist's role, including job responsibilities, academic requirements, requisite skills, pay ranges, job opportunities, and the steps to start in this healthcare career.



1. What Is A Physiotherapist?


A physiotherapist is a health professional who helps people with ailments or injuries manage intense pain, improve physical movement, function, and overall well-being.


They evaluate, diagnose, and treat disorders related to human movement. Physiotherapists use evidence-based treatments, including exercise, patient education, and manual therapy, to help people enjoy a better quality of life.



2. What Does A Physiotherapist Do?


The actual duties of a physiotherapist vary based on their specialisation. Their general duties are as follows:


  • Diagnose a range of movement disorders and health conditions.

  • Assess medical histories of patients to develop treatment programs 

  • Conduct therapeutic exercise sessions

  • Use specialist techniques to treat ailments or injuries

  • Prescribe physical aides and exercises to help with mobility and movement.

  • Write reports and case notes.

  • Associate with other health professionals to design suitable prevention and treatment program.

  • If needed, examine patients' recovery progress and refer them to other health professionals. 

  • Educate and train patients and carers about movement and exercise

  • Stay updated with the latest industry knowledge 

  • Develop fitness and wellness plans to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.



3. Skills To Become A Physiotherapist In Australia


Physiotherapists need excellent patient care skills and a good understanding of the techniques to eliminate patient discomfort and pain.


Here are the skills to succeed in this role:


  • Service-oriented 

  • Enjoy helping people overcome physical challenges and enhance their life 

  • Able to work on their own with minimal supervision

  • Able to work in a team with other physiotherapists 

  • Able to stand on their feet for long hours 

  • Clear and effective communication 

  • Physical strength

  • Well-organised 

  • Patience

  • Sensitivity



4. Physiotherapist Qualifications In Australia


You usually need a formal qualification and registration with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia to work in this profession.


Here are the steps to qualify for this role


  1. Complete an approved tertiary qualification like a Bachelor of Physiotherapy or Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours). The course provides a combination of practical and theoretical physiotherapy experiences. Alternatively, if you have a science-based tertiary qualification, you can complete a two-year Masters in physiotherapy.

  2. Register with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia to practise in Australia. 

  3. Registered Physiotherapists in Australia must complete 20 hours of Continued Professional Development each year to keep their registration active. They can do this by attending lectures and conferences, presenting education sessions at work, or reviewing journals. 



5. Steps To Become A Physiotherapist In Australia


Follow the below steps to get started in this role:



Step 1: Gain The Relevant Qualification


The first step to pursuing a physiotherapist role is to complete an Australian Physiotherapy Council (APC) accredited university degree.


Consider gaining 3-4 years of bachelor's degree in the following areas to develop a basic knowledge of the core physiotherapy principles.


  • Anatomy

  • Physiology

  • Biology

  • Chemistry

  • Patient care

  • Neuroscience

  • Exercise physiology

  • Psychology



Step 2: Earn a Postgraduate Degree


Graduates from a bachelor's program can consider earning 2-3 years of relevant Master's degree, like a 2-year Master of Physiotherapy or a 3-year Doctor of Physiotherapy.


These courses will help you gain specialised knowledge and master the core concepts of physiotherapy practice.



Step 3: Register with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia


After completing the above degree courses, you can register with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia. It is essential before you practise physiotherapy in Australia. Ensure you meet all of the PBA's prerequisites before applying for registration.


The registration fee varies based on the type of registration you are applying for.


  • Student Registration: Ideal for students participating in an approved physiotherapy program. The fee for this registration type is $126.

  • Postgraduate Training: Ideal for postgraduate students undergoing supervised training under a licensed physiotherapist. The fee for this option is $126.

  • General Registration: Ideal for students and professionals looking to become licensed practitioners to practise physiotherapy. The fee for this registration type is $126.

  • Teaching or Research: Ideal for researchers and educators in the physiotherapy field. The fee for this registration type is $126.



Step 4: Meet The CPD Standards


You must fulfil the PBA's requirements to continue practising as a physiotherapist in Australia.


Every physiotherapist must complete at least 20 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) yearly to qualify for recertification and maintain registration. Registration fees are around $148.



6. Physiotherapist Work Environment


Physiotherapists usually work in a busy healthcare environment at a hospital, private clinic, etc., following strict privacy and safety regulations to respect their patient's privacy and confidentiality.


Physiotherapists often work full-time using simple tools such as weights, walking aids, and straps. Some also work part-time, per diem schedule, or in private practice.


The ones working in hospitals or clinical settings may have less freedom over their daily work hours. However, they may still choose the number of work hours they wish to work.


They also spend most of their time with people and work closely with patients and their families to design, implement and examine treatment plans for severe conditions and recovery.



7. Where Do Physiotherapists Work?


Physiotherapists are needed in a variety of public and private healthcare environments. Some of their workplaces include:


  • Public and private hospitals

  • Private practice 

  • Sports 

  • Rehabilitation and community health centres

  • Early intervention

  • Paediatrics 

  • Residential aged care facilities

  • Mental health clinics 

  • Industrial clinics and specialist facilities

  • Sporting organisations

  • Military facilities

  • Prisons

  • Patients' homes

  • Fitness centres and gyms

  • Schools

  • Nursing homes

  • Health education centres



8. Types Of Physiotherapy Jobs In Australia


A registered physiotherapist can consider pursuing various career paths within the medical and healthcare sector. Some of these include:


  • Physiotherapist

  • Occupational therapist

  • Rehabilitation therapist

  • Private Practice Owner

  • Sports physiotherapist 

  • Industry Consultant

  • Community physiotherapist



9. Areas Of Specialisation In Physiotherapy


Registered physiotherapists seeking career progression can take on additional training to specialise in a particular area of interest.


Some of the Physical therapy specialisations include:


  • Sports

  • Pediatrics

  • Orthopedics

  • Clinical electrophysiology

  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary

  • Geriatrics

  • Neurology

  • Women's Health

  • Oncology



10. Job Outlook Of Physiotherapists In Australia


ANZSCO ID 2525 (Physiotherapists)


According to Labour Market Insights, about 32,000 currently employed physiotherapists are in the country.


The Australian government expects positive and robust growth in the profession from November 2021 to November 2026.


With a projected growth rate of 28.7%, 9,400 new jobs are expected to be created over this period. To fill those job vacancies, the number of workers is expected to rise from 32,800 in 2021 to 42,200 by 2026.



Working Arrangements


Around 63% of employed Physiotherapists work full-time for an average of 42 hours per week.



Primary Industries of Employment


Around 97% of Physiotherapists work in Health Care And Social Assistance. They may also find Public Administration, Safety, and Education And Training employment.



Percentage Employment Across Australia


  • NSW: 30.5%

  • VIC: 25.3%

  • QLD: 19.7%

  • SA: 8.6%

  • WA: 11.8%

  • TAS: 1.8%

  • NT: 0.6%

  • ACT: 1.8%



Worker's Age and Gender Profile


The average age of Physiotherapists is 35 years, with most between 25 to 34 years. Females constitute 67% of the workforce which is 19 percentage points above the average of all jobs, i.e., 48%.



11. How Much Do Physios Make A Year In Australia?


According to Pay Scale, the average physiotherapist's salary in Australia is AU$ 70,026 per year. Common factors influencing their potential earnings are:


  • Area of work or practice (rural or urban)

  • Level of education

  • Experience 

  • Specialisation (practising a specialty can help increase your earnings)



Salary Based on Experience


  • Entry-level (<1-year experience): AU$63,955 per year 

  • Early career (1-4 years of experience): AU$68,619 per year 

  • Mid-career (5-9 years of experience): AU$79,575 per year 

  • Experienced (10-19 years of experience): AU$84,177 per year 

  • In their late career (20 years and above): AU$96,970 per year



Highest Paying Cities for Physiotherapists in Australia


  • Perth: $96,370 per year

  • Canberra: $90,828 per year

  • Wollongong: $89,737 per year

  • Sutherland: $89,141 per year

  • Gold Coast: $88,922 per year

  • Sydney: $87,999 per year

  • Newcastle: $86,501 per year

  • Melbourne: $85,714 per year

  • Brisbane: $84,867 per year



12. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What Subjects Do I Need to Become a Physiotherapist in Australia?


To enter physiotherapy degree courses, you must complete your senior secondary school in prerequisite subjects. 


Year 12 subjects for physiotherapy university courses are English, chemistry, physics, health and physical education, and biological science.



Do You Need Maths Methods for Physiotherapy?


No. You don't need to study Maths to become a Physiotherapist in Australia. The field focuses on physiology, biomechanics, anatomy, and other sciences to restore body movement in people with physical impairments.



What ATAR Score Do You Need For Physiotherapy?


The entry ATAR requirements for undergraduate physiotherapy courses fall from the mid-70s to 99.



Which Course is Best for Physiotherapy?


Bachelor of Physiotherapy and Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) are the standard degree options to pursue a career as a Physiotherapist in Australia.


Most graduates also earn a relevant postgraduate degree like a Master of Physiotherapy or Doctor of Physiotherapy to gain advanced knowledge and hands-on practical skills before working in this profession.



How Many Years of Study to Become a Physiotherapist in Australia?


Usually, bachelor-level physiotherapy degree programs in Australia are four to five years long.


  • Bachelor's degree in physiotherapy – 4-year full-time

  • Bachelor's degree in physiotherapy (honours) - 4-year full-time


Alternatively, you may complete a 3-year bachelor's program in an unrelated discipline and a 2-year Master's in Physiotherapy.


Additionally, prospective physiotherapists must register with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia to work as licensed physiotherapists. The entire registration process only takes a few days.



Is it Better To Do a Doctor of Physiotherapy or a Master of Physiotherapy?


The 3-year Doctor of Physiotherapy (DPT) is superior to a 2-year Masters of Physiotherapy as it involves a better model of clinical experience.


It uses a programmatic evaluation of the learning approach and larger study units to offer better integration of the clinical areas of physiotherapy practice than a Master of physiotherapy.


Furthermore, DPT also provides clinical placements in major metropolitan teaching hospitals, rural and international settings, primary care, and ongoing development of theoretical knowledge, clinical reasoning, and clinical skills.



What Are tThe Pros and Cons of a Physiotherapist?


Here are some benefits and challenges you may experience while working in this career:





  • Job security

  • High average pay

  • Numerous career paths and specialisations

  • Variety of work environments

  • Work-life balance

  • Job satisfaction

  • Respect in your field





  • Extensive educational requirements

  • Obtaining and maintaining licensure

  • Demanding work

  • Working with challenging patients

  • Emotionally taxing



What Is The Highest Degree in Physiotherapy?


Doctor of Physiotherapy is the highest university program in Physiotherapy in Australia. This 3-year program includes approximately thirty-seven weeks of clinical practice and advanced theoretical knowledge.


It prepares students to deal with the present needs and evolving physiotherapist roles in acute disease management, health promotion and prevention, sports and private practice, and rehabilitation.



Does Physiotherapy Have a Good Future?


Yes. Physiotherapy is a growing and in high demand field in Australia and worldwide.


Two prominent factors driving the demand for physiotherapists in Australia are:


  • The growing need to address severe ailments, mobility-related injuries, and other conditions that the aged population commonly experience

  • An increasing number of health insurers such as Medicare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Work Cover, Department of Veteran Affairs have started offering physiotherapy coverage to people.


Licenced physiotherapists are in demand in various clinical and non-clinical work environments, including hospitals, rehabilitation centres, community health centres, industrial clinics, specialist facilities, and education and research.


Considering the above, physiotherapy is a promising profession to pursue now and in the coming years in Australia.



How Long is Physio School in Australia?


The duration of a Physio school in Australia depends on your existing qualification and the level of education you wish to earn before entering a Physiotherapy role.


For Year 12 pass outs, completing a bachelor's degree in physiotherapy in Australia will take four years. You can advance your knowledge by undertaking a 2-year postgraduate degree in Physiotherapy.


Alternatively, you enter as a graduate by completing a 3 to 4-year bachelor's degree in an unrelated discipline and completing a 2-year postgraduate degree in Physiotherapy.


So, the length of Physio school can be between 4 to 6 years.



Which Physiotherapist Has The Highest Salary?


A degree in Physiotherapy opens the door to work in various career options.


Considering the average salaries of available job roles, physiotherapists can expect to earn the highest salary working as a Sports Physiotherapist.


  • Sports physiotherapist - $AU 81,183 per year

  • Occupational therapist - AU$ 70,684 per year

  • Physiotherapist - AU$70,026 per year

  • Rehabilitation counsellors/therapist - AU$ 66,614 per year



How Much Does an AFL Physio Make?


Sports physios working in private practice can earn in the range of $80,000 to $110,000 annually.


They can earn additional income working with sporting teams and clubs. Sports physios in high-level sporting teams can earn a yearly salary of $110,000 and $150,000.



Are Physios Worth The Money?


Physiotherapists help people better understand their function/pain issues while teaching them life-long self-management skills for a better quality of life.


Although physiotherapy services cost you a few hundred dollars, they are worth every penny.



Which Country is Best for Studying Physiotherapy?


The best countries to study physiotherapy courses are the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, and areas of Western Europe.


Due to superior healthcare quality in these countries, physiotherapy is taught to a high standard using innovative research methods.



Do Physiotherapists Do Massage?


Yes. Physiotherapists use the therapeutic properties of heat, cold, and massage to treat varied issues of their patients.


Besides massage, other techniques such as manipulation, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, infrared light, ultrasound, and ultraviolet are also part of their services.



Are Physiotherapists Called Doctors in Australia?


No. Physiotherapists are not doctors as they do not require attending medical school, getting a medical degree, and completing a residency program like a doctor.



Is Physio a Good Career in Australia?


Being a Physiotherapist is highly satisfying as you work with people in an impactful and meaningful way. You use a variety of strategies, including physical rehabilitation, exercise, and injury prevention, to enhance the health and quality of life of the disabled, ill, injured, and aged patients.


If you like to assist people with physical difficulties and provide practical ways to restore their mobility, health, and function, then a career as a physiotherapist could be ideal for you.


The Physiotherapist profession gives an excellent opportunity to keep people moving, help athletes work to their maximum performance, and treat people with severe health conditions. Seeing people getting positively impacted by their strategies and reaching their goals is a rewarding experience.


A degree in physiotherapy can lead to a fulfilling career working with people of all ages and help them live better lives. It equips you with skills and knowledge to perform precise physiotherapeutic diagnoses, design suitable programs, and prepare you for employment in various healthcare settings.



What Are The Seven Roles of a Physiotherapist?


Physiotherapists help people in multiple ways, and their roles vary broadly based on their specialisation in a niche and type of patient.


Here are seven different roles of physiotherapy specialisations:


  • Pain Management Physiotherapist: Work to reduce bodily aches due to age, injury, ailment, or surgery.

  • Sports Physiotherapist: They work with amateur and professional athletes to ensure proper functioning. They also offer therapeutic exercises, treatments, and advice for injury prevention. 

  • Neurological Physiotherapist: They have an in-depth understanding of the brain and the nervous system operation. They mainly care for patients with severe spinal cord injuries or degenerative conditions such as stroke, Parkinson's, or multiple sclerosis. 

  • Paediatric Physiotherapist: This type of physiotherapist works with children and infants, providing early interventions for mobility-related issues and assisting in injury recovery. 

  • Vestibular Physiotherapist: This type of physiotherapist helps a patient to recover his sense of balance after disturbances to the vestibular system.

  • Women's Health Physiotherapist: This type of physiotherapist helps female patients with various posture, movement, and pain issues.

  • Hand physiotherapist: In this specialty, physiotherapists evaluate hand function issues and advise patients on ways to enhance them. It comprises muscle stretching and strengthening exercises, electrical stimulation, or therapeutic activities.



Which University is Best for Physiotherapy in Australia?


The Notre Dame School of Physiotherapy tops the university's Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy rankings for its highest course satisfaction rate and estimated graduate salary.


Other universities with good ratings across all quality indicators are:


  • The School of Allied Health at Australian Catholic University occupies the 2nd place in Australia.

  • The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Queensland



Is it Hard To Sstudy Physiotherapy?


Yes. The coursework is quite challenging and lengthy, involving several advanced concepts, such as human anatomy, health planning, and physiology.


It gives an in-depth knowledge of how the human body operates, recovers from chronic conditions, and how physiotherapy helps alleviate symptoms.



Which is Better, Nursing or Physiotherapy, in Australia?


Both professions are excellent career options to pursue in the healthcare industry.


They can be demanding but also offer outstanding job outlook and salaries and among other things. The significant factors that differentiate both professions are job responsibilities, nature of employment, and salary.





In Australia, the average salary of a Physiotherapist is $88,089 per year, while it is $68,176 per year for Nurses.





The primary role of a Nurse is to provide nursing and medical care to its patients. It includes the prevention of illness, taking care of ill, injured, or disabled people, and promoting health. 


On the other hand, the primary responsibility of a PT is to improve the mobility, physical health, and function of their patients so that they lead a better life.





Physiotherapists undergo more rigorous studies than nurses to start in the profession. You may become an enrolled nurse by studying for a two-year Diploma of Nursing (HLT54121).


However, to enter a PT role, you must compulsorily complete four years of Bachelor of Physiotherapy or Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours).



Nature of Employment


Physiotherapists can begin their private practice with the possibility of higher income and the pleasure of being your boss.


However, the flexibility to work self-employed is different in Nursing.



Work Setting


Physical therapists and Nurses also differ based on their work setting. Nurses primarily work in hospitals, outpatient facilities, nursing homes, rehab facilities, research centres, government organisations, or patients' homes.


Physiotherapists can work in clinical and non-clinical facilities, including public or private clinics, gyms, sports facilities, cardiac rehab centres, schools, post-surgery facilities, and nursing homes.



Work Hours


Both these professionals may differ based on expected work hours. Unlike most nurses, physios usually don't work night shifts.


They work standard hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. However, those working in nursing homes or medical facilities may need to work on the weekends and holidays to provide continuous patient care.



Job Outlook


According to Labour Market Insights, the profession of Registered Nurses is expected to grow at the rate of 13.9% between 2021 to 2026.


On the other hand, the physiotherapist profession is likely to grow at a whopping pace of 28.7% over the same period. It shows that PTs are in higher demand and expected to have better employment and career growth opportunities than Nurses in Australia.


Deciding which one is the better option is a matter of personal choice. It depends on your interests, career goals, skill level, and resources of a candidate.



Is There a High Demand for Physiotherapists in Australia?


According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA), Physiotherapy is the fourth largest health profession regulated under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.


It constitutes 4.6% of the total regulated health practitioner workforce in Australia. Around 81% of physiotherapists work as clinicians, while the rest are employed as administrators, educators, or researchers.


New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria are the major cities with the maximum number of practising physiotherapists.


Physiotherapy is among the fastest-growing regulated professions, with strong growth projected in the past two years.


With a rising aging population, government policy developments, and society focusing on health and well-being, physiotherapy skills are in demand to provide quality care.


As per APA, the Physiotherapy profession will continue to grow, and sustained workforce pressure can be expected over the coming years to meet the estimated future demand.


It indicates that graduates from physiotherapy courses will always find opportunities to enhance their industry to benefit patients and the healthcare sector.



How To Get Into Physiotherapy with a Low ATAR?


Physiotherapy is a highly competitive program at Australian universities. For example, the minimum ATAR required for the UQ Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) 2023 was 99.00.


Programs with a lower entry threshold include:


  • Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) – 94.75 ATAR

  • Bachelor of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences – 72.00 ATAR



If you don't get the ATAR to gain a place in the Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) directly from Year 12 study, then Monash University presents two pathways to get into the course:


  • Complete at least one year of full-time study in any Monash University program and obtain an above distinction grade, i.e., 70+, and then re-apply for the course the following year.


  • Study any Monash University degree, complete at least 48 credit points, and obtain a distinction grade average. Now, apply for an Internal Transfer into the Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours).



How Stressful is Physiotherapy?


The job of a physiotherapist can be fulfilling. Yet, it can also be demanding and stressful mentally and physically.


Some of the stressors that make the role challenging are:



Rigorous Curriculum


Demanding study load, a greater diversity of subjects, introducing a lot of new knowledge in the curriculum, and a tight exam schedule often make it challenging for students.



Physical Demands of The Job


Physiotherapists engage in a range of physical tasks, including moving and lifting patients, providing treatments, and administering medication while ensuring the safety of their patients and themselves. It can lead to fatigue and stress.



Mental Demands of The Job


Listening to and understanding their patient's emotional needs and concerns and providing compassionate advice and support can be emotionally draining and contribute to burnout.



Working Environment


Physiotherapists often work in a busy hospital or clinical environment that can be noisy and chaotic. Those working in private practice may have to work in a less structured and more uncertain environment. Both settings can be the cause of stress in them.



How much Does Studying Bachelor of Physiotherapy in Australia Cost?


The cost of physiotherapy courses varies between universities in Australia. It depends on your selected courses, study load, and the university you wish to study in.


The indicative annual fee (2023) for the Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Honours) at the University of Queensland is $9,160 (for domestic) and AUD 48,976 (for international students). It is the approximate annual tuition cost (16 units).


2023 Indicative First Year Full Fee for Bachelor of Exercise Science/Master of Physiotherapy and Exercise Physiology - UNSW is $8,300.


Additional costs:


  • Yearly CPR recertification (around $80 per year)

  • Fund travel and living expenses linked to placements.

  • First Aid Certificate (including CPR) (around $130 renewed once in 3 years)

  • Clinical uniform charges 

  • Costs for serology and vaccinations depend on individual and program requirements.



How To Become a Physiotherapist in New South Wales (NSW)?


Do you want to know how to become a physiotherapist in Sydney, NSW? Consider taking physiotherapist courses at the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University, and the University of New South Wales.


These courses include considerable professional and clinical fieldwork opportunities, providing practical experience with clients in a supervised environment. 


Some of these courses include:




How to Become a Physiotherapist in Victoria (VIC)?


If you want to know how to become a physiotherapist in Melbourne, Victoria, consider taking physiotherapy courses at Victoria University, La Trobe University, and Swinburne Institute of Technology. 




13. Conclusion


Your journey to becoming a physiotherapist will become easy if you follow the correct path. First, study for a bachelor of physiotherapy, aim for a master's, prepare your resume, register yourself, and start looking for jobs.


This career is fulfilling and quite gratifying and provides a good growth opportunity. So, plan and do some research.


We hope this guide will help you become a physiotherapist. Study well, and good luck!


Useful Links to Explore:

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Please Subscribe to our Newsletter