A physiotherapist


Physiotherapists are autonomous health professionals who are responsible for developing, maintaining or restoring motor function and movement throughout the lifespan using evidence-based practice. They relieve pain and treat or prevent physical conditions associated with injury, disease, or other impairments. Physiotherapists empower patients and their carers to manage the condition outside clinical settings. They work within their scope of practice and their professional Code of Conduct. 

Here are some typical duties of physiotherapists:

  • Conduct thorough assessments of patients, considering their medical history, physical condition, and specific needs to formulate an accurate diagnosis.
  • Develop individualized treatment plans based on assessment findings, setting specific goals and outlining the therapeutic interventions required for rehabilitation.
  • Administer hands-on techniques such as massage, joint mobilization, and manipulation to alleviate pain, improve joint mobility, and enhance overall function.
  • Prescribe and guide patients through tailored exercise programs to improve strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination.
  • Utilize modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and heat therapy to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and promote tissue healing.
  • Educate patients on proper body mechanics and postural awareness to prevent injuries and optimize daily activities.
  • Guide patients through rehabilitation programs after surgeries, injuries, or medical procedures, assisting them in regaining optimal function.
  • Provide clear and concise information to patients about their conditions, treatment plans, and self-management strategies.
  • Recommend and instruct patients in the use of assistive devices such as crutches, braces, or mobility aids to support their independence.
  • Work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, and occupational therapists, to ensure holistic patient care.
  • Maintain accurate and detailed patient records, documenting assessments, treatments, and progress notes.
  • Implement pain management strategies, including therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and education on pain coping mechanisms.
  • Stay updated on the latest research, techniques, and advancements in physiotherapy through continuous education and professional development.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to physiotherapist:

business physiotherapist
occupational physiotherapist
occupational therapist
bobath physiotherapist
health and well-being therapist
chiropractic therapist
sports physiotherapist
respiratory therapist
eurythmy therapist
health promotion worker
remedial physiotherapist
physiotherapist manager
manipulative physiotherapist
neuromuscular physiotherapist
respiratory physiotherapist
neurological physiotherapist
physical therapist
rehabilitation therapist
neuromusculoskeletal physiotherapist
cardiovascular physiotherapist
neurodevelopmental physiotherapist

Working conditions

Physiotherapists work in various settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, private clinics, and community health organizations. The role involves direct interaction with patients and may include physical demands such as lifting and assisting individuals with mobility challenges.

Minimum qualifications

A bachelor’s or master’s degree in physiotherapy or a related field is typically required. Practical experience gained through internships, supervised clinical hours, or entry-level positions is crucial for developing expertise. Licensure or certification is often required, depending on regional regulations. Strong interpersonal skills, empathy, and effective communication are essential for building therapeutic relationships with patients. Continuous learning and staying updated on evidence-based practices contribute to ongoing professional development as a physiotherapist.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Physiotherapist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Physiotherapist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to physiotherapist.

advanced physiotherapist
specialist chiropractor
specialist pharmacist
specialist biomedical scientist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of physiotherapist.

  • Orthopaedic manual physiotherapy: A specialised area of physiotherapy for the management of neuro-musculoskeletal conditions, based on clinical reasoning, using highly specific treatment approaches including manual techniques and therapeutic exercises.
  • Medical terminology: The meaning of medical terms and abbreviations, of medical prescriptions and various medical specialties, and when to use it correctly.
  • Emergency surgery: The characteristics and methods of a surgical intervention performed in emergency cases.
  • Orthopaedics: Orthopaedics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • General medicine: General medicine is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Surgery: The essential procedures in surgical practice, such as the principle of safe surgery, the pathophysiology of wound healing, knot tying, tissue handling, retraction and any other instruments and procedures used in the operating room.
  • Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and their interactions and mechanisms.
  • Geriatrics: Geriatrics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Kinetics: The study of movement and its causes.
  • Neurology: Neurology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Pharmacology: Pharmacology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Physics: The natural science involving the study of matter, motion, energy, force and related notions.
  • Obstetrics and gynaecology: Obstetrics and gynaecology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Paediatrics: Paediatrics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Rehabilitation: The methods and procedures used to help an ill or injured person restore lost skills and regain self-sufficiency and control.
  • Sociology: The group behaviour and dynamics, societal trends and influences, human migrations, ethnicity, cultures and their history and origins.
  • Biomechanics: The use of mechanical means to understand the function and structure of biological organisms.
  • Therapeutic massage: Massage techniques used to relieve pain and alleviate other symptoms associated with a number of different medical conditions.
  • Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
  • Manage healthcare staff: The managerial tasks and responsibilities required in a healthcare setting.
  • Medical informatics: The processes and tools used for the analysis and dissemination of medical data through computerized systems.
  • Psychology: The human behaviour and performance with individual differences in ability, personality, interests, learning, and motivation.
  • Respiratory therapy: Treatment focused on the management of the airways in various medical conditions or situations such as emergency or trauma.
  • Intensive care medicine: Medical specialty dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening conditions.
  • First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.
  • Psychiatry: Psychiatry is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of physiotherapist.

  • Contribute to quality physiotherapy services: Participate in activities that promote quality, particularly in the acquisition and evaluation of equipment, resources, safe storage and supply management.
  • Create solutions to problems: Solve problems that arise in planning, prioritising, organising, directing/facilitating action and evaluating performance. Use systematic processes of collecting, analysing, and synthesising information to evaluate current practice and generate new understandings about practice.
  • Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
  • Manage a healthcare unit budget: Manage a healthcare unit budget. Collaborate in budget planning processes including cost of supplies needed for adequate health services and management.
  • Educate on the prevention of illness: Offer evidence-based advice on how to avoid ill health, educate and advise individuals and their carers on how to prevent ill health and/or be able to advise how to improve their environment and health conditions. Provide advice on the identification of risks leading to ill health and help to increase the patients’ resilience by targeting prevention and early intervention strategies.
  • Inform policy makers on health-related challenges: Provide useful information related to healthcare professions to ensure that policy decisions benefit communities.
  • Adjust physiotherapy interventions: Adjust physiotherapy interventions based on re-evaluation of the client`s response to treatment.
  • Employ cognitive behaviour treatment techniques: Employ cognitive behavioural treatment techniques for those whose treatment involves cognitive re-training, addressing dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviours and cognitive processes and contents through a variety of systematic procedures.
  • Manage physiotherapy staff: Recruit, train, manage, develop and supervise physiotherapy staff where appropriate, ensuring the provision of clinically effective service to clients, recognising the need for further training both for oneself and other physiotherapy staff.
  • Develop strategic plans for physiotherapy services: Contribute to the development of systems, policies and procedures for the provision of physiotherapy services, sharing knowledge and contributing to internal and external learning opportunities.
  • Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
  • Promote health and safety policies in health services: Promote adherence to local, regional, national and EU Health and Safety legislation, policies, guidelines and protocols.
  • Provide physiotherapy diagnosis: Provide a physiotherapy diagnosis/clinical impression of the client`s condition, working with the client to identify impairments, activity and participation limitations resulting from illness, injury and/or ageing, undertaking a holistic approach.
  • Manage clinical risk: Improve the quality and safe delivery of healthcare, placing special emphasis on identifying those circumstances that place clients, their families and carers, staff, students and others at risk of harm and act to prevent or control those risks.
  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Triage clients for physiotherapy: Triage clients for physiotherapy, prioritising their assessment and indicating where additional services are required.
  • Record healthcare users’ progress related to treatment: Record the healthcare user’s progress in response to treatment by observing, listening and measuring outcomes.
  • Provide leadership: Lead and influence others to promote and contribute to policy development, advocacy, extending the boundaries and strategy at various levels.
  • Advocate health: Advocate for health promotion, well-being and disease or injury prevention on behalf of clients and the profession to enhance community, public and population health.
  • Measure effectiveness of the service provided: Use a problem-solving approach to develop and measure recommendations for improving the quality of professional practice in increasingly unpredictable contexts, contributing to change and development within the profession or service at a local, regional or national level.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records that also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
  • Deal with emergency care situations: Assess the signs and be well-prepared for a situation that poses an immediate threat to a person’s health, security, property or environment.
  • Develop physiotherapy services: Develop a safe, effective and efficient quality physiotherapy service.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence-based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Provide self management support: Provide evidence-based information and strategies on self-management to the client.
  • Prescribe healthcare products: Prescribe healthcare products, when indicated, for therapeutic effectiveness, appropriate to the client`s needs and in accordance with evidence-based practice, national and practice protocols and within scope of practice.
  • Contribute to the rehabilitation process: Contribute to the rehabilitation process to enhance activity, functioning and participation using a person-centered and evidence-based approach.
  • Adhere to health well-being and safety: Comply with and apply the main points of health well-being and safety policy and procedures, in accordance with employer’s policies. Report health and safety risks that have been identified and follow the appropriate procedures if an accident or injury should occur.
  • Provide information on the effects of physiotherapy: Provide information on therapeutic outcomes and any inherent risks to the client making sure he/she understands, acting in accordance with ethical principles and local/national policies where the client does not have the capacity to understand.
  • Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, healthcare professionals, and community partners.
  • Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
  • Provide learning support in healthcare: Provide the necessary support to facilitate learning for clients, carers, students, peers, support workers and other healthcare practitioners by assessing the learner`s development needs and preferences, designing agreed formal and informal outcomes of learning and delivering materials that facilitate learning and development.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice that are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Collect healthcare user’s general data: Collect qualitative and quantitative data related to the healthcare user’s anagraphic data and provide support on filling out the present and past history questionnaire and record the measures/tests performed by the practitioner.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in the process of their care and treatment.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, ask questions as appropriate, and not interrupt at inappropriate times; be able to listen carefully to the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users, or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Supervise physiotherapist assistants: Supervise and provide learning opportunities for physiotherapist assistants.
  • Conduct physiotherapy assessment: Undertake physiotherapy assessment, incorporating data collected from subjective, physical examinations and information derived from other relevant sources, maintaining clients` safety, comfort and dignity during assessment.
  • Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
  • Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department-specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
  • Conduct health related research: Conduct research in health-related topics and communicate findings orally, through public presentations or by writing reports and other publications.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from a variety of different cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Develop plans related to the transfer of care: Organise transfer of care, when applicable, across a range of healthcare settings, communicating effectively and ensuring that the patient/client and carers are involved in the decision-making process.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, keeping in mind the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
  • Provide treatment strategies for challenges to human health: Identify possible treatment protocols for the challenges to human health within a given community in cases such as infectious diseases of high consequences at the global level.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Apply clinical physiotherapy skills: Apply clinical physiotherapy skills across different practice areas using a holistic and evidence-based approach.
  • Supervise physiotherapy students: Supervise, educate and provide learning opportunities for physiotherapy students.
  • Apply organisational techniques: Employ a set of organisational techniques and procedures which facilitate the achievement of the goals set. Use these resources efficiently and sustainably, and show flexibility when required.
  • Interpret medical results: Interpret, integrate and apply results of diagnostic imaging, laboratory tests and other investigations as part of the assessment of the client, in consultation with other healthcare practitioners.
  • Engage in physiotherapy research: Undertake different levels of engagement in physiotherapy research activities to improve the quality and evidence base in the physiotherapy field.
  • Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
  • Apply context specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence-based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
  • Develop plans related to client discharge: Organise discharge planning, when applicable, across a range of healthcare settings, communicating effectively and ensuring that the client and carers are involved in the decision-making process.
  • Refer healthcare users: Make referrals to other professionals, based on the healthcare user’s requirements and needs, especially when recognising that additional healthcare diagnostics or interventions are required.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary healthcare, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare-related professions.
  • Maintain physiotherapy equipment: Maintain the physiotherapy equipment and supplies, ensuring that equipment is safe and fit for purpose.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.
  • Formulate a treatment plan: Formulate a treatment plan and evaluation analysis based on collected data following assessment using a clinical reasoning process.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of physiotherapist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Sport and exercise medicine: Prevention and treatment of injuries or conditions resulting from a physical activity or sport.
  • Hydrotherapy: The practice used to treat diseases or maintain overall health using water.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of physiotherapist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Apply acupuncture: Use procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques, such as penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation in order to relieve pain or achieve other therapeutic benefits.
  • Prescribe medication: When indicated, prescribe medications for therapeutic effectiveness, appropriate to the client`s needs, in accordance with evidence-based practice, national and practice protocols, and within the scope of practice.
  • Employ foreign languages for health-related research: Use foreign languages for conducting and collaborating in health-related research.
  • Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or service providers. Use foreign languages to facilitate patient care according to the needs of the patient.
  • Apply massage therapy: Apply massage therapy to relieve patient’s pain by using various specialised techniques.

ISCO group and title

2264 – Physiotherapists

  1. Physiotherapist – ESCO
  2. What Is a Physiotherapist? – WebMD
  3. Physiotherapist job profile |
  4. Physiotherapist in Ontario | Job description – Job Bank
  5. Physical Therapists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  6. Featured image: By Txikillana – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
Last updated on February 11, 2024