A physiotherapist plays an important role in helping people to heal after injury or operations.
A physiotherapist works with people and their bodies after they’ve experienced an illness, a trauma, an operation, or an accident, helping them to regain their physical mobility and improve their health. As a physio, you will help people to recover from a variety of conditions and you are considered to be a trained medical practitioner as your understanding of biology, anatomy and physical sciences will be extensive once you have completed your training.
You will find being a physiotherapist to be a demanding and incredibly rewarding career. Your job is very physical as you work with people to help them overcome their conditions that can range from a sprained ankle to lymphoedema to respiratory disorders. There are several branches of physiotherapy so you can train in – your best bet is to find the one that appeals most to you and what you want to do for a career. If you’re unsure, see if you can spend some time helping out doing volunteer work at different physio practices or locations. Some of the types of physiotherapy specialisation include:
- Musculoskeletal physiotherapy – this focuses on areas such as sprains, back pain, arthritis, sport and workplace injuries, reduced mobility and surgical rehabilitation.
- Cardiothoracic physiotherapy – this focuses on disorders that affect your heart and lungs, such as asthma.
- Neurological physiotherapy – this focuses on strokes, brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease and other issues affecting the nervous system.
- Paediatric physiotherapy – this focuses on working with babies and children.
- Geriatric physiotherapy – this focuses on working with older patients to overcome challenges caused by ageing.
- Vestibular physiotherapy – this focuses on the inner ear and balance.
- Lymphatic physiotherapy – this focuses on helping people overcome lymphatic issues caused by surgery or chronic illness.
The type of person who would thrive in the physiotherapy profession would be good with people, compassionate, empathic, have strong communication skills, have an interest in physiology and anatomy, have good time management skills, work well under pressure, and capable of working in a team.
According to Payscale, the average physiotherapist salary is R250 000.00 per year.
Boost your skills while at school
If you’re interested in improving their skills and their chances of really getting the most from their physiotherapist career you can visit Top Dog for extra training in skills you will need to gain university acceptance. Remember, becoming a physio is physically and mentally challenging and requires several years at university before you qualify so any extra groundwork you do now will help you a great deal later on.
To be eligible for study at university, you will need the following qualifications:
- Life Sciences [learn more and boost your skills using Top Dog and the Vodacom e-school The latter offers free training that will help you get further]
- Physical Sciences [find extra support from Vodacom e-school and Top Dog]
- Mathematics [Vodacom e-school has a ton here]
- Chemistry [Find extra support on Top Dog]
- A high level of proficiency in your chosen language
You can access the Vodacom e-school portal for free training and education tailored to every grade and they have lessons in numerous languages. This means you can learn in your native tongue, making it much easier for you to really hone your skills and get great grades. You will need a matric pass of at least 60% to qualify for training as a physiotherapist at most universities, specifically in the skills outlined above.
Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning. Read our comprehensive breakdown of the accountancy profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.
The physiotherapy career path explained
The role of a physiotherapist is far more than just massaging people and helping them recover from sports injuries, although those are two incredibly important facets of the career. Once you are qualified as a physio, you can work across numerous industries and you can often find careers in other countries as it is a highly sought-after profession. You can use your skills work in communities, schools, hospitals, private practice, rehabilitation centres, old-age homes, sports teams, and so much more.
The South African Society of Physiotherapy provides a very in-depth breakdown of the full definition and scope of physiotherapy and this will help you put your role into perspective. It can take several years for you to train as a physio and the length of time you study will depend entirely on what branch of physio you plan to engage with. You can choose what you want to do based on your grades, your goals and your personal preferences.
When you start out in this career you can expect to work with many different people, from other medical professionals through to the varied people who will come to you for healing. If you specialise in lymphatics, for example, you could work with people who are dealing with cancer and closely interact with their oncologists. If you become a sports physio, you can travel the world with a sports team to ensure that the members are in peak physical condition. And, if you become a paediatric physio, you can work with mothers and children to help them with birth, movement and physical control. Your work is varied and incredibly interesting and you will change lives every day.
If you really want to embark on this career be prepared for hard work and lots of fun. You can also support your education by taking on community service, working as an intern and spending time in spaces that allow you to watch other physiotherapists at work.
Further information and education institutions:
- University of KwaZulu-Natal
- Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University
- University of the Witwatersrand
- Stellenbosch University
- University of the Western Cape
- University of Pretoria
- University of Cape Town
- University of the Free State
- Nelson Mandela University
- The South African Society of Physiotherapy
- The Council for Health Service Accreditation South Africa (COHSASA)
- The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPSCA)