I’ve been a physiotherapist for 6 years in Australia. In Australia, physiotherapy is very difficult to get into through a university. For instance, the TER score (score after you finish your high school certificate) was 93 in 2000. That was the third highest score to apply for through university. Now, you may think that the higher the difficulty to apply, the higher the prestige, income and satisfaction the job will be. You think so right? Wrong!
Let me tell you, physiotherapy or physical therapist as a career choice is not what you think. I came to think when doing the course I expect a high income and high levels of satisfaction, but from my experience and others this is totally wrong. I have friends who have been doing physiotherapy for more than 5 years who have changed careers because they thought physiotherapy will get them nowhere. I’ve been told by one of the board members of the physiotherapy association that there is no physiotherapist working full time in a private practice above 45. So it seems many physiotherapists are not satisfied with their career.
So why is it that many physiotherapists aren’t satisfied with their careers? I can give you three good reasons.
First is the income. Our income is around $60-70k year on average, but the ceiling for physiotherapist to get is around $100-110k a year (which is rare) if working for someone or in the public sector. Now in the private sector (working in your own practice) you can make considerably more, about $100k or greater. But setting up and working in the private sector cost money and it is very expensive. You have to pay rent, equipment, labor and many other expenses. So in the end, you might not make much because of all the expenses.
Second is the level of satisfaction. You may think helping people get better makes you happier, it does. But there are many more people who don’t get better. Also, the job that you do in physiotherapy is very monotonous it’s either doing assessment, electrotherapy, exercises or hands on work (which I basically call massage). People who work as a physiotherapist will most likely have hand, wrist or back pain because the job requires you to do repetitive movements or awkward postures most of the time. For instance bending down to treat a patient on a bed,
Third is security. If you do extra courses or have masters degree to specialize in physiotherapy, most likely that won’t guarantee you extra income or status. There is a lack of differentiation between an experienced physiotherapist or an inexperienced physiotherapist in terms of pay. Also, the future of physiotherapy as a profession is overtaken by other health professionals such as chiropractors and even nurses.
This is due to incompetence of the physiotherapy board and association of pushing our status in government and general public opinion into insignificance. It seems that the physiotherapy association has no lobbyist in the government or insurance industry thereby cutting our status as a health professional. For instance, insurances are cutting physiotherapist rates and services (for example HBA in the UK) as they see physiotherapy as not important. In the long term, physiotherapy as a profession will die out and overtaken by other health professionals.
So is physiotherapy a good or bad career choice? I say most definitely not a good career choice. But this is my opinion. If you want to get another person’s opinion, see your physiotherapist or a person who is working in your career.
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