Physiotherapists assess, treat and prevent disorders in human movement caused by injury and disease. They are often members of medical teams that treat sport injuries and ill persons, and help disabled people to lead useful lives with as much independence and personal fulfilment as possible. They use a variety of physical techniques and therapies in the treatment and rehabilitation of their patients.

Physiotherapists work with a variety of patients including physically disabled children, pre- and post-natal women, sportsmen and women, industrial employees, hospital in- and out-patients and people within the community.

Tasks can include helping patients recover from accident, illness or injury, organising physical exercise sessions, providing massages, supervising specialist therapies such as electrotherapy and aromatherapy, collecting statistics, writing reports, liaising with professionals such as doctors and nurses and providing education and advice about exercise and movement.

They assess the physical condition of patients to diagnose the problems and plan appropriate treatment. Physiotherapists use a range of techniques to strengthen and stretch muscles and joints to improve patient mobility. They may use hydrotherapy, or breathing and relaxation techniques, for example. They sometimes perform spinal and peripheral joint mobilisation and manipulation. They use equipment such as traction, weights, exercise equipment, cold packs and electrical treatments to ease pain, reduce swelling and improve the range of movement.

Physiotherapists sometimes need to retrain patients to walk or to use devices such as walking frames, splints, crutches and wheelchairs. They also educate patients, their families and the community to lead a healthy lifestyle and to prevent injury and disability, and may be involved with planning and implementing community fitness programmes.

Physiotherapists treat all age groups - babies, children, adolescents and senior citizens. The emphasis is not only on the treatment of patients.

Physiotherapists may specialise in specific areas:
  • manipulative therapy
  • women’s health
  • aged care
  • chest conditions
  • occupational health and safety
  • sports medicine
  • babies and young children
  • problems of the nervous system and spinal injuries
  • administration, education or research

If the physiotherapists are not part of a health care team, they may work independently in private practice, within the school system or as industry consultants.

Working environments may vary from spacious, well-equipped gymnasia to hospital wards and intensive care units, or to crowded and noisy clinics. Actual settings depend on the type, location and resources of employers. Some physiotherapists visit and treat patients in their homes.

Important skills for physiotherapists are good time management, the ability to build a rapport with patients from a variety of backgrounds and communicate with their relatives and carers, tolerance and patience, good physical health and fitness, interpersonal skills and team-working skills.

Personal Requirements

  • able to get along well with others
  • patient, tactful and creative
  • mature and emotionally stable
  • desire to help others
  • assured, calm and sympathetic manner
  • able to inspire confidence
  • manual dexterity and good body coordination
  • good health and physical stamina

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted.

What to Study

Degree: BSc (Physiotherapy) - UP, US, UKZN, UCT, UFS, UV, UL, Wits. Duration of course is 4 years.

Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Physiotherapy, Podiatry and Biokinetics.


  • provincial hospitals
  • Department of Health
  • rehabilitation centres for the physically handicapped
  • special schools eg. schools for the cerebral palsied
  • mining companies
  • homes for the aged
  • sports and recreation clubs
  • universities
  • private hospitals
  • self-employment, in private practice or in partnership

Further Information

Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
(553) of Hamilton and
Madiba Streets,
Arcadia, Pretoria
Tel: (012) 338-9300

South African Society of Physiotherapy
Unit 4, Parade on Kloof Office Park
No1 The Parade (Off Klood Rd)
Oriel (Bedfordview)
Tel: (011) 615-3170

Getting Started

  • assist your school’s athletic coach
  • volunteer to work in an institution or practice that provides physiotherapy or visit such departments
  • find part-time or holiday work in a hospital or rehabilitation centre or with a physiotherapist ? make appointments to talk to practising physiotherapists and ask to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

Study to become a Physiotherapist at Stellenbosch University

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