Physiotherapists work to maintain and promote people's health. They help restore function and independence when people have a disability or problem caused by physical, brain and nervous system disorders.
Physiotherapists with up to six years experience usually earn
$47K-$68K per year
Physiotherapists with more than six years experience usually earn
$68K-$99K per year
Source: Auckland Region District Health Boards/PSA Meca, 2017
Pay for physiotherapists varies depending on experience, type of work and employer.
Pay for physiotherapists at district health boards:
- Graduate physiotherapists start on about $47,000 a year.
- Physiotherapists with one to six years' experience can earn between $47,000 and $68,000.
- Physiotherapists with more than six year's experience can earn $68,000 to $99,000.
Salaries in private clinics vary depending on employment contract and hours worked.
Source: Auckland Region District Health Boards/PSA Meca, 2017
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Physiotherapists may do some or all of the following:
- assess and diagnose patients' injuries or functional problems and decide on treatment
- use a range of treatments to reduce pain and improve movement
- plan exercises for patients to improve their strength and fitness
- keep records of patients' progress
- educate people on how to prevent further injury
- help rehabilitate people who have suffered from strokes or accidents
- educate caregivers and family about the patient's physiotherapy programme.
Skills and knowledge
Physiotherapists need to have:
- knowledge of physiotherapy methods and equipment
- a detailed knowledge of the biomedical sciences, including anatomy, physiology and pathology
- an understanding of movement, injuries and disabilities, and the aging process
- skill in performing mobilisation, exercise, movement retraining, manipulation and massage techniques
- general knowledge of any medical conditions that may affect the treatment given.
- may work weekends and be on call
- work at various locations, such as private and public practices, hospitals, with sports teams, rehabilitation centres, community centres, and in patients' homes.
What's the job really like?
A family member’s recuperation opened Nadia’s eyes to physiotherapy
“My cousin’s traumatic brain injury put him in intensive care. I saw him go through rehab and pretty much get back to normal.
“It opened my eyes to what physios did. I saw them working on his lungs in intensive care, and trying to get him moving when he was getting better. Then they had him in the gym doing all sorts of things and I thought, ‘I’d like to do that!’ ”
Exploring career specialities in physiotherapy
“Working as a new graduate in a hospital, we have 12 ‘rotations’ [placements] – from intensive care and wards to outpatients and visiting people at home.
“We work in teams with nurses and doctors who are more senior – but you’ve got a senior physio you work under, and they give you a lot of guidance.
“I have done a bit of medic work for sports clubs, volunteering. To do sports physio, you often have to do that [volunteer] to start with. It would be cool to be part of a sports team – but there’s something about helping people who can’t walk as well.
"I get a sense of achievement helping people get back to things that are meaningful for them.”
To become a physiotherapist you need a Bachelor's degree in Physiotherapy.
Physiotherapist degrees are available from:
- Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) from Auckland University of Technology (AUT)
- Bachelor of Physiotherapy from University of Otago
- Bachelor of Physiotherapy from Wintec.
All courses take four years and consist of a first year studying common health science and three years studying physiotherapy.
- Auckland University of Technology website - information about the Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy)
- University of Otago website - information about the Bachelor of Physiotherapy
- Wintec website - information about the Bachelor of Physiotherapy
The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.
NCEA Level 3 is required to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include physical education, health, biology, chemistry and physics.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To specialise in a particular area of physiotherapy you need to complete:
- a portfolio assessment
- a practical clinical assessment
- a panel review with The New Zealand Physiotherapy Board.
Physiotherapists need to be:
- supportive and positive
- able to gain people's trust and work with a team
- good listeners and communicators
- understanding of diverse cultures
- good at planning and organising.
When you come out of uni you realise there is so, so much more to learn once you are in the workforce. You are a better professional if you are willing to learn and do courses.
Useful experience for physiotherapists includes:
- work as a nurse aide or physiotherapy assistant
- occupational health nursing
- counselling experience
- other work in the health sector.
Physiotherapists need to be reasonably fit and healthy.
Physiotherapists need to be registered with the New Zealand Physiotherapy Board and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
Find out more about training
- Physiotherapy New Zealand
- (04) 801 6500 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.physiotherapy.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Physiotherapists are in demand to treat a growing and ageing population.
Physiotherapists appear on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled physiotherapists from overseas to work in New Zealand.
According to the Census, 4,482 physiotherapists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Physiotherapists work in public and private health organisations
Physiotherapists usually work for:
- district health boards at hospitals or in the community
- private physiotherapy clinics
- private hospitals and doctors' surgeries.
About a third of physiotherapists are self-employed and work in private practice.
- Ashby-Coventry, E, 'Shortage of Physios in Timaru Not a Unique Problem', 27 March 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Clayton, R, 'ACC Paid Out $163 Million on Alternative Therapies and Physiotherapy in 2015', 29 April 2016, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- Gisborne Herald, 'Hospital Physio Shortage Forces Short-Term Change', 12 April 2016, (www.gisborneherald.co.nz).
- Health Workforce New Zealand, ‘Health of the Health Workforce 2015’, February 2016, (www.moh.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long Term Skill Shortage List', 19 February 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand, 'Workforce Supply Projections, 2014-2035: The Physiotherapy Workforce’, August 2014, (www.physioboard.org.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupation Outlook 2017', 2017, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Physiotherapists can move into teaching and research roles, progress into management positions, or set up their own clinics.
Physiotherapists may specialise in a specific area of physiotherapy, such as:
Continence and Women's Health
Last updated 24 February 2020