Subject focus: Physiotherapy in Australia and New Zealand

 Curtin UniversityStudy Options’ monthly course spotlights are designed to give you more detail on the range of programmes available at Australian and New Zealand universities within a subject area.  The third feature in our series covers physiotherapy and we've chosen to profile a few key programmes, below.

The study of physiotherapy at university is a professional programme that leads to a qualification which will enable you to work as a physiotherapist.  Australian and New Zealand universities have a very strong reputation for physiotherapy, and you will find both undergraduate and graduate-entry programmes available. 

If you qualify as a physiotherapist with either of these types of degree from an Australian or New Zealand university, you can work professionally in the UK, by registering with the Health and Care Professions Council.

Professional development masters programmes in this field are also available and are a popular choice for UK-qualified physiotherapists. There are a wide range of specialisms available at Australian and New Zealand universities - sports physiotherapy, musculoskeletal physiotherapy, manipulative physiotherapy, neuro-rehabilitation or cardiothoracics – as well as many others.  If this is the type of course that you are looking for, please contact Study Options to get a comprehensive list.

Health Sciences (Professional)

Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) at AUT University, Auckland

AUT offers one of the largest physiotherapy programmes in the Southern Hemisphere, and the only one in the North Island of New Zealand. AUT's physiotherapy degree develops physiotherapists who are recognised throughout the world for their knowledge and leadership in health care. Graduates from AUT are at the forefront of a profession that maintains and improves people’s health and wellbeing.

Physiotherapists help people improve their quality of life by working with them to overcome physical problems affecting their movement and function. This includes circumstances where movement and function are threatened by ageing, injury, diseases, disorders, conditions or environmental factors.

A lot of people come into physiotherapy training thinking that it's all about sports injuries. That's because most people learn about physiotherapy after they've had an injury of their own. As well as direct patient care, physiotherapy also covers public health strategies, advocating for patients and health, teaching and research and developing and implementing health policy. The profession is regulated by the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand and is a highly respected profession.

Over the course of the four-year physiotherapy degree you learn to apply the skills of assessment, diagnosis and treatment to almost any problem with the physical body, and will leave with a better idea of where you want to practise.

Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy) Quick facts:

Duration: 4 years full-time


Venue: AUT North Shore Campus, Auckland

Start date: Semester 1 (March)

Application deadline: AUT encourages applications to be lodged by November 1st the year before you wish to start the course. There are limited places available for this qualification.

Admission and entry requirements: In additional to academic requirements, students must be capable of meeting Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act (HPCA Act) requirements and must also have a suitable police clearance.

Selection criteria: Preference will be given to applicants with the highest rank scores and/or accomplishments in the relevant field. An interview may be required as part of the assessment procedure, though not necessarily in person.

Structure

Below is a summary only. For a comprehensive overview of this qualification, please contact Study Options for a link to further information about this programme.

Year 1

You do eight papers in Year 1, including four common core health science papers. In the second semester of your physiotherapy degree you explore fundamental approaches to assessment and therapeutic touch. You will also develop your understanding of some of the core theoretical dimensions of practice and physiotherapy's emerging role in primary health care.

Year 2

You will be introduced to the management of abnormal function and physiotherapy assessment, including clinical reasoning principles, evidence-based practice and a range of physiotherapeutic techniques. The focus of Year 2 is on developing an understanding of the rehabilitation of disorders of movement and function, exercise-based rehabilitation and clinical science reasoning. You will also be provided with a one-week observation of practice opportunity.

Year 3

You will be introduced to a wider range of complex acute and community health issues in Year 3 of your AUT physiotherapy degree. This requires more detailed assessment, clearer clinical decision-making skills and more advanced treatment strategies, together with an understanding of reflective, professional and ethical practice. You will also be provided with a two-week student assistantship.

Year 4 (includes clinical practice)

The majority of the year is spent in a clinical centre, completing approximately 1,000 hours of supervised physiotherapy practice experience required for registration, as well as a Research Project paper that is normally completed in pairs.

Career opportunities

In New Zealand, about 60% of physiotherapists work privately treating acute sport and accidental injuries, chronic pain, back and neck problems. Many other physiotherapists work in the public health system, and you will find a physiotherapist working on most hospital wards and in many general practices.

Physiotherapists specialise in some of these areas:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cardiothoracic illness (like asthma, chronic lung disease and heart failure)
  • Hand therapy
  • Health promotion and primary health care
  • Manual therapy (including acute and chronic pain, injury, back and neck problems)
  • Mental health
  • Neurology (for conditions like spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson's Disease, multiple sclerosis)
  • Occupational health (including ergonomics)
  • Older adults
  • Paediatric (including developmental, orthopaedic, neurological and respiratory problems)
  • Research
  • Sports (injury management, exercise prescription, prevention and promotion)
  • Teaching
  • Women's health

Master of Physiotherapy (Graduate Entry) at Curtin University, Perth

Curtin University is one of the largest and most comprehensive health schools in Australia and South-East Asia, educating more health professionals than any other tertiary institution in Western Australia. The Curtin School of Physiotherapy is one of the oldest learning centres in the Division of Health Sciences with more than 60 years of teaching experience.

The Master of Physiotherapy is a 2.5 year graduate entry master course. A series of coursework units will provide you with foundation knowledge in a range of specialist and practical areas. You will complete case studies and clinical practice which will help you integrate your knowledge into well-informed clinical decision making. Your studies will emphasise evidence based practice and encourage you to think critically when making decisions.

Clinical practice is a significant component of this course. During your placement you will detail a variety of case histories and evaluate each as a reflective practitioner. Participation is obligatory in laboratory classes which require appropriate disrobing when acting as clients in the peer group, and physically manipulating patients including lifting and supporting people with disabilities.

You may be able to complete your degree in a shorter amount of time. At Curtin we grant credit for units within your course, based on your previous study or work experience. It's called credit for recognised learning (CRL).  CRL is awarded to all types of students, for all types of study or work experience, including:

  • TAFE (vocational) qualifications
  • Degrees from tertiary institutions
  • Units/subjects at a tertiary institution
  • Relevant work experience

Professional recognition

This course is accredited by the Australian Physiotherapy Council. Graduates are eligible for registration in any state or territory of Australia. Registration in New Zealand is available under the terms of the Trans-Tasman agreement. Graduates applying for licensure in the United States of America, United Kingdom or Canada will be required to provide details of their programme of studies to the relevant bodies and sit a licensing examination.

Entry requirements

Applicants to this course must have completed a bachelor degree in a relevant subject. Their undergraduate degree should have included the completion of units in musculoskeletal anatomy, human biology or physiology and psychology. Desirable units include physics, research methods or evidence based practice and statistics. Students are also required to have a current Senior First Aid Certificate or equivalent and a swimming qualification (Bronze medal, Aquatic Rescue Award, as per Royal Lifesaving Awards or equivalent) as well as a criminal record screening and clearance before entering the course. Prospective applicants are advised that the programme requires full participation in laboratory classes where manual skills, including the ability to lift and support severely disabled patients independently, and topics such as surface anatomy, are presented.

Clinical placements

Curtin programmes offer fieldwork or clinical placement opportunities. Benefits include:

  • Practical experience
  • Sample of life in the chosen field/industry
  • Networking opportunities
  • Workplace confidence & practice among real world customers and colleagues.

Summary

Intake: January each year

Application deadline: August 31st

Duration: 2.5 years

Tuition fees: AU$40,950

Units are structured in a set schedule and students must pass all units in a study period before proceeding to the next study period units. Classes are held during semesters and other study periods.