Physical Therapist Vs. Physiotherapist: Learn The Difference

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 February 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Physical therapists and physiotherapists are health care professionals who use different forms of education and training to treat patients. Although both of these roles are similar professions in some ways, the differences between what they do can be significant for patients. Understanding these differences can help you to decide which of these career paths you want to pursue. In this article, we discuss physical therapist vs. physiotherapist key differences and learn how they approach the health and healing of their patients.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Physical Therapist Vs. Physiotherapist

When you consider a physical therapist vs. physiotherapist, the two seem similar, as they both treat their patients' bodily conditions using movements and manual techniques. The primary difference between the roles is that a physical therapist treats the patient with exercise-based treatment while a physiotherapist uses manual techniques, like stretching, to improve mobility. The objectives of both professionals are similar, but they use different methods to achieve them. Usually, patients approach physical therapists for non-threatening injuries and physiotherapists for urgent and postoperative situations.

Here are some fundamental differences between physical therapists and physiotherapists:

Treatment approach

Physical therapists mainly use physical exercises for the treatment of patients. For example, they may advise their patients to run or walk and exercise regularly. Physiotherapists usually focus on techniques based on movements to massage specific body parts and mobilise tissues. It is common for them to recommend stretching muscles and moving joints through manual techniques. Both health care professionals have the same goal of reducing pain, muscle strengthening and improving coordination.

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Work environment

Similar to the difference in approaching a patient, the work environment may also differ for physical therapists and physiotherapists. Physical therapists usually practise and treat patients in a private clinic, in gyms or work with clients personally in sports facilities. They may also work in cardiac rehab centres, nursing homes and schools.

Physiotherapists mostly work in public or private clinics, hospitals, post-surgery facilities and rehabilitation centres. They help in the treatment of hospitalised patients in a hospital or in clinics affiliated with a larger hospital system. Working with patients in hospitals may require the ability to handle stress in a fast-paced environment. Handling heavy machinery and lifting patients who are unable to move on their own can also be a part of their daily responsibilities.

Educational requirements

Both physical therapists and physiotherapists generally require the same educational background. They both require a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as biology, physiotherapy and athletic training. these degrees are general and are useful for many other roles. For a more specialist degree choice, candidates who are certain they want to become a physiotherapist or a physical therapist can pursue any of the following bachelor's degrees:

  • Bachelor of Physio or Physical Therapy (BPT)

  • Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (BOT)

  • BSc. in Physiotherapy

Many candidates then pursue a quality doctorate program or gain certifications to gain and develop their skills. Doing so can help them perform better in their roles and increases their employability. A common option is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. This program takes three years to complete and includes both classroom and lab study. Performing an internship is also a great way to learn the basic duties of physical therapists and physiotherapists. This way, candidates can learn the skills they require for the role while earning a wage and getting work experience.


The licensing procedure for physical therapists and physiotherapists may vary from state to state. The rules and regulations for licensing can also be different for both professionals. Physical therapists can register under the All India Council of Physical Therapy (AICPT) which is a program project by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Physiotherapists can register under the Indian Association of Physiotherapists (IAP) which represents the physiotherapy profession at both national and international levels.

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Physiotherapists and physical therapists share the following skills:

  • Physical stamina: Both health care professionals use their physical strength to assist patients with physical movements, such as sitting, standing or walking. Physical stamina also helps them to treat patients throughout the day.

  • Empathy: Physiotherapists and physical therapists may require empathy to connect with their patients and understand what they want. Empathy also helps them to develop better long-term relationships with the patients.

  • Communication skills: Good communication skills can help both physical therapists and physiotherapists to effectively convey their advice and suggestions to the patients. They also use active listening to understand the problems of patients and explain treatments accordingly.

  • Motivation: Physical therapists and physiotherapists motivate their patients to perform a particular exercise. They encourage them to become physically strong and help them gain self-confidence.

  • Patience: Recovery of patients can require time and effort. Physical therapists and physiotherapists require patience to help patients perform the same stretch or exercise multiple times.


There can also be a difference in the average salaries of physical therapists and physiotherapists. The national average salary of a physical therapist is ₹16,593 per month. In comparison, the national average salary of a physiotherapist is ₹18,110 per month. The type of organisation and job location can influence their salaries. Physical therapists and physiotherapists can increase their salaries by improving their skills and gaining experience.

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What Are The Duties Of A Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists design specific exercises which focus on increasing flexibility and mobility in injured areas of patients. These exercises can help to contract and relax the muscles, increasing the blood flow in target areas and resulting in faster healing. Physical therapists treat patients with specific exercises that help them to get back to being able to perform common movements. They also simplify these exercises so that patients can easily do them in their homes.

For reducing pain and muscle soreness, physical therapists sometimes use hot and cold therapies, including icing or infrared heat. They may also use transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to treat both chronic and acute pain. This technique uses needles to place or insert electrodes near the affected area and send a signal through fibres that block the pain signals.

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What Are The Duties Of A Physiotherapist?

Physiotherapists use different approaches and techniques to restore and maintain the mobility of patients. These techniques can help in reducing stiffness, improving blood circulation around the affected areas and reducing pain. Physiotherapists also massage the soft tissues to stimulate them using stretching and myofascial release technique.

Joint mobilisation and manipulation is a common technique that physiotherapists use to improve the motion, control and proper function of the affected areas. Other techniques which are equally effective and popular are kinesiology, acupuncture and osteopathy. Many physiotherapists use minimal energy techniques (MET) to relax the affected muscles using the muscle's own energy.

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Tips For Choosing The Right Career Option

Both physical therapists and physiotherapists help patients reduce pain and regain mobility. Choosing between these two job roles depends on several factors including the career goals, personal preferences and resources of a candidate. Here are a few tips and advice that can help you identify the profession suitable for you:

Identify your career goals

Find the goals you want to accomplish as a health care professional. For candidates who want to help patients recover from injury and design exercise and treatment plans, physical therapy can be the right career option. If you prefer working with a greater number of patients in a hospital setting, then physiotherapy may be suitable for you. Candidates can also assess their salary goals and select the job role accordingly.

Evaluate the requirements

The requirements to become a physical therapist and physiotherapist differ. You can evaluate the time, skill and effort necessary to apply for these roles. Find how much time and financial investment each career option requires. You can also review the daily responsibilities of each job role and select the more or less challenging one depending on your preference.

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Review advancement opportunities

Learn about the future of each job role and what advancement opportunities they offer. You can also determine the overall cost of getting qualified compared to the earning potential of each role. Find what specific techniques and specialities physical therapists and physiotherapists require to advance in their careers.

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