How to become a sports therapist

August 1, 2023

If you love sport and want to make a career out of it, then become a sports therapist: it’s an excellent way for you to do something you enjoy and make some money out of it at the same time.

Sports therapy isn’t just limited to working for professional teams and athletes: there are plenty of members of the public and amateur competitors who can benefit from treatment, too. This means there’s a huge range of opportunities open to you if you want to turn it into a career, whether you want to become a sports therapist that works for someone, or branch out on your own.

In this guide, we’ll tell you all the basics you need to know on how to become a sports therapist: the types of treatments to provide, the jobs and business models available to you, and how much you can potentially earn.

What will I do if I become a sports therapist?

There are two major variations in sports therapy: the type of work and treatments that you deliver day-to-day, and where you’ll be working from.

Your normal duties could involve any or all of the following (and is by no means an exhaustive list!): examining injuries and diagnosing issues; planning out programmes and timescales for treatment; administering a range of treatments including massage, manipulation, electrotherapy and more; and work out how long it will take someone to regain full fitness.

You should also remember that there will be paperwork to fill in, too: for example, your treatment may well require a client’s medical records to be updated. In any case, you will certainly want to keep your own records on the treatments you have administered, and allow your clients to keep track of their progress.

Most people naturally think of a sports therapist working in a studio or specialist fitness centre, but this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. You might find yourself working in a hospital (either NHS or private), out on a sports field during the game, or as part of the back-up crew at a mass participation event like a marathon. Naturally, this means that if you want to become a sports therapist, you should be prepared to work in all kinds of environments, both indoors and outdoors, and at unsociable hours.

How do I become a sports therapist?

The first thing to say is that you will definitely need some qualifications of a good standard if you want to become a sports therapist. However, there are multiple routes you can take to get the credentials that employers, clients and health bodies will be looking for.

If you decide to take the university route, then look for degrees in Physiotherapy, and make sure that your chosen course is approved by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). There is also the option of taking a postgraduate course if you have an undergraduate degree in something related like Sports Science or Biological Science. Be aware, though, that you may well need a first or upper-second class degree in order to qualify for the postgrad course.

If the university route isn’t available to you, then you can explore getting a degree apprenticeship and gain the skills and qualifications you need on the job, instead. These typically take around four years to complete, but give you the chance to work and gain relevant experience at the same time. Ideally, you’ll need two or three good A Levels to qualify for a physiotherapy apprenticeship, and one of them should be in Biology.

In either of the above cases, don’t neglect the value of volunteering to gain extra experience and improve your suitability for the courses. These can be in any healthcare or personal care role, and it’s also worth looking for work placements in private clinics, local sports teams or even nursing homes.

Another area that you should explore at an early stage is getting all the relevant registrations that you’ll need to provide sports therapy services professionally. Start by registering with the Health and Care Professions Council, and look for further information about the industry with the CSP and with Physios in Sport.

What skills will I need if I become a sports therapist?

Having the right qualifications and treatment skills is only half the story when becoming a sports therapist: you need plenty of positive human attributes, too. Ideally, you’ll have:

Compassion: the people you treat will likely feel upset, frustrated and/or in pain because of their injury, and they’ll be looking to you for emotional support just as much as physical aid. Being able to understand how someone is feeling with sensitivity and patience is therefore critical

  • Team skills: unless and until you branch out with your own sports therapist business, you’ll be working with other therapists and members of healthcare, fitness and administrative staff. You’ll need to build good relationships with all these people in order to build your reputation and grow your career, and be able to share knowledge and motivate others
  • Good hands: the vast majority of the treatments you’ll provide will be delivered by the hands, so you will need a good sense of touch. You should be able to apply your hands strongly enough to massage muscles or to apply effective treatment, but without causing undue pain or distress to the client
  • IT skills: most documentation and paperwork is now digitised, so you’ll need to have a reasonable working knowledge of common computer applications. You may also be required to get to grips with hand-held devices like tablets, especially if you’re working outdoors and remotely
  • Background checks: as you’ll be coming into physical contact with many different people, you will be legally required to pass enhanced background checks before taking up any sports therapist employment

How much can I earn as a sports therapist?

There is no hard and fast answer to how much you can earn, because there are so many different variables involved. However, many of them are variables that you can work on and influence, in order to maximise your earning ability:

Experience: as is the case in any walk of life, you’ll be starting at the bottom and working your way up. If you can prove your ability and build up years of experience, then you should be able to increase your earnings over time

 Qualifications: the more credentials and certifications you have, the greater your credibility in the eyes of companies looking at hiring you. This perhaps can make an even bigger difference if you’re self-employed and trying to attract clients directly

 Specialism: certain skills and areas of work are in high demand, and being able to offer proficiency in those skills can stand you out in competitive job markets. If there’s a particular area you’re interested in, look at focusing on experience and qualifications that can add focus to your CV

 Location: some parts of the UK have higher average salaries than others (although this can be tempered by higher living costs, especially in and around London). However, if you have the ability and flexibility to move further afield, then your chances of finding a job that meets your earning expectations will increase

 Business model: as you gain experience, you may decide to go it alone and set up your own sports therapist business. Theoretically, this means there is no limit on what you can earn, but it comes down to your talent, work ethic, communication skills, and the level of competition in your area

Generally speaking, as an employed sports therapist, you can expect to earn anything between £24,000 and £45,000 a year if you’re working full-time hours. However, if working evenings, weekends and bank holidays, these figures can increase.

Get sports therapist insurance with Protectivity

Every good sports therapist will understand that there can be a number of risks associated with the business. You can suffer an accident or injury, and perhaps even more concerning is if you cause injury to one of your clients. That, along with any damage to property or negligent advice, could lead to them making a claim for compensation against you, the costs of which could easily run into the thousands of pounds.

To cover yourself against these major financial consequences, we recommend taking out the comprehensive sports therapist insurance policy that we offer at Protectivity. Our cover encompasses public liability, professional indemnity up to £5million, and optional equipment cover, too.

Our policies start at just over £3 a month and can be paid for through flexible payment plans, meaning you can get protected without breaking the bank. Take a closer look at our sports therapist insurance policies today.