STARTING YOUR CAREER
You’ve been offered a job and it seems great, you are extremely excited to start your career as a physiotherapist. Before getting ahead of yourself, it is important to be diligent before signing a contract. How does the company want to structure your position – as an employee or an independent contractor?
Usually reserved for larger, more established practices and government positions.
Being hired as an employee is straightforward for most graduates, so we will focus on the independent contractor side of the business, since most positions function this way.
As an independent contractor you have the right to decide where, when and how your work is done. This is extremely important to remember. With the added risk of being self-employed, you gain the flexibility in your schedule and hours.
To check whether the terms of your contract mean indicate that you are an employee or a contractor please visit the ATO calculator here and contact the fair work ombudsman here.
TIP: Before accepting a position and starting your career, it is highly suggested that you shadow another physiotherapist at the clinic during a busy day.
This is good for two reasons:
If you sense an unfriendly atmosphere, an inefficient clinic operation, or a lack of patient traffic, don’t assume it will change once you accept the position. Unfortunately, building a full caseload takes a lot of time and effort, and the location and reputation of the clinic plays a large role in the amount of new patients that walk through the door. Don’t expect to start off extremely busy right away as a new grad until you build your reputation as a clinician. Also, the time of year you start your career will impact how busy you will be. Many physiotherapy clinics have slow periods, such as right after the holidays and during the summer months. Also, there will be many days where a patient will not show up for an appointment or will cancel at the last minute. Remember, as an independent contractor, you only get paid when seeing a patient.
Due to the lack of: benefits, job security, vacation, holiday pay, bonuses, and consistent work hours, independent contractors usually receive a higher percentage of billings. As a new graduate, your pay will likely be structured as a fee for service. This model means you are only getting paid when you see a patient. Typically the fee split is percentage based and can range from 35-50%. New graduates normally receive a lower percentage to start. Percentage will increase with experience, continuing education courses, and negotiation skills.
In general, an independent contractor should charge 20-30% more for their services compared to a full-time employee. Therefore, if you could accept a position in a clinic at $20/hour as an employee, an independent contractor should be payed $26/hour (i.e. 30% more) for that same position to be in the same position financially.
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The world is at your fingertips:
The internet is everywhere these days and this will be the most common avenue to find a position. When you aren’t working, finding a job is your full-time job. This means combing through websites (such as seek, your university bulletin boards, social media, other industry webpages (eg. physiohub). If this doesn’t come up with the job you want googling can be your best friend.
Getting your foot in the door
You’ve made a killer resume and applied to a few positions and actually heard back! The interview process can be stressful, especially when you have to compete with other classmates for the same positions. The larger companies will usually have a more standardized, HR-approach to interviews. It could be a formal, panel, or practical interview, or a combination of each. These companies tend to be hiring employees instead of independent contractors.
Fortunately, smaller and less professional clinics sometimes only do a sit-down interview and may skip the practical portion. They may ask you a couple of PT-related questions to evaluate your clinical reasoning; however it is still in your best interest to be prepared for any practical questions.
The bottom-line is if you are invited to an interview, you likely meet the required skill level. The interview is necessary to see if you can hold a conversation, fit the culture, and be able to generate business for the clinic.