More than half of this year's physiotherapy graduates are still seeking an NHS job six months after graduating, figures show.
There are many vacancies for senior staff
A Chartered Society of Physiotherapy poll of 1,523 of this year's graduates found 805 had not secured their first physiotherapy post.
More than 90% of respondents said they had sought work in physiotherapy.
The government wants to increase NHS physiotherapists from 15,600 to 24,800 between 2000 and 2009 - a rise of 59%.
England: 691 respondents unemployed (53%)
Northern Ireland 28 (72%)
Scotland 74 (64%)
Wales 12 (18%)
Training each physiotherapist costs £28,580.
Phil Gray, CSP chief executive, said: "After months of competing with hundreds of others for just a handful of junior posts, many graduates have had to put their physiotherapy aspirations on the backburner.
"We know of first-class graduates who are working in Tesco, Topshop and TSB just to make ends meet.
"One's joined the circus, while others are working in factories to raise money for Christmas."
Mr Gray denied that too many physiotherapists had been trained.
Instead, he said the agencies responsible for workforce planning had not made sufficient provision for the growing number of qualified professionals.
A planned expansion of the workforce was agreed by the government to help meet increasing patient demand and achieve the 18-week target on waiting times.
However, Mr Gray said too much emphasis on creating senior jobs had led to a huge shortage of junior posts being available.
Although there is a chronic shortage of junior physiotherapy posts, the CSP has discovered that there are currently 1,500 vacant senior posts across the UK.
Mr Gray said: "It's shocking that a large pool of newly qualified physiotherapists are unable to get on the first rung of the career ladder, yet there are vacancies at senior level.
"They desperately want to work for the NHS and spent years training at huge cost to the taxpayer."
The CSP is calling on all UK authorities to redress the balance urgently - as has successfully been achieved by the Welsh Assembly.
Mr Gray said: "Junior physiotherapists undertake a high volume of routine work and without their contribution, patient care will suffer and waiting lists will extend.
"With Christmas approaching and a new batch of students graduating in the New Year, we face the very real possibility of losing physiotherapy talent and over £23m worth of public money to other industries. That would be an utter scandal."
Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman said: "Once again the government have failed to plan ahead.
"With taxpayers spending large sums on training, and physiotherapists committing years of their lives, the least we can expect is that they will have a decent chance of a job at the end of it all."
Andrew Lansley, for the Tories, said: "It costs £20m to train 800 physiotherapists.
"This money will be wasted if training places for them are not made available."
Health Minister Lord Warner admitted some physiotherapists were having difficulty securing their first job.
But he said the government had developed an action plan to tackle the issue.
"A clearing house for physiotherapy job vacancies will come on-line in early December.
"All graduates will be encouraged to register and all trusts to advertise their vacancies to ensure that where there are posts they are filled swiftly.
"There is no question of wasting taxpayers' money because we recognise physiotherapy graduates are a valuable resource for NHS patients."