Become a Physical Therapist: Step-by-Step Guide

by Admin

Become a Physical Therapist: Step-by-Step Guide

Are you interested in pursuing a rewarding career in healthcare? If so, becoming a physical therapist may be just what you're looking for. In this section, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a physical therapist and explore the many exciting career opportunities available to you in the field of physical therapy.

how to become a physical therapist

Key Takeaways:

  • Physical therapy is a rewarding career in healthcare.
  • Steps to become a physical therapist involve education, licensing, and certification.
  • Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings and specialize in various areas of practice.
  • A doctoral degree is required to become a licensed physical therapist.

Education Requirements for Physical Therapists

Physical therapy is a rewarding career that requires extensive education and training to become a licensed practitioner. Aspiring physical therapists must complete a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program from an accredited physical therapy program in the United States. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is responsible for accrediting programs that meet the standards necessary to prepare graduates for entry into the profession.

Completing an accredited DPT program typically takes three years. Students in these programs typically take courses in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, neuroscience, prosthetics, pharmacology, and other relevant subjects. Additionally, students work in clinical settings to gain hands-on experience treating patients under the supervision of licensed physical therapists.

While a bachelor's degree is not required to enter a DPT program, it is highly recommended. Many DPT programs require or prefer that applicants have a bachelor's degree in a subject related to physical therapy, such as exercise science, kinesiology, or biology.

Attending an accredited physical therapy program is crucial for prospective physical therapists as it ensures that the education they receive is of high quality and meets the standards set forth by the profession.

Steps to Become a Licensed Physical Therapist

Step Description
Step 1 Complete a bachelor's degree in a field related to physical therapy
Step 2 Complete a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program from an accredited physical therapy program
Step 3 Complete clinical experience requirements through an accredited program
Step 4 Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
Step 5 Complete any additional state-specific requirements for licensure

Completing the steps necessary to become a licensed physical therapist requires significant dedication and hard work, but it can lead to a fulfilling career helping patients improve their physical abilities and overall wellbeing.

Licensing and Certification for Physical Therapists

In order to practice legally, physical therapists must obtain both licensure and certification. Licensure is granted by individual states and demonstrates that a physical therapist has met the requirements to provide patient care. Certification is a voluntary process that demonstrates an additional level of expertise and specialization within the field.

The requirements for licensure and certification vary by state, but typically include completion of an accredited physical therapy program, passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), and fulfilling any additional state-specific requirements. It is important to regularly check with your state's licensing board for any updates or changes to the requirements.

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Beyond the initial requirements, physical therapists may also pursue further certification in specialized areas such as orthopedics, sports, or geriatrics. These certifications require additional coursework and exams, but can lead to increased job opportunities and higher salaries.

"Obtaining proper licensure and certification is crucial for any physical therapist looking to establish a successful career in the field."

Job Outlook and Salary Potential in Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a rewarding career path with a positive job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 18% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. This projected growth is due to the aging baby boomer population and increased access to healthcare coverage.

In terms of salary potential, the median annual wage for physical therapists in the United States was $91,010 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $63,860, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $128,090. The highest paying industries for physical therapists were home healthcare services and nursing care facilities.

Experience and specialization can also impact salary potential in physical therapy. Those with advanced certifications or experience in specialty areas such as sports medicine or pediatric care may have higher earning potential. It is important to note that salaries may also vary by geographic location.

Projected Job Growth for Physical Therapy Professionals

Occupation Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Percent Change, 2019-2029 Numeric Change, 2019-2029 Median Annual Wage, May 2020
Physical Therapists 247,700 292,100 18% 44,400 $91,010
Occupational Therapy Assistants 47,400 62,000 31% 14,600 $62,940
Occupational Therapists 143,700 175,100 22% 31,400 $86,280
"The demand for physical therapy services is increasing as a result of population aging and growth, the prevalence of chronic diseases and disorders, and an increased recognition of the benefits of physical therapy services."

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you are considering a career in physical therapy, the positive job outlook and competitive salary potential make it a great choice. Continue reading to learn more about the education requirements, licensing and certification process, and the role of physical therapists.

Understanding the Role of a Physical Therapist

A physical therapist is a healthcare professional who specializes in helping patients recover from injuries or illnesses. They work with patients to develop customized treatment plans aimed at improving their mobility, reducing pain, and restoring their overall health and wellness.

Physical therapists can work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and sports facilities. They can also treat a wide range of patients, from athletes recovering from sports injuries to elderly patients dealing with chronic pain or mobility issues.

Some of the common responsibilities of a physical therapist include:

  • Evaluating patients to determine their physical abilities and limitations
  • Developing treatment plans based on the patient's individual needs and medical history
  • Implementing treatment plans using various techniques, such as exercise, massage, and other forms of physical therapy
  • Monitoring the patient's progress and adjusting the treatment plan as needed
  • Educating patients and their families about their condition and the importance of adhering to their treatment plan

Types of Patients Treated by Physical Therapists

Physical therapists work with patients of all ages and backgrounds, treating a wide range of conditions and illnesses. Some of the common types of patients treated by physical therapists include:

Type of Patient Condition or Illness
Athletes Sports injuries, such as sprains, strains, and fractures
Elderly Patients Arthritis, osteoporosis, and other mobility issues
Individuals with Neurological Conditions Stroke, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease
Individuals with Chronic Pain Back pain, neck pain, and other musculoskeletal conditions

Physical therapists play a crucial role in helping patients recover from injuries and illnesses, improving their overall quality of life and well-being.

what does a physical therapist do

Duration of Education for Physical Therapists

The path to becoming a physical therapist typically involves several years of education and training. Prospective physical therapists need to complete both undergraduate and graduate coursework along with additional training. The total amount of time required to become a physical therapist can vary depending on the program and other factors.

Most physical therapy programs require a bachelor's degree before admission. This typically takes four years to complete, although some programs offer an accelerated program that takes three years. After completing a bachelor's degree, students typically move on to a graduate program in physical therapy, which takes an additional two to three years to complete.

After graduating from a physical therapy program, prospective physical therapists need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) to become licensed. This exam can take a few months to prepare for and take. Additionally, some states require additional exams or training before granting licensure.

Summary Table for Education Requirements for Physical Therapists

Level of Education Duration Requirements
Bachelor's Degree 4 years Prerequisite for Physical Therapy Program
Graduate Program in Physical Therapy 2-3 years Required for Licensure and Certification
National Physical Therapy Exam Varies Required for Licensure

While the education and training requirements to become a physical therapist may seem daunting, the field offers a rewarding career helping patients recover from injuries and improve their quality of life. By successfully completing the necessary coursework and exams, prospective physical therapists can achieve their career goals and make a positive impact on the lives of others.

Advancement and Specialization in Physical Therapy

If you're looking for a career with opportunities for growth and specialization, physical therapy is an excellent choice. As you gain experience in the field, you may choose to pursue additional training and certifications to expand your skills and enhance your career prospects.

One way to advance your career as a physical therapist is to pursue an advanced certification. These certifications usually require additional coursework and examinations beyond the basic requirements for licensure. Some examples of advanced certifications include:

  • Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS): This certification focuses on the treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders.
  • Neurologic Clinical Specialist (NCS): This certification focuses on the treatment of individuals with neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.
  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Clinical Specialist (CCS): This certification focuses on the treatment of individuals with heart and lung conditions.

Another way to specialize your career in physical therapy is to pursue additional training in a particular area of interest. For example, you may choose to specialize in pediatric physical therapy, sports therapy, or geriatric therapy. Specializing your career can make you more valuable to employers and can increase your earning potential.

Physical therapy is a dynamic and rewarding career that offers many opportunities for growth and specialization. Whether you choose to pursue an advanced certification or specialize in a particular area of interest, there are many paths to career advancement in the field of physical therapy.

pt career advancement

Is a Doctorate Degree Required to Become a Physical Therapist?

Many people believe that a doctorate degree is necessary to become a physical therapist. However, this is not entirely true. While a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is now the standard for the profession, it is not the only option available.

In fact, there are other degrees that can qualify you to become a licensed physical therapist, such as a master's or bachelor's degree in physical therapy or a related field. However, it's important to note that these degrees may become obsolete in the future as the DPT degree becomes more widely accepted and expected.

If you are considering becoming a physical therapist, it's important to research the requirements in your state and specific field of interest to determine the necessary degree for licensure. However, obtaining a DPT degree can provide many benefits, including increased job opportunities and potential for higher salaries.

Regardless of the degree you choose, becoming a physical therapist requires dedication, education, and experience. With the right qualifications and a willingness to help others, a career in physical therapy can be both rewarding and fulfilling.

Conclusion

As we've explored in this article, becoming a physical therapist requires dedication and hard work, but it can be a highly rewarding career path. By following the step-by-step guide we've provided, you can ensure that you meet all of the necessary education, licensing, and certification requirements to work in this field.

With a growing demand for physical therapists, there are plenty of opportunities for career advancement and specialization. Whether you work in a hospital, private practice, or another healthcare setting, you will have the chance to make a real difference in the lives of your patients.

So if you're interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy, we encourage you to explore all of the options available to you and to take the necessary steps to make your dream become a reality.

FAQ

How to become a physical therapist?

To become a physical therapist, you need to follow these steps: 1. Earn a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as biology or exercise science. 2. Complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). 3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) to become licensed. 4. Consider obtaining a specialty certification to enhance your skills and career prospects.

What are the education requirements for physical therapists?

To become a physical therapist, you need to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. These programs typically take about three years to complete and include both classroom instruction and clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience.

How do I get licensed and certified as a physical therapist?

After completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) to obtain a license to practice as a physical therapist. Additionally, you may choose to pursue specialty certifications offered by organizations such as the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

What is the job outlook for physical therapists and what is the salary potential?

The job outlook for physical therapists is excellent, with a projected growth rate of 18% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. As of May 2020, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $91,010. However, salaries can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and specialization.

What does a physical therapist do?

Physical therapists help patients manage pain, recover from injuries, and improve their overall physical mobility and function. They assess patients, develop treatment plans, and use various techniques such as exercise, massage, and manual therapy to help patients regain strength and mobility.

How long does it take to become a physical therapist?

It typically takes about seven years to become a physical therapist. This includes four years to earn a bachelor's degree, three years to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, and passing the licensing exam.

Are there opportunities for advancement and specialization in physical therapy?

Yes, there are opportunities for career advancement and specialization in physical therapy. Physical therapists can pursue advanced certifications in areas such as orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, or sports physical therapy. They can also seek higher-level positions or become clinical instructors or researchers.

Is a doctoral degree required to become a physical therapist?

Yes, a doctoral degree is required to become a physical therapist. The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree is the entry-level degree for the profession. However, it is important to note that a DPT is not the same as a medical doctor (MD) or doctor of philosophy (PhD).