How Do I Become A Physical Therapist?

Physical TherapistIf you enjoy working with people and would like to play a role in helping patients feel better while lessening their pain, you may find a career as a physical therapist (PT) very rewarding and the perfect fit. This article gives you the information you need about physical therapists and what it takes to become one.

What Training Is Required To Become A Physical Therapist?

To become a physical therapist, you must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, which takes about three years to complete. When choosing a physical therapy school, it’s important to choose one that’s accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Most DPT programs require students to apply through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service.

To be accepted into a DPT program, you’re generally required to already have a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also be required to complete specific prerequisite courses, such as chemistry, anatomy, physiology, physics and biology, prior to enrollment. As a physical therapy student, you’ll complete various medical courses and a supervised internship to gain hands-on training in different areas of physical therapy. Once you’ve successfully completed the program, you can apply for a clinical residency to gain more experience. Residencies can usually be completed in one year. Clinical residencies are especially beneficial if you’re interested in becoming a physical therapist specialist.

What About Licensure/Certification?

All the states require that physical therapists obtain licensure. Although licensing requirements may differ from state to state, most required physical therapist pass a licensing examination through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Some states require that physical therapists pass both a law exam and a criminal background check.

Once you’ve gained some work experience as a physical therapist, you may choose to obtain certification in specialized areas of physical therapy through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. The specialized areas include women’s health, pediatrics, geriatrics, cardiovascular and pulmonary, sports, clinical electrophysiology, neurology and orthopedics. Certification is valid for 10 years. Physical therapists who are certified in specialized areas must meet recertification requirements to maintain each individual certification.

Is Continuing Education Required?

Continuing education credits are not required to maintain certification. To obtain recertification, the physical therapist can take a written examination or complete a credential residency program. To satisfy the requirements of the residency program the physical therapist must have a current license and a designated number of patient care hours.

Related Resource: Ultrasound Technician

What Is The Career Outlook For Physical Therapists?

Physical therapists can expect to see an employment growth of up to 36% between 2012 and 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of May 2013, physical therapists earned a mean annual wage of $82,180. Physical therapists work in hospitals, clinics, outpatient clinics and various medical settings. The best job prospects for physical therapists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are in rural areas and at skilled-nursing facilities, acute-care hospitals and orthopedic facilities.

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education indicates that there are 218 accredited physical therapy schools, so it’s only a matter of finding one that meets your needs if you would like a career as a physical therapist. As a physical therapist, you can experience the satisfaction of helping others while working in a field that’s highly in demand.