Physical Therapy Requirements
How do I become a physical therapist? Find out what it takes to become a PT, from education to licensing requirements to credentials evaluation in each state.
Physical Therapy Requirements
Physical therapy is a rewarding career path chosen by those that want to help people recover from disabling accidents, immobilizing pain and other issues that impact patients’ quality of life. The physical therapy field is forcasted to grow much faster than other fields from now through the year 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Entering the Physical Therapy Field
The first, most essential requirement for people wishing to enter this field is a strong desire to make a contribution as a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant. The path to these challenging careers requires time, effort, money and the passion to pursue your dream. Once you make up your mind to pursue it, many resources, including our site, exist to help you on your way.
Another essential ingredient in the pursuit of a career in physical therapy is a certain personality type. Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are engaged in the business of helping others heal. Compassion, sincerity, and strong people skills are a must in this field. Physical therapists and their assistants must be able to communicate well regarding a patient’s condition and treatment plans. Additionally, physical therapy jobs require moderate amounts of exertion, and staying in good physical shape could become a necessary component of your job and career. Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants need to have the strength to help patients work through certain types of treatment that could involve lifting or stabilizing the patient. Frequent motions throughout the course of the workday involve a great amount of bending, kneeling, stooping, and standing.
When considering a career in physical therapy, potential students must ask them selves how much time they want to dedicate to school. This could mean full-time versus part-time, but it also means the number of years of full-time-equivalent schooling you are willing to pursue. Physical therapy assistants need a minimum of two years’ education from an accredited physical therapy program. The student must obtain an associate-level degree, although some choose to complete two more years of education for a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. Those choosing to become a physical therapist will need to obtain a post-baccalaureate level of education. Some continue on to obtain a master’s degree, while others choose to pursue a doctorate-level degree.
Paying for your education is another important consideration. Each school has its own financial assistance programs, with staff that can help you estimate the costs of your education, as well as how to pay for it with funds from a combination of sources, such as private and federally-funded loans and grant programs.
Earning prospects vary between physical therapists and physical therapy assistants. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects the physical therapy field’s growth will continue to outpace that of all other career fields for the next several years. The physical therapy field is expected to see about 30 percent growth each year in new jobs, through the year 2018. Physical therapists, based on surveys completed in May of 2010, can expect wages to range from $53,260 to $107,920. Wages depend on a job’s geographic location and the type of employer a person chooses. Home health care, with a mean wage of $86,590 per year, employs the highest number of physical therapists.
Physical therapy assistants are as much, if not in more, in demand than physical therapists, and stand to earn wages ranging from $14.94 to $33.09 per hour. Almost 30 percent of physical therapy assistants have part-time hours, and most find employment working in the office of another health practitioner. Physical therapy assistants working in home health care receive the highest compensation, with an average of $59,520 annually.
What Subjects are in the School Curriculum?
The physical therapy field has a strong foundation in science and students will find this reflected in the required classes for their degree programs. Students wishing to prepare themselves before entering a physical therapy program will benefit from taking courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, statistics and anatomy. Physical therapy program courses will include physiology, neuroscience, biomechanics, exercise physiology, pharmacology, cellular histology and courses in behavioral sciences such as clinical reasoning. Clinical courses cover medical screening, diagnostic processes, practice management and outcomes assessment.
Getting Ready to Practice
Once students complete their educational requirements, they must cooperate with state and national regulations pertaining to physical therapy practice. This involves passing the National Physical Therapy Examination and meeting state requirements and possible state-level exams and license requirements. Some states also require continuing education classes to maintain licensure.
Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants can choose to develop their career through workshops and educational courses. Some choose a clinical specialty and obtain board certification, while others move into research or academia. Many physical therapists open private practices or provide their services on a contract basis.
Making the choice to invest your valuable time and effort into a physical therapy program is a big decision. Only you know what situation works best for you, and we have all the information you need, here on our website, to help make your decision easier. Look up information here on your targeted schools, different educational programs, degrees and specialties, along with more in-depth information about current salaries and jobs in the physical therapy field.