Steps to Become A Physical Therapist

Career prospects for Physical Therapists in the United States are quite bright for the next decade or so. From 2018 to 2028, jobs in this sector are expected to grow by about 22% which is a lot faster than the expected average increase in jobs for all occupations.

If you want to join this lucrative field, this piece outlines what you need to do to get there. Before going into the details, however, let’s talk about what the role of a physical therapist entails.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Physical therapists provide care to patients who have been afflicted by any physical disability, illness or injury. They undertake a more holistic approach to help patients on their road to recovery. Physical therapists work in clinics, hospitals and assisted-living facilities.

Patients of all ages seek physical therapy treatment depending on their ailment. Common patient groups include professional athletes recovering from sports-related injuries, children and young adults dealing with chronic conditions, and older individuals trying to maintain their mobility.

Physical therapists help individual patients by devising a customized care plan for them based on their unique needs. To that end, different treatment methods include massage, strength training, wellness education, dry needling (acupuncture), etc.    

Steps to Become a Physical Therapist in the US

If you want to become a physical therapist in the United States, you must take the route explained below.

Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Aspiring physical therapists must first complete their Bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, physiology, anatomy, biology, or any other related field of healthcare. Some schools provide a pre-physical therapy major with courses like exercise physiology, biology principles and physical education methods, etc.

Many educational institutions also offer a combined undergraduate/doctoral degree program that enables students to earn both a Bachelor’s and a Doctoral degree in physical therapy. Undergraduate programs in physical therapy also require students to gain volunteer experience by working under the guidance of licensed professionals at a hospital or clinic. This experience also helps in getting admission to a high-quality graduate program later on.    

Step 2: Go for Higher Education in the Field

After you have obtained your undergraduate degree and completed volunteer work, it is time to enroll into a graduate physical therapy program. You must pick a degree program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Doing so will make you well-qualified in the field and you will be eligible to take the state-licensing test. You can choose between a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. The latter is the preferred option for most aspiring physical therapists.

Step 3: Get Licensed

All states in America require physical therapists to be licensed. Most of them have adopted the National Physical Therapy Examination (devised by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy) as their standard evaluation to grant licenses to physical therapists. Some states have their own individual licensing requirements as well.

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Earn in the US?

Physical therapists in the United States earned $88,880 in annual mean wage in 2018. The median income for the same year was $87,930. California was the top-paying state for physical therapists with an annual mean salary for the occupation being $97,110.

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