Physical Therapist: Become a Physical Therapist in 5 Steps
Are you interested in medicine and medical careers? Would you like to help injured or ill people recover the capacity to function in their daily lives? You might enjoy working as a physical therapist. Schools offering Physical Therapy Assistant degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
What is a Physical Therapist?
As a physical therapist, you help patients recover and maintain maximum body movement and function. Your interventions may improve mobility, relieve pain and promote overall fitness and health for those with physical limitations due to injuries, surgeries or disease. You daily duties may include developing treatment plans and examining medical records, as well as testing and measuring strength, range of motion, coordination, posture, respiration, balance and motor function.
Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree or Complete Courses in a Relevant Field
A physical therapist assistant associate's degree program provides initial academic and clinical training in physical therapy techniques and practices. You can transfer your credits to a bachelor's degree program in health science, which may have a physical therapy concentration. Bachelor's degrees in biology or physical education are also relevant possibilities. If you earn a degree in some other area, you may consider taking courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, social science, mathematics and physics because all are applicable to physical therapy.
Step 2: Intern at a Medical Facility
In addition to a bachelor's degree, many physical therapy master's degree programs require work experience in the medical field for admission. Most physical therapist assistant associate's degree programs include an internship or clinical practicum that meets this requirement. If you're enrolled in a degree program that has no internship or practicum, you may take advantage of volunteer positions or internships offered by hospitals or clinics.
Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree in Physical Therapy
Master's degree programs in physical therapy prepare you to work as a primary care medical professional with the competence to examine and diagnose patients, devise individualized treatment plans and lead patients through a treatment regimen. Medical terminology, patient interaction, skeletal anatomy, neuromuscular processes and therapeutic technology are among the possible course topics. Program content is delivered though a combination of academic courses, labs and clinical practice. A supervising physical therapist will evaluate you during the clinical component of the degree. Look for programs accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association (www.apta.org).
Step 4: Obtain a License
Completing a physical therapy program is an eligibility requirement for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (www.fsbpt.org). As of May 2011, the test consisted of 250 multiple-choice questions, 200 of which counted towards the final score. Areas covered in the exam include the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, metabolic, gastro-intestinal, and integumentary systems. Some states supplement the written exam with a practical exam or other assessments.
Step 5: Earn an Advanced Degree
Although a doctoral degree in physical therapy isn't required to become a physical therapist, the entry-level requirements for this field are headed in that direction. According to the APTA, more students are choosing to graduate with a doctoral degree because of this trend and because more schools are offering doctorates. Doctoral programs may either be oriented towards preparing you to practice physical therapy (Doctor of Physical Therapy) or towards conducting medical research and teaching (Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy).
To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below: