Professionals in movement therapies and sciences seek to optimize physical strength and movement in the human body, regardless of the abilities or disabilities of the people they help. If you have the physical and emotional stamina to provide mental and emotional support to people confronting the challenges and limitations of their physical capabilities, then a career in this field may be for you. Read further to learn about the myriad career options available.
Kinesiology, the study of physical movement, is associated with sports, fitness and health, as well as physical rehabilitation. Each form of therapy uses different techniques and a program of rehabilitation depends on the extent of the patient's injury. Regardless of the career you choose, you will find that the employment in physical rehabilitation is expected to grow much faster than most occupations, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), particularly in positions that work with the elderly (www.bls.org). Salary for these occupations range from about $20,000 to $80,000 annually according to BLS reports, with level of education being a significant factor for the upper pay rate.
Your choice of a career in movement therapies and sciences may depend on your personality. For an energetic, enthusiastic person, the study of kinesiology could lead to a career as an athletic trainer, a physical education teacher or any of the rehabilitative specialties discussed here. If you have a more compassionate nature, then consider becoming a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant. You would be concerned with guiding patients through exercises that recover muscle mass, nerve function and overall physical ability. Rehabilitation may include the use of assistive devices and adaptive equipment, such as crutches or a wheelchair. As an exercise physiologist you would assist patients rebuild health through exercise appropriate to their physical condition, such as a weak heart or lungs afflicted by emphysema.
If you are sensitive and patient, consider a career as an occupational therapist, occupational therapist assistant or recreational therapist, who deal with patients adapting to long-term or permanent disabilities. As an occupational therapist, you would teach patients how to compensate for lost physical abilities so that they can live and work as independently as possible. Your responsibilities would include assisting them in becoming proficient in daily activities, such as bathing, dressing and cooking. As a recreational therapist you would use pleasurable activities to help patients recover motor skills and emotional well-being, including arts and crafts projects or dance. Physical adaptation may include, for instance, throwing a ball with a strong left hand when the right hand no longer functions normally.
Professionals in movement therapies and sciences must have college training. A Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology can lead to many more careers than mentioned here. Programs of study may be listed under such titles as sports and exercise science, physical education or health and human performance. Choosing the right college for you may require some research, but most courses of study may provide appropriate education to become a rehabilitation therapist. To become a physical education teacher in a high school, you would be required to hold a bachelor's degree and become certified to teach in your state. To enter the competitive field of athletic training in a college or university setting, you would need to obtain a graduate degree and to become certified by the Board of Certification, Inc. A master's degree in kinesiology and a Ph.D. in kinesiology are available if you choose a career requiring advanced education.
You could become a physical therapist assistant with an associate's degree. If you want to become a full therapist, then you would be required to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy, then continue on to graduate school for a master's degree. A Ph.D. in physical therapy would enhance your employment opportunities. As either a physical therapist or assistant therapist, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. Also, most states require licensure to practice or certification to practice. If you decide to become an exercise physiologist, you can work with a bachelor's degree in exercise science or exercise physiology. However to work in a hospital you may want to obtain a master's degree. The American Society of Exercise Physiologists offers certification for professionals with a bachelor's degree and the American College of Sports Medicine offers one for those with a master's degree.
To be an occupational therapist assistant you may hold an associate's degree. As an occupational therapist you would be required to obtain both a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy and then continue to a master's program. To practice as an occupational therapist, you must pass the national qualifying exam given by the National Board for Certifying Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) and become licensed by your state's health board. Certification is voluntary as a full therapist, however, an assistant must be certified through the NBCOT. Recreational therapists are required to have a bachelor's degree and must obtain certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification to work in a clinical setting.