Are you passionate about sports and exercise? Do you have an interest in science? Most importantly, would you enjoy a career helping others? If so, studies in rehab and physical therapy may be right for you. Read on to learn more about this fast-growing career field, including what type of educational training you'll need to find work.
Rehabilitation (rehab) and physical therapy involve the treatment and prevention of a variety of medical conditions and injuries that prevent or limit movement. As a physical therapist, you may work with patients of all ages, caring for injuries such as sprains and strains, back injuries, arthritis, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. On an average day, you may guide patients through different therapeutic exercises, perform patient assessments, keep medical records, make recommendations for medical treatments and evaluate progress after different physical therapy activities. Physical therapists can work in hospitals, clinics, private practices and home health care agencies.
If you're interested in working in rehab and physical therapy, now may be excellent time to pursue training in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for physical therapists is projected to see a 30% growth over the 2008-2018 decade, while their aides should expect to see a 35% growth, both of which are much faster than the average growth of all other occupations. The aging baby boomer generation, which is expected to need increased medical care in the coming years, is expected to contribute to this growth. Aspiring physical therapists should see the best job opportunities in facilities that care for the elderly such as hospitals and nursing homes, as well as in rural areas where there is less competition for jobs. The BLS also reported that in May 2010 the average physical therapist earned an average annual salary of $77,990 while their assistants made an average salary of $49,810.
A master's degree is the minimum requirement to work as a physical therapist. Each state has different regulations for physical therapy practices, though the majority of them require individuals to complete a state examination before they can legally begin working. As a student in a physical therapy master's degree program or doctoral program, you may take courses such as motor control, nutrition, diagnostic imaging, human anatomy, pathology and therapeutic exercise.
Many schools also offer physical therapy degrees at the undergraduate level. An Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assisting or a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy or a pre-physical therapy undergraduate program may include courses in exercise science, biostatistics, neurophysiology, pharmacology, studies in the interaction between patient and practitioner, issues in healthcare and the aging process. Depending on the degree program, students may also have the opportunity to practice and perfect their skills and therapy techniques with actual patients in a clinical setting. Degrees at the undergraduate level can be beneficial for those wishing to pursue to a graduate degree in physical therapy in order to become a physical therapist or for those who want to work as a physical therapy assistant.