To become a licensed physical therapist (PT) you must graduate from one of the accredited physical therapist professional education programs located in colleges and universities throughout the United States. To enter entry-level master's degree programs, in most cases you must have a baccalaureate degree in another area and have completed the required prerequisite courses; however, some programs offer a baccalaureate degree in physical therapy. Admission is competitive. Courses include human anatomy, neuroscience and medical kinesiology as well as the theory and practice of physical therapy; students must also complete clinical experience in clinical facilities.
To become a physical therapist assistant (PTA) you must complete an accredited two-year associate degree program. Most of these programs are located in junior/community or technical colleges.
All 50 states have physical therapist licensure requirements. Upon completion of an accredited education program, you are eligible to apply for a license in the state(s) where you wish to practice. All states require a national licensure examination, but the passing score and other requirements vary from state to state. Some states require that the physical therapist assistant be licensed also.
Physical therapists are key members of medical teams, evaluating and treating persons who through accident, illness or birth defect are injured or disabled. Physical therapists treat a wide variety of patients including: orthopedic, pediatric, geriatric, and neuralgic. Types of treatment include therapeutic exercise, massage, manipulations, and the application of heat, cold, electrotherapy, and ultrasound. Physical therapists also plan, administer, and evaluate rehabilitation services and provide consultative, preventative, educational, and research services. Physical therapist assistants provide physical therapy services under the supervision of physical therapists.
According to the Labor Statistics employment opportunities for qualified physical therapists are excellent. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for physical therapists will rise by over 87 percent by the year 2000. Physical therapists practice in school settings, private practices, sports rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, and industry, as well as in the more traditional acute care settings such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Career opportunities are also available in administration, research and teaching.
Starting salaries for physical therapists range, on average, from $38,000 to $39,000 per year, depending on the location of employment and type of practice. Many employers offer additional benefits, such as paying for licensure fees, professional association dues and continuing education expenses.
Additional Information Source
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
1111 North Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314