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How to Become a Physical Therapist

Updated on September 16, 2015

How to Become a Physical Therapist

Want to know how to become a physical therapist? Physical therapists help patients that have mobility issues that have resulted from accidental incidents, such as a car collision. Physical therapists also help patients who have suffered mobility troubles that have derived from certain diseases or conditions. If you are interested in a career in physical therapy, then you will need to attend a college, university or trade school that offers Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) approved training. The outlook for gaining employment after proper training for a physical therapist is fast growing and you can expect to make between $50,000 to $90,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average income for this career is about $73,000 per year.

Trivia: Did you know that over 50 percent of physical therapists work in hospitals and practitioner offices? The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that around 60 percent do so while the remaining 40 percent work in nursing homes and other alternative work settings.

How to Become a Physical Therapist by Preparing in High School

If you are in high school and want to become a physical therapist then you will need to be proficient in mathematics and sciences. Work closely with a guidance counselor at your school and take courses such as biology and anatomy, if offered. Taking classes in chemistry and receiving good grades is also ideal for showing a college that you will be able to handle the course load.

Maintain a high grade point through out your high school years and join organizations that are related to your career field. Apply for scholarships that are offered through your school district when you are senior to help offset the future costs of college.

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Physical Therapy Pre- Baccalaureate – Find the Best School for You

Locate the proper entry level schools for physical therapy in your area or other states that you wish to seek out for proper training. Visit your guidance counselor and discuss in state and out of state schooling options for your future career. Keep in mind that out of school tuition is higher than if you stay in your own state. You also will not receive any financial state grants from a different state – because you are not a permanent resident outside of your residing state. You will only be eligible for the Pell grant – a Federal grant. Ensure that you work closely with your guidance counselor when you choose a college or university. 

Pre-Physical Therapist Education - Going to School to Get an Undergraduate Degree

When you are accepted to an accredited program at a college or university, you will be assigned to an advisor. Your advisor will work closely with you each semester to make certain that you take the proper classes. Keep in mind that if you have difficulty with your studies in school that you should consult with your advisor who may be able to find you a tutor. Your advisor will help place you into classes that deal with the human anatomy, biology, chemistry and other science related fields to prepare you for a post-Baccalaureate degree in your field. You must maintain good grades during college to get your degree. Stay away from parties, bars and other distractions that may interfere with your studies. Avoid missing a lot of classes. If you get behind with your studies then you may have to leave school due to bad grades and will not be able to accepted into a Physical Therapy program.

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After Getting Your Degree - Physical Therapy Graduate School & Doctorate Education

The American Physical Therapy Association advocates that schooling after obtaining a bachelor’s degree is necessary because it prepares students to meet the very high expectations of this type of industry. Decide if you want to expand your education with a master’s degree or go further and obtain a doctorate degree. Visit the American Physical Therapy Association at Apta.org to find a list of accredited schools near you for entry level Physical Therapy programs. Keep in mind that most individuals seek out a doctorate degree. In fact, the National Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are more programs that give doctorate degrees, as opposed to master’s degrees in Physical Therapy. You will increase your chances of landing a better job if you obtain a doctorate in Physical Therapy. Expect to take roughly about three to four years to complete your doctorate degree and around two years for a master’s degree in Physical Therapy.

Residency – How to Become a Physical Therapist in Special Fields

While in your post baccalaureate program, you will complete a residency, much like traditional doctors do. Here you will choose an area of emphasis in Physical Therapy for your career. You can choose between different specialty areas – however, there are six to eight main areas that are common through out programs. Here are six well known areas: Cardiopulmonary, Geriatric, Neurological, Orthopaedic, Pediatric, and Integumentary. Discuss each area with a clinical advisor to choose what is best for your career. Expect that your residency will take about a year in time for completion.

Take Your Board Exam to Receive Certification in Physical Therapy – Getting a Job

After completing the necessary schooling and clinical training, you will be tested on your knowledge of your career field to become licensed to practice in Physical Therapy. Your school will help guide you to set up the proper testing so that you receive passing scores for state and national requirements. After you pass your examinations, you can visit Apta.org and click on Job Bank at the top to search for jobs, or ask your school to help find you with job placement.

References for "How to Become a Physical Therapist;" 

Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Physical Therapists"

American Physical Therapy Association: Apta.org


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