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Pursuing Physical Therapy Career

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Physical therapy is a rapidly growing field that is attracting more and more professionals every year. As the world becomes more health-conscious, people are looking for ways to stay active and healthy, and physical therapy is a crucial part of that process.

With a projected growth rate of 22% over the next decade, physical therapy is one of the fastest-growing occupations in healthcare. If you’re considering a career in healthcare or looking to make a career change, here are a few reasons why physical therapy might be the perfect fit.

From a high demand for services to a competitive salary and flexible work schedule, physical therapy offers a diverse array of benefits that make it an attractive career option. So why not explore the possibilities of this booming career field?

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a healthcare discipline that primarily focuses on promoting, restoring, and maintaining physical function and mobility in individuals with injuries, disabilities, or medical conditions.

Physical therapists, also known as PTs, work closely with patients to alleviate pain, improve movement, restore strength, and enhance overall quality of life. They employ various techniques such as therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and assistive devices to assist patients in their recovery and rehabilitation process.

The Importance of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy has a vital role in the healthcare industry by providing comprehensive and personalized care to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It helps patients regain mobility, reduce pain, and improve their overall physical well-being.

Physical therapists not only treat injuries resulting from accidents or sports activities but also assist those with chronic conditions such as arthritis, stroke, or neurological disorders.

By customizing treatment plans to suit each patient’s specific needs, physical therapists help individuals regain independence and enhance their ability to perform daily activities. Through patient education and preventive strategies, physical therapists also empower people to prevent injuries, maintain optimal health, and lead active lifestyles.

Educational Requirements for Physical Therapists

To become a licensed physical therapist, one must complete the necessary educational requirements. The typical path involves the following steps:

Bachelor’s Degree

Start by earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as biology, kinesiology, or exercise science. While specific majors are not always required, coursework in anatomy, physiology, and biology can provide a solid foundation for future studies.

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, aspiring physical therapists must enroll in a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. These programs usually take three years to complete and provide students with in-depth knowledge and practical skills necessary for the profession.

It’s essential to ensure that the DPT program you select is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Clinical Rotations

DPT programs include clinical rotations, where students gain hands-on experience under the supervision of licensed physical therapists. These rotations allow students to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios and develop essential clinical skills.

Licensure Examination

After graduating from a DPT program, graduates must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) to obtain their license. This examination assesses their competence in various areas of physical therapy practice. The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and is required in all states.

It’s important to note that specific educational requirements may vary slightly depending on the country or state you intend to practice. Researching and complying with the regulations and licensing requirements of your desired location is advisable.

Job Prospects and Career Opportunities

The demand for physical therapists is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. As the population continues to age and people strive to lead active lifestyles, the need for rehabilitation services will continue to rise. Physical therapists can find employment in a variety of settings, including:

Hospitals and Rehabilitation Centers: Many physical therapists work in hospitals and rehabilitation centers, collaborating with physicians and various healthcare professionals like physiatrists to deliver comprehensive care to patients recovering from surgeries, injuries, or medical conditions.

Private Practices: Some physical therapists establish their own private practices, where they can provide specialized services to a wide range of patients. This option offers greater autonomy and the opportunity to build a personalized client base.

Sports and Fitness Facilities: Physical therapists passionate about sports can work with athletes and sports teams, providing injury prevention, performance enhancement, and rehabilitation services.

Home Healthcare: With the growing emphasis on home-based care, physical therapists also find opportunities to provide personalized treatment to patients in the comfort of their homes.

Sub-Specialties in Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a diverse and expanding field that offers numerous sub-specialties for professionals to specialize in. These sub-specialties allow physical therapists to develop expertise in specific areas and provide targeted care to patients with unique needs.

Source: University of Augustine for Health Sciences

Here are some of the prominent sub-specialties in physical therapy:

  • Orthopedic Physical Therapy: Orthopedic physical therapists specialize in the assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, such as fractures, joint replacements, sprains, and strains. They focus on restoring mobility, reducing pain, and improving overall function.
  • Sports Physical Therapy: Sports physical therapists work with athletes across all skill levels, from amateurs to professionals. They provide specialized care for sports-related injuries, develop injury prevention programs, and assist in enhancing performance through tailored rehabilitation and training protocols.
  • Pediatric Physical Therapy: Pediatric physical therapists work with infants, children, and adolescents with developmental, neurological, or orthopedic conditions. They address issues related to gross motor skills, coordination, balance, and mobility to help children reach their full potential.
  • Geriatric Physical Therapy: Geriatric physical therapists focus on addressing the specific needs of older adults. They help manage age-related conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and mobility limitations. The goal is to improve functional independence and enhance quality of life.
  • Neurological Physical Therapy: Neurological physical therapists specialize in treating individuals with neurological conditions, including stroke, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries. They focus on improving movement, balance, coordination, and functional abilities.
  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Physical therapists specializing in cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation work with individuals recovering from heart or lung surgeries, cardiac events, or respiratory conditions. They provide exercise programs, breathing techniques, and education to improve cardiovascular fitness and pulmonary function.
  • Women’s Health Physical Therapy: Women’s health physical therapists address issues specific to women, including pregnancy-related musculoskeletal pain, pelvic floor dysfunction, urinary incontinence, and post-surgical rehabilitation for breast cancer. They provide personalized treatment to optimize women’s health and well-being.
  • Hand Therapy: Hand therapists specialize in treating conditions affecting the hand, wrist, and upper extremities. They assist patients in regaining hand function, managing pain, and recovering from hand injuries or surgeries through customized interventions and hand-specific rehabilitation techniques.
  • Oncology Rehabilitation: Oncology physical therapists work with individuals undergoing or recovering from cancer treatments. They address physical impairments, manage treatment-related side effects, and help patients regain strength, mobility, and functional independence during and after cancer therapy.
  • Aquatic Therapy: Aquatic therapists utilize water-based exercises and treatments to assist individuals with various conditions. The buoyancy and resistance of water provide a low-impact environment for rehabilitation, benefiting those with joint pain, post-surgical recovery, or mobility limitations.

These sub-specialties highlight the diverse range of opportunities within physical therapy. Physical therapists can choose to specialize in one or more areas based on their interests, passion, and career goals. By focusing on a particular sub-specialty, therapists can provide targeted and specialized care to individuals within their chosen field, contributing to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction.

It is important to note that pursuing sub-specialties often involves additional education, certifications, and clinical experience beyond the basic physical therapy degree. Physical therapists can enhance their knowledge and skills in their chosen sub-specialty through continuing education courses, advanced certifications, and mentorship programs offered by professional organizations and specialized institutes.

Steps to Pursue a Career in Physical Therapy

If a career in physical therapy resonates with you, here are the key steps you can follow to embark on this rewarding path:

Research and Shadowing: Begin by researching the field of physical therapy to gain a comprehensive understanding of its scope, requirements, and challenges. Consider contacting practicing physical therapists to request shadowing opportunities, which will provide firsthand insights into the profession.

Choose the Right Educational Path: Select a bachelor’s degree program that aligns with your interests and lays the foundation for a DPT program. Ensure that the appropriate governing body accredits the DPT program you choose.

Gain Clinical Experience: Throughout your educational journey, seek opportunities to gain clinical experience. Volunteering or working as a physical therapy aide or assistant can offer valuable exposure to the field and enhance your application for a DPT program.

Apply to DPT Programs: Once you’ve met the prerequisite requirements, submit applications to accredited DPT programs of your choice. Pay attention to their admission criteria and ensure that you meet all the necessary prerequisites.

Complete DPT Program and Licensure: Successfully complete your DPT program, including the required clinical rotations. After graduation, pass the NPTE to obtain your physical therapy license.

Continuing Education and Specialization: Physical therapists can pursue post-professional education and specialization in areas such as sports therapy, pediatric care, geriatric care, or orthopedics. This allows for career advancement and the ability to cater to specific patient populations.

Job Security and High Earning Potential

Physical therapy is a stable and secure career field that offers high earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists had a median annual salary of $89,440 in May 2019. The top 10 percent earned over $124,740, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $62,120. Physical therapists working in outpatient care centers, home healthcare services, and nursing care facilities earn more than those working in hospitals or schools.

Physical therapy is also a recession-proof career field, as the demand for services is not affected by economic downturns. As long as people require healthcare services, physical therapists will be in demand. Additionally, physical therapy is a rewarding career that enables professionals to make a positive impact on people’s lives, which can provide a sense of job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Flexibility in Work Settings and Schedules

Physical therapy offers a range of work settings and schedules, making it a flexible career path for professionals. Physical therapists can work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practices, schools, sports teams, and nursing care facilities. Depending on their preferences and lifestyle, they can also choose to work full-time, part-time, or per-diem.

This flexibility allows physical therapists to achieve a better work-life balance and pursue other interests outside of work. For example, a physical therapist who enjoys traveling can choose to work on a per-diem basis, allowing them to take time off whenever they want. Additionally, physical therapists who work in schools or sports teams may have summers or off-seasons, allowing them to take extended breaks or pursue other activities.

Advancements in Technology and Treatment Techniques

Advances in technology and treatment techniques are transforming the field of physical therapy, making it an exciting and dynamic career path. New technologies, such as virtual reality and robotics, are revolutionizing the way physical therapy services are delivered, making them more efficient and effective.

For example, virtual reality can be used to simulate real-life scenarios and help patients overcome their fears and anxieties, while robotics can be used to provide precise and targeted exercises to patients.

Physical therapists can also benefit from continuing education and training opportunities, which allow them to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the field. This ongoing learning can help physical therapists provide better care to their patients and enhance their job skills and knowledge.

Physical Therapy Resident Salary

In the United States, the annual pay for a Physical Therapist Resident is estimated to be around $65,049, with an average salary of approximately $62,979 annually. These figures represent the median, which is the middle point between the lowest and highest salary ranges based on data from our proprietary Total Pay Estimate model and user-reported salaries.

It is important to note that an estimated additional pay of $2,069 per year is also included. This additional pay may encompass various forms, such as cash bonuses, commissions, tips, and profit sharing.

Source:  Glassdoor

Determine the estimated total pay for a Physical Therapist Resident across various companies and industries through https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/physical-therapist-resident-salary-SRCH_KO0,27.htm.

The Future Ahead

The job prospects for physical therapists are generally favorable. With an aging population and a growing emphasis on healthcare, there is a growing demand for physical therapy services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a faster-than-average job growth rate of 18% for physical therapists from 2020 to 2030.

Additionally, advances in medical technology and treatment techniques are increasing the survival rates of individuals with traumatic injuries or illnesses, leading to a higher demand for physical therapy services.

Physical therapy is also becoming more accessible to people in different settings, such as schools, sports teams, and outpatient clinics. This increased accessibility is due to recognizing the importance of early intervention and rehabilitation in the recovery process. With the growing demand for physical therapy services, there is also a need for more qualified professionals to meet the needs of patients.

In Summary

A career in physical therapy offers an incredibly fulfilling and dynamic path for individuals passionate about healthcare and human movement. Through their expertise, physical therapists make a significant difference in the lives of their patients, helping them overcome physical challenges and achieve optimal well-being.

By following the necessary educational path and gaining practical experience, you can join the ranks of dedicated professionals who are shaping the future of rehabilitation and healthcare. Embrace the rewarding journey of becoming a physical therapist and unlock a world of opportunities to positively impact the lives of others.


Q: What is physical therapy?

A: Physical therapy is a healthcare profession that focuses on helping individuals improve their mobility, manage pain, and restore or enhance their physical function. It encompasses assessing, diagnosing, and treating various musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, and cardiopulmonary conditions.

Q: How long does it take to become a physical therapist?

A: It typically takes around 7 years to become a physical therapist. This includes completing a bachelor’s degree (4 years) in a related field, followed by a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program (3 years). However, the exact duration may vary depending on the educational pathway and any additional requirements.

Q: What skills are needed to be a successful physical therapist?

A: Successful physical therapists possess many skills, including strong communication and interpersonal skills, empathy, problem-solving abilities, manual dexterity, physical stamina, and a solid understanding of human anatomy and physiology. They should also be able to analyze and interpret patient data, develop treatment plans, and stay updated with advancements in the field.

Q: What does a typical day in the life of a physical therapist look like?

A: A typical day for a physical therapist involves evaluating patients, creating individualized treatment plans, implementing therapeutic exercises and techniques, documenting patient progress, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, and providing education and guidance to patients and their families. They may work in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, or even as part of a sports team.

Q: Are there any specialized areas within physical therapy?

A: Yes, physical therapy offers various specialized areas, such as pediatric physical therapy, orthopedic physical therapy, geriatric physical therapy, neurologic physical therapy, cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation, sports physical therapy, and more. These specializations allow physical therapists to focus on specific patient populations or conditions.

Q: How does physical therapy differ from occupational therapy?

A: While both physical therapy and occupational therapy aim to improve a person’s functional abilities and quality of life, they differ in their approaches. Physical therapy primarily focuses on improving mobility, strength, and physical function, while occupational therapy focuses on helping individuals perform everyday activities, such as self-care tasks, work, and leisure activities.

Q: What are the benefits of pursuing a career in physical therapy?

A: Pursuing a career in physical therapy can be rewarding. It offers opportunities to positively impact people’s lives, work with diverse patient populations, engage in continuous learning and professional growth, enjoy job security and favorable job prospects, and contribute to the healthcare field.








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