If you feel called to serve others in an allied healthcare profession that promotes healing, recovery, and function, a career as a physical therapist may be ideal for you. However, understanding the journey required to enter this complex and rewarding field is essential. With proper dedication and preparation, unveiling the steps to become a physical therapist can lead you to incredible opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives.
The Required Degree
If you want to become a physical therapist, you must pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. This specialized doctorate needs to be completed through an accredited physical therapy program, which usually takes 3 years after finishing a bachelor’s degree. Prerequisite courses like biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and physics are typically required before entering a DPT program. Maintaining a competitive GPA and getting healthcare experience are also crucial for admission to a competitive program.
A Competitive Field
Getting into a DPT program is competitive, so having proper healthcare experience is important. Volunteering or working part-time in a physical therapy clinic or hospital can provide valuable exposure to the field. This will also help strengthen your application. Shadowing a licensed PT is another way to gain insight into the daily responsibilities and duties of the job.
The Coursework Once enrolled in an accredited DPT program, students complete intensive academic coursework and clinical training. Subject areas include musculoskeletal anatomy, biomechanics, neuroscience, pharmacology, movement analysis, pathology, and more. Supervised rotations and internships in healthcare settings like outpatient clinics and hospitals comprise a significant portion of the curriculum as well. These activities provide invaluable hands-on experience in delivering physical therapy interventions and evaluating patients.
Obtaining a License
After graduating from an accredited physical therapy program with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, the next requirement is to get licensed in your state. Licensing involves passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), as well as meeting any additional state requirements. The NPTE comprehensively tests your knowledge and clinical skills needed to practice as an entry-level physical therapist. Make sure to adequately prepare through study courses and practice exams. Some states may require a jurisprudence exam as well.
The Duties of a Physical Therapist
Working as a PT involves providing services like pain relief, injury rehabilitation, and prevention of chronic conditions. A typical day may include evaluating patients, developing treatment plans, and performing interventions like exercises, hands-on massage, electrical stimulation, and assisting with equipment. PTs work closely with patients to help improve mobility and function.
Salary Expectations and Job Growth
Physical therapists earn a good salary helping patients recover from injuries and illnesses. Median pay for physical therapists was $97,720 a year in 2022. Those working in hospitals made around $101,440 annually. Physical therapists employed in the offices of other health practitioners had a median salary of $86,610. Experience level and geographic location impact average salaries, however. With an aging population, demand and salaries are projected to increase over the next decade.
An exciting career awaits those who succeed in becoming licensed physical therapists. You’ll be able to provide services like pain management, injury rehabilitation, and prevention of chronic conditions. Typical duties involve thoroughly evaluating patients, developing customized treatment plans, and performing skilled interventions to improve mobility and function. It’s a stable, rewarding career path with immense opportunities for purposeful work, continual learning, and excellent job prospects now and into the future.