How to Become a Physical Therapist

A physical therapist works with a client to allow them to gain the maximum amount of movement, strength and mobility throughout their lives.

A person normally sees a physical therapist when they are having problems with movement due to aging, illness, injury, or environmental factors.

A physical therapist, sometimes known as a PT, helps people to increase their range movement and strength through a range of physical activities and exercises.

A physical therapist will meet with a client and analyze their medical history.

They will make a diagnosis based on a patient’s history, a physical examination, as well as other methods such as external testing and x-rays.

Based on the diagnosis they will determine a treatment plan.

A treatment plan could include exercise, massage, and strength training amongst other activities.

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Treatment may occur over weeks, months, or even years.

Physical therapy involves more than just rehabilitating clients.

It also focuses on education and prevention, as well as intervention, in situations where damage to the body can be avoided.

Education Requirements to Become a Physical Therapist

To become a physical therapist, you will need a four year bachelor’s degree in physical therapy.

Alternatively, you can complete a bachelor’s degree in another area, then complete a master’s in physical therapy.

You will need a good education base in math, science, and health.

These subjects will form a good part of your coursework in college, as well as anatomy, nutrition, and other knowledge that will complement your occupation.

In all states you need to be licensed to work as a physical therapist.

In most places you will need to take a state set exam, and also participate in continuing education.

You can find out about your state’s specific requirements at the American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA’s, website.

It can be competitive to get your first job in physical therapy, so participating in internships while at college can be very helpful.

You may like to apply to hospitals and rehabilitation centers where you would like to work, as these positions can often lead to a full-time job after graduation.

If you are able to get a part-time job in a nursing home, hospital, or similar, then this will really stand out on your resume also.

Excellent interpersonal skills will be handy in this role, you’ll often have to speak with frustrated patients and family members that are unhappy with their treatment or situation.

Physical Therapist Job Description

When you become a physical therapist, you will work with a wide range of clients.

There are many reasons that people see a physical therapist.

They may have suffered an injury, been in an accident, or be suffering from an illness that jeopardizes movements.

Many elderly people also need the services of a physical therapist.

To start with, a physical therapist will take the client’s medical history, along with the details of their current problems.

They will complete a range of tests themselves to determine the client’s condition.

That may also take x-rays, and administer other tests.

Based on their findings they will develop a treatment plan that could be made up of a range of activities, including regular sessions with the PT, exercise, stretching, and strength building.

Physical therapists also believe in education and prevention.

They will often give clients health advice, or may even visit schools or community centers to share their knowledge.

Here are some of the tasks of a physical therapist:

  • Meet with clients
  • Take a medical history
  • Perform tests on movement and strength
  • Develop a treatment plan
  • Follow up with client

Physical Therapist Salary and Career Path

Physical therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and in private consulting offices.

Many PTs go on to specialize in a particular area, such as neurology or pediatrics.

Gaining a specialty when you become a physical therapist can help you to achieve a higher salary.

The median wage of a physical therapist is $72,000 a year.

The growth in this sector is faster than many other industries due to the aging population.

While there are plenty of employment opportunities, it should be noted that this is a popular career choice so strong competition for open positions should be expected.

Many physical therapists go on to work in other areas of health.

They could include:

  • Recreational Therapist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Psychologist
  • Neuropsychologist

If you’re looking for a career in health that involved working closely with your patients, you might like to become a physical therapist.

There are good opportunities across the country, and a good salary is available for those pursuing this career.

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