How Do I Become a Physical Therapist?

The common requirements to become a physical therapist are a college degree in physical therapy and state licensure. Physical therapists need a strong understanding of health, anatomy, and nutrition, along with good interpersonal skills. They need strength and stamina because the job is physically demanding. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Requirements

Physical therapists help patients to develop, restore, and maintain movement and physical function. They work with people who are temporarily or permanently disabled as a result of disease, injury, or age. Most physical therapists hold a master's degree or doctorate in physical therapy, and they are licensed by the state. Physical therapists can find work in a number of health organizations, including:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Physicians' offices
  • Physical therapy centers

Physical therapists can also maintain a private practice with their own patients. Some may do this in addition to working part-time at another facility.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Median Salary (2014)$82,390
Job Outlook (2012-2022)36%
Similar OccupationsOccupational therapist, physical therapist assistant and aide, recreational therapist
TrainingClinical internship required for licensure

Education

In previous years, a bachelor's degree was commonly required to become a physical therapist. However, in recent times, most physical therapist degree programs have shifted to the graduate level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov), there were 218 accredited physical therapist degree programs in the United States as of 2013. Of these, all offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

A physical therapy doctoral degree program typically lasts three years. Most programs feature practicum courses in which the student works under a professional physical therapist at a local clinic or hospital. Classroom courses cover a broad range of human health subjects, including:

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Neuroscience
  • Diagnostics

Licensure

All U.S. states require physical therapists to be licensed before they can practice. After completing a degree program, applicants can contact their local licensing authority to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Each state maintains its own rules for eligibility to sit for the exam. A list of contacts for licensing authorities in all 50 states can be found at the website for the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (www.fsbpt.org).

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools

  • Regent University

    Regent University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Regent University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • College of Health Care Professions

    College of Health Care Professions responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at College of Health Care Professions:

    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • Texas: Dallas, Fort Worth
  • South University

    South University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at South University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Capella University

    Capella University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Capella University:

    • Doctoral
    • Master
    • Bachelor Degrees

    Online Programs Available

  • Southern New Hampshire University

    Southern New Hampshire University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Southern New Hampshire University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Cortiva Institute

    Cortiva Institute responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Cortiva Institute:

    • Certificates

    Campus-Based Programs Available:

    View All Locations
    • Arizona: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson
    • Colorado: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster
    • Connecticut: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport
    • Florida: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach
    • Illinois: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet
    • Maryland: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum
    • New Jersey: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum, Hoboken, Wall Township
    • Nevada: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum, Hoboken, Wall Township, Las Vegas
    • Pennsylvania: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum, Hoboken, Wall Township, Las Vegas, King of Prussia, York
    • Texas: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum, Hoboken, Wall Township, Las Vegas, King of Prussia, York, Arlington, Richardson
    • Utah: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum, Hoboken, Wall Township, Las Vegas, King of Prussia, York, Arlington, Richardson, Orem, Salt Lake City
    • Washington: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Tucson, Aurora, Westminster, Groton, Newington, Westport, Maitland, Miami, Pinellas Park, Pompano Beach, Chicago, Crystal Lake, Joliet, Linthicum, Hoboken, Wall Township, Las Vegas, King of Prussia, York, Arlington, Richardson, Orem, Salt Lake City, Federal Way, Seattle
  • CDI College

    CDI College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at CDI College:

    Campus Locations:

    • Anywhere: Anjou, Burnaby, Edmonton, Laval, Longueuil, Montreal, Point Claire, Richmond, Surrey, Winnipeg
  • Fortis College

    Fortis College responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Fortis College:

    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • Maryland: Towson
  • Penn Foster High School

    Penn Foster High School responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Penn Foster High School:

    Online Programs Available

  • Duke University

    Campus Locations:

    • North Carolina: Durham
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