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

  • George Mason University

    George Mason University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at George Mason University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • American University

    American University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at American University:

    • Master
    • Certificates

    Online Programs Available

  • Johns Hopkins University

    Johns Hopkins University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Johns Hopkins University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Colorado State University Global

    Colorado State University Global responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Colorado State University Global:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Widener University

    Widener University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Widener University:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Penn Foster Career School

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

    Popular programs at Penn Foster Career School:

    Online Programs Available

  • University of Saint Mary

    University of Saint Mary responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at University of Saint Mary:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

  • Steiner Education Group

    Steiner Education Group responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Steiner Education Group:

    • Certificates

    Campus Locations:

    • Maryland: Linthicum
  • Saint Joseph's University

    Saint Joseph's University responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Saint Joseph's University:

    Online Programs Available

  • Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

    Saint Mary's University of Minnesota responds quickly to information requests through this website.

    Popular programs at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota:

    • Master

    Online Programs Available

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