Steps to Become a Pediatric Physical Therapist: Education & Training

Find out more information about becoming a pediatric physical therapist. Learn about the education needed, job duties, certification, salary and job outlook for this career. These facts can help you determine if it is the right occupation for you. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Pediatric Physical Therapist at First Glance

A pediatric physical therapist (PT) works directly with children and helps their families by teaching and guiding exercises to assist these individuals in reaching their full ability to function independently. This kind of PT focuses on manual therapy, strengthening therapy, and neurodevelopment treatment, along with control and motor learning. To find out more information, have a look at the chart below of a brief overview:

Degree RequiredDoctoral or professional degree
Education Field of StudyPhysical therapy; pediatrics
Job DutiesDiagnose patients; develop treatment plans; assist individuals with movement; perform hands-on therapy
Certification/LicensureLicensure by passing exam administered by FSBPT; examination to become a board-certified specialist with the ABPTS
Median Salary (2017) $86,850* (all physical therapists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 28% Growth* (all physical therapists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Statistics

What Does a Pediatric Physical Therapist Job Entail?

Pediatric PTs focus on treatment for improving gross motor ability, extremity functions, and a child's core stability. Physical therapy can help children reach major milestones for their age, such as crawling, walking, and even sitting.

The common disorders that pediatric PTs deal with include neurological impairments, orthopedic injuries, traumas or surgeries, balance disorders, torticollis, hip disorders, and developmental delays.

Pediatric PTs must address the fact that most children and adolescents don't understand why they are in therapy and will apply family engagement, play, and one-on-one care, to achieve success with their patients.

What Are the Steps to Becoming a Pediatric Physical Therapist?

  • Earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited university and, suggested but not required, taking courses such as biology or chemistry.
  • Apply to a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Most DPT programs are 3 years long; however, there are a few programs that admit first-year college students to attend a 6-7 year program that allows them to gain their bachelor's degree and DPT.
  • Attend one year of a clinical residency, to develop hands-on experience with pediatrics; may complete a fellowship to further this specialization.
  • Take and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination delivered by the Federal State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) for licensing. After gaining experience in the pediatrics specialty, become a board-certified specialist with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

How Much Will I Earn?

According to the BLS in May 2017, the median salary for all types of PTs was $86,850 per year or $41.76 per hour. The highest salaries found were those PTs who were employed in nursing and residential homes or home healthcare services. Most are known to work full-time and maintain a weekly work schedule, while some may opt to work weekends and evenings.

What is the Job Outlook?

Jobs for PTs in general are likely to increase by 28% between 2016 and 2026, says the BLS. This is much faster than the average growth in the United States. Opportunities are expected to be good in all settings, including rural areas, due to a high population of PTs living in cities and suburban locations.

Are There Other Similar Careers?

There is a long line of medical careers that you could choose from, such as becoming a chiropractor who treats nerves, bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. You might also consider training as an audiologist, where you diagnose and treat an individual's ear dilemmas, balance or hearing. Both of these require a doctoral or professional degree and give you the ability to treat individuals struggling with various conditions.

You could also study to become an athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, occupational therapist, or even a physician assistant. These professions require either a bachelor's or master's degree and still offer the opportunity to help patients with a variety of ailments and make a difference in the healthcare field.

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:

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