Rehab and Physical Therapy

Learn about careers in rehab and physical therapy, as well as educational requirements. Examine job duties, earnings and useful courses for physical therapists and their assistants.

Is Rehab and Physical Therapy For Me?

Career Overview

Rehabilitation (rehab) and physical therapy involve the treatment and prevention of a variety of medical conditions and injuries that prevent or limit movement. As a physical therapist, you may work with patients of all ages, including those who are suffering from sprains and strains, back injuries and arthritis. You might also provide therapeutic services for individuals affected by cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. On an average day, you may guide patients through different therapeutic exercises, perform patient assessments, keep medical records and make recommendations for medical treatments.

Career Options

Physical therapists can work in hospitals, clinics, private practices and home health care agencies. Aspiring physical therapists may also find jobs in facilities that care for the elderly, such as those that provide acute care, nursing or orthopedic services; rural areas might also provide enhanced opportunities for employment.

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physical therapists was projected to increase by 36% nationwide, or much faster than average, from 2012-2022. At 41%, a much-faster-than-average growth in employment was also expected for physical therapy assistants and aides during the same 10-year period. Active baby boomers and patients with chronic conditions will have a positive effect on job growth. As of May 2013, the average annual salary for a physical therapist was $82,180, while physical therapy assistants and aides earned $53,320 and $25,990 respectively (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in Rehab and Physical Therapy?

Educational Requirements

A master's degree is the minimum educational requirement needed to work as a physical therapist; however, in 2015 the standard will change from requiring a master's to requiring a doctorate. Therefore, most educational institutions offer a doctoral degree program and programs are available for master's holders to transition to a doctorate degree. Each state has different regulations for physical therapy practices, though the majority of them require individuals to complete a state examination before they can legally begin working. As a student in a graduate physical therapy program you may study human anatomy, motor control and therapeutic exercise. You'll also pursue coursework in diagnostic imaging, pathology and nutrition.

Undergraduate Preparation

Many schools also offer physical therapy degrees at the undergraduate level. An Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assisting or a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy program may include courses in exercise science, biostatistics, neurophysiology and pharmacology. You'll also study interactions between patients and practitioners, issues in healthcare and the aging process. Similar courses can also be found in an undergraduate pre-physical therapy program.

Depending on the degree program, students may have the opportunity to practice and perfect their skills and therapeutic techniques with actual patients in a clinical setting. In addition to helping you prepare for graduate studies, completion of an undergraduate program may lead to a job as a physical therapy assistant.

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