Roadmap to the Life of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy (PT) is a very competitive and demanding field.  However, many people find the work to be very rewarding, a main reason why the field is growing in popularity at universities across the world. The purpose of this blog post is to describe the background of physical therapists and discuss some of the potential career paths that are popular among physical therapists. The intended audience of this post is both undergraduate and graduate students thinking about a profession in physical therapy.

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Preparing for a career in physical therapy as an undergraduate typically entails majoring in anatomy, physiology or biology.  Although one’s major is not explicitly regulated, in order to gain acceptance into a graduate level physical therapy program, one must have completed many courses in these disciplines.  PT programs teach students the fundamental methods and tools needed to become a professional. More information about the requirements for different physical therapy programs can be found here. It is not uncommon for graduate students to cycle through many different internships, all in unique environments (as described in my previous blog post) in order to gain a deeper understanding of the field.

In the United States, physical therapy is strictly regulated. All those that complete a graduate program are required to be licensed. Each state has a unique licensing process, although there is a national examination that must be taken. After one receives their physical therapy license, they are still required to fulfill continuing education curricula, mandated by the state in which they practice. Information about the nature of this continuing education can be found by clicking this link.

It is very common for a physical therapist to land their first full time employment at a location in which they spent time as an intern.  Depending on personal preference and backgrounds, a PT will then choose in which segment of physical therapy they want to establish as their career. For example, a student who enjoys the business aspects of physical therapy my start their own private practice. This combines the fields of science and business. This is an example out-patient physical therapy, which is typically seen as the most lucrative career option. About 46% of all physical therapists work in an out-patient facility. Other similar statistics can be found on this website. Others may prefer to work at a hospital, where many feel their work is more rewarding.

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Due to the incredible amount of schooling to become a physical therapist, many students choose to be a physical therapist assistant (PTA). Physical therapists assistants work under the direct supervision of a physical therapist. The advantage of becoming a PTA is the reduced schooling and certification requirements. The continuing education program is less rigorous and there is overall less responsibility. However, as one may guess, the salaries are typically about half of that of a physical therapist.

The goal of this blog was to provide insight to prospective physical therapists on the road of becoming a physical therapist and some of the different career choices for physical therapists.

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Roadmap to the Life of Physical Therapy

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