Are you exploring career options? Are you in high-school and wondering what would you be doing in life 5 or 6 years from now? On the other hand, maybe you have already decided what you want as a career and you’re curious about what does it take to become a Physical Therapist.
Regardless, this post is going to answer all your questions starting from “What is a Physical Therapist?” to “How can I thoroughly figure out each step into becoming one?”
Sit tight and follow my words for a while. A Physical Therapist is an expert who helps to optimize the quality of life of patients who have suffered from a stroke, injuries or physical dysfunctions. They help them learn techniques; teach them different exercises that help them become as independent as humanly possible.
What Physical Therapy degrees are available?
After high schools, you have options to select path towards the physical therapist, some schools offering combined programs (Accelerated), so in that case, you required at-least 6 years to get the doctor of physical therapy degree. On the other hand 7 year’s minimum requirement to become PT. After DPT degree 80% student wants to get into the field 20% move towards specializing certification in pediatric, Geriatric, neurological, and others.
- Associate’s Degree Programs
- Bachelor’s Degree Programs
- Doctor of Physical Therapist
- Certifications & other specialized courses
The Education Pathway towards Becoming a Physical Therapist
Step by step guidance of becoming a physical therapist. From High schooling to DPT degree, what you need to understand (Tuition Fee), Admission requirements, Licensing and accreditation issues.
Admission Requirements for MPT/DPT:
As explained above, admission requirements for a Masters/Doctorate degree is:
- Bachelor’s Degree (4 years) – Must fulfill the pre-requisite courses for your future PT school. (Preferred)
- Associate Degree (2 years) – Must fulfill the pre-requisite courses for your future PT school. Furthermore, depending on the school requirements, might have to get credits for the remaining two years after enrolling in a Bachelor’s program
Associate Degree Program
The second option is through an Associate Degree (2 years) after graduating from High School. An Associate Degree program translates into two years that is equivalent to two years of a Bachelor’s Degree (freshmen and sophomore years). Afterward, these associate degree holders can go on and find jobs as Physical Therapist Assistants.
These associate degree holders can then move to actual careers as Physical Therapists. They follow a transition program, which teaches them to work as actual Physical Therapists for a couple of days in a week. Even then, most of the PT schools will require a Bachelor’s degree to get admission. Eventually, these associate degree holders have to find their way into completing their credit hours in a Bachelor’s Degree.
There is also a pathway of an Associate Degree (2 years) but that follows another procedure. I’ll be explaining that later in this article. Moreover, there are two possibilities after you’re done with your bachelor’s degree, based on the country you’re living in:
- Master of Physical Therapy (MPT)
- Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT)
The trend of opting for MPT degree is decreasing by the day, as schools are not offering it anymore. The students are now heading at once towards getting their Doctorate in Physical Therapy degree, which slightly differs, from a Ph.D. where the work is more research-based.
Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Firstly, the pathway opted by the majority to become a Physical Therapist is graduating high school, followed by a Bachelor’s Degree. Your bachelor’s degree must satisfy the pre-requisite courses that are required by your future PT school. Note that the next step towards becoming a Physical Therapist includes a Bachelor’s Degree but that is not what it is limited to.
Courses you should select in Bachelor Degree (link)
- Cellular biology
- General chemistry
- General psychology
- Pre-calculus or calculus
- Comparative anatomy and biology
- General physics
Direct Entry Doctorate (DPT)
DPT is the final degree of your pathway, after getting a Bachelor degree you can apply for DPT degree. In that case, you GPA in Selective healthcare major is above 3.2.
Make sure, you must face very tough competition in this field. Because according to Business Insider and other various USANEWS sites mentioned that, both Physical therapy and Physical therapy assistant is the top highest paying jobs with the good growth rate in the US.
Ph.D. Degree of Physical Therapy
Very few students move towards PH.D degree, for this degree, you must have plenty of clinical experience in hospitals and rehabilitation center.
What Accreditation is there for My Program?
CAPTE is the regulatory authority, which set rules and standards for schools and colleges who are eager to open physical therapy admission. There are some requirements relates to maintaining their Lab, some latest technology, Staff and school reputation.
Make sure if you have done bachelor degree from NON-ACCREDITED school, then there are very little chances of admission in accredited physical therapy school.
The Cost of Becoming a Physical Therapist:
The cost of becoming a Physical Therapist depends upon your geographical location and choice of school. Which means, the expenses could go very high for highly renowned schools. The opposite is true for their counter-part schools.
Although, online DPT/MPT programs may cost a lot less than on-campus schools in some countries.
9 Steps in Becoming a Physical Therapist:
Follow these steps to become a physical therapist. These are a basic guideline regarding the selection of school, Major, Pre-requisites, GRE score, Interview, and licensing requirements. The requirement is different in every state in the US, but general rules are the same.
Above all, the first step to achieving anything in life is aiming for it followed by consistent hard work until you get it. This, in my opinion, is only possible if you’re constantly inspired. So if you have decided to choose Physical Therapy as your career, then it is time to sit down. Relax and let yourself know that this is what you want.
Start working hard starting from right now and stay inspired, stay motivated and stay focused!
Pre-Requisites notably are a very necessary building block towards becoming a Physical Therapist. Regardless of the Bachelor’s degree, you’re pursuing, it is just that you meet your future Physical Therapy school’s pre-requisites criteria. So go to your desired future University’s PT academic map.
Find out what courses they offer and which pre-requisites are necessary. Consult your career counselor/advisor to help you get the best out of your courses in your college. Make sure you meet all the pre-requisites so you can move on to the next step.
Graduate Record Examination (GRE):
Furthermore, you might have heard about a GRE exam sometime in your life. Most PT Schools require GRE from their applicants. If you’re about to get done with your college, it might be the right time to start scheduling your GRE exam.
In like manner, research the requirements for your favorite PT schools and universities. If you find a compulsory GRE demand, you know what to do.
Apply using Physical Therapy Centralized Application System (PTCAS):
At this time, there exists a Centralized Application System of Physical Therapy in the USA. This is a service provided by the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association). It allows the applicants to use a single application and set of credentials to multiple DPT programs.
Although, it is highly suggested that you only apply to the schools you’re most inclined towards. The more schools you choose, the more expensive it is going to get. Don’t apply to hundreds of schools. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money just for the applications.
Acing your interview:
So you apply to your desired universities and get a call back for an interview. Make sure to take time to prepare for it. Consult past students from the facility and prepare accordingly. Admittedly, the better you perform at one of these interviews, the higher your chances become to get you into your dream school.
DPT Program (3-4 years):
Finally, after passing the entire above step. If you’re into a DPT program. It is your job to make the best out of it. Doctorate of Physical Therapy program can take 3 to 5 years depending on the state rules and university choice.
You will learn the components of a successful PT. These components may include but are not limited to:
- Your practical Physical Therapy skills
- Familiarity with the latest tools and technology
- Strong credentials and specialization direction
Soon after, you have your doctoral degree. You might have to complete a compulsory internship program at a licensed organization for your professional training. There are also residential programs that make you work as a full-time Physical Therapist.
This is a transition period where you practically get to experience everything you have learned in your Doctoral degree program.
Passing your boards (NPTE) and Getting your License
National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is an exam. Authorities use it to assess your credibility. It allows national institutes to license you as a PTA (Physical Therapy Assistant) or PT (Physical Therapist). This also allows you to choose your specialization direction as a Physical Therapist.
In this case, you can prepare for this exam by following the course outline and mock tests. The course outline mostly consists of everything you studied in your Doctorate degree.
Starting your career as a Physical Therapist:
Finally, after all these steps. You would have come a long way. You will have enough credentials and knowledge to finally start your career as a Physical Therapist.
Can I Get an Online Physical Therapy Degree?
Universities also offer online programs for DPT. You may choose an online or on-campus site, whichever is best suitable for your needs. Online programs also tend to cost less than regular programs. I will not suggest you take online classes, because there is some evidence-based practice required in some courses like human bones structure, for assessment and prepare methodology according to different frames of references.
More than 60% of students want to get admission in either hybrid or campus based. Due to the competition in campus-based learning, students move towards online where they face little competition. However, I recommend only Campus-based education for physical therapy degree.
If you have already Bachelor level degree in subjects others than required for physical therapy like kinesiology, Exercise Science, Anatomy, and Biology then basis on their major course you are allowed to get admission in an accelerated program. Due to the demand for physical therapy degree, many schools are offering accelerated programs.
Career and Job Outlook after Physical Therapy Degree
A physical therapist can easily make around $86,000 on average salary (BLS). Very bright career prospects for both physical therapy assistant and therapist. In many states like California, Texas, Mississippi, Washington (DC), New Mexico, NYC, the demand is continuous increase.
The demand is very high of Geriatric, Sports therapist and pediatric. Make sure you read this FAQ about, How much experience do you need to become physical therapist?
Career Advancement (Specialized) Field?
After DPT degree, students have a choice regarding their career advancement so these specialized areas will help you to get a higher salary in the reputed center.
- Cardiovascular & Pulmonary
- Clinical Electrophysiology
- Women’s Health
Demand and job outlook
36% job growth rate is expected until 2016 for PTA and PT degree holders. In some, a state like Chicago, Mississippi, Virginia, Alaska already shortage of physical therapist.
Where can Physical Therapist work?
A physical therapist can work in many health care center (Hospitals, Rehabilitation unit) and clinics. In hospitals, you can get the highest salary.
Working as a Physical Therapist:
At this time, the demand for Physical Therapists is on the rise. The reason being betterment in technology and medical advancement. More people are surviving strokes. The number of injury survivors is increasing. Consequently, more Physical Therapists are required to help these survivors get the best of mental and physical health.
The families of these survivors hire therapists who help the patients gain better satisfying and independent life.
Financial Aid & Student Loan Forgiveness for Physical Therapist
There are many departments in the US, whereas a physical therapist or student you can apply for loan and scholarship also. Due to the high tuition Fee especially for DPT programs, many students aren’t able to pay, so after requesting these organizations or even school administration authority, there are 80% chances of approval your scholarship or loan.
You can also request PTcareer.info for more information about physical therapy degree, how to become a physical therapist and scholarship in a different state in the US.