If you are interested in a profession in the medical industry that is very hands on, but does not involve doing surgery or working in an office all day, a physical therapy degree might be just right.
Especially geared toward individuals who enjoy physical fitness, sports medicine and helping patients one on one, PT jobs are a great in-between that can be very fun, very rewarding, and make a real difference in other people’s lives.
While all doctors and medical personnel help people, a physical therapist is frequently the last specialist to work with patients after surgical procedures or illness, and through sometimes very long treatment processes, so they get to experience not only the hard work and the pain of therapy, but the joys of helping people get well again.
For a real people-person, going to school to become a physical therapist could be a wonderful career choice.
Physical Therapy Requirements
The educational requirements for someone to get a PT degree includes first obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree (which is required for entry into any physical therapy programs), and then completing a graduate program at any one of a number of accredited physical therapy schools.
A few graduate programs offer early guaranteed admissions programs for some students as well, where the students gain guaranteed future acceptance into the PT program while they are still high school students, and as long as they complete a required set of undergraduate college courses first.
In either case, it is of great importance that students make sure to choose only Commission on Accreditation in PT Education (CAPTE) accredited courses so that they fulfill the necessary educational requirements, both as undergraduate and graduate students or they will not be permitted to sit for their licensing examination.
Once enrolled in a program, there are two different degrees that a PT can earn, either a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT), or a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT). DPT programs are professional entry-level degrees that all physical therapists must complete.
MPT or MSPT programs are continued education, specialty programs that can be taken after a physical therapist has earned their DPT. The DTP physical therapy degree program typically takes three years to complete. Upon obtaining their degree, physical therapists may then take their board licensure examination so they can become employed in their field.
In the UK, degree qualifications differ slightly in that schooling requirements to become a PT are currently that of a Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy, only, with the DPT degree considered to be post-professional, continued education. However, this is supposed to change within the next few years, to where UK PTs will all be required to earn a DPT degree as well.
Physical Therapy Jobs
In order to hold a job as a physical therapist, professionals must have passed their state licensure exam so they may practice in their state. If they relocate to another area, a PT must take the licensing exam for that state in order to be allowed to get a new job.
In the US alone, there are close to 200,000 physical therapists licensed to practice at many different types of facilities, with many more individuals working as physical therapists in other countries.
PTs are employed by both inpatient and outpatient hospital facilities, physical therapy clinics, fitness centers, skilled nursing centers, extended care facilities, schools, hospices, educational and research facilities, private workplaces and sports medicine practices all over the world.
Main duties include assessing patient initial condition, implementing prescribed physical therapy requests by referring physicians, teaching proper use of physical therapy equipment, tailoring therapy to each patient’s ability and progression, and carefully monitoring that progress and reporting it back to the referring physician.
Physical Therapy Salary
Entry-level salary for a PT in the US is around $80,000 annually as of 2011, according to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). In the UK, starting salary according to the National Health Service (NHS) is £21,176 – £27,534 (band 5).
In both cases, PT salary rates rises substantially with experience and years on the job, and can increase up to as much as $100,000 or more in the US and up to band 7 (£40,157) in the UK (or higher in the private sector). Naturally, PTs who specialize will make slightly more than the base salary brackets.
Interested individuals who would like to learn more about physical therapy schools and program accreditation should contact their country’s professional association for physical therapists, which will be able to point prospective students in the right direction.