Being active is the name of the game. At least for Physical Therapists. Since most of their day is spent with helping patients improve movement and manage pain, Physical Therapists spend a lot of their time on their feet.
Typically, you can find them working in private offices and clinics, but some work in hospitals, patients' homes and even nursing homes. If you're excited about helping people get their pain under control, then all you need is a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and a license to practice.
Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.Duties
Physical therapists typically do the following:
Physical therapists provide care to people of all ages who have functional problems resulting from back and neck injuries; sprains, strains, and fractures; arthritis; amputations; neurological disorders, such as stroke or cerebral palsy; injuries related to work and sports; and other conditions.
Physical therapists are educated to use a variety of different techniques to care for their patients. These techniques include exercises; training in functional movement, which includes the use of equipment such as canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and walkers; and special movements of joints, muscles, and other soft tissue to improve movement and decrease pain.
The work of physical therapists varies by type of patient. For example, a patient working to recover mobility lost after a stroke needs different care from a patient who is recovering from a sports injury. Some physical therapists specialize in one type of care, such as orthopedics or geriatrics. Many physical therapists also help patients to maintain or improve mobility by developing fitness and wellness programs to encourage healthier and more active lifestyles.
Physical therapists work as part of a healthcare team, overseeing the work of physical therapist assistants and aides and consulting with physicians and surgeons and other specialists.
Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.Education
In 2015, there were more than 200 programs for physical therapists accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). All programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
DPT programs typically last 3 years. Most programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission as well as specific educational prerequisites, such as classes in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics. Some programs admit college freshmen into 6- or 7-year programs that allow students to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree and a DPT. Most DPT programs require applicants to apply through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS).
Physical therapist programs often include courses in biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. Physical therapist students also complete at least 30 weeks of clinical work, during which they gain supervised experience in areas such as acute care and orthopedic care.
Physical therapists may apply to and complete a clinical residency program after graduation. Residencies typically last about 1 year and provide additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. Therapists who have completed a residency program may choose to specialize further by completing a fellowship in an advanced clinical area.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All states require physical therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state but all include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Several states also require a law exam and a criminal background check. Continuing education is typically required for physical therapists to keep their license. Check with state boards for specific licensing requirements.
After gaining work experience, some physical therapists choose to become a board-certified specialist. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers certification in 8 clinical specialty areas, including orthopedics, sports, and geriatric physical therapy. Board specialist certification requires passing an exam and at least 2,000 hours of clinical work or completion of an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)-accredited residency program in the specialty area.Important Qualities
Compassion. Physical therapists are often drawn to the profession in part by a desire to help people. They work with people who are in pain and must have empathy for their patients.
Detail oriented. Like other healthcare providers, physical therapists should have strong analytic and observational skills to diagnose a patient’s problem, evaluate treatments, and provide safe, effective care.
Dexterity. Physical therapists must use their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. They should feel comfortable massaging and otherwise physically assisting patients.
Interpersonal skills. Because physical therapists spend a lot of time interacting with patients, they should enjoy working with people. They must be able to clearly explain treatment programs, motivate patients, and listen to patients’ concerns to provide effective therapy.
Physical stamina. Physical therapists spend much of their time on their feet, moving as they demonstrate proper techniques and help patients perform exercises. They should enjoy physical activity.
Resourcefulness. Physical therapists customize treatment plans for patients. They must be flexible and able to adapt plans of care to meet the needs of each patient.
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In addition to switching up your job search, it might prove helpful to look at a career path for your specific job. Now, what's a career path you ask? Well, it's practically a map that shows how you might advance from one job title to another. Our career paths are especially detailed with salary changes. So, for example, if you started out with the role of outpatient physical therapist you might progress to a role such as case manager eventually. Later on in your career, you could end up with the title clinical services director.
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Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Physical Therapist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.
Learn How To Write a Physical Therapist Resume
At Zippia, we went through countless Physical Therapist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.View Detailed Information
Hispanic or Latino
Durham, NC • Private
Atlanta, GA • Public
Chapel Hill, NC • Public
Evanston, IL • Private
New York, NY • Private
Medford, MA • Private
Gainesville, FL • Public
Saint Louis, MO • Private
Los Angeles, CA • Private
Long Beach, CA • Public
The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.8% of physical therapists listed rehab on their resume, but soft skills such as compassion and detail oriented are important as well.
Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a physical therapist. The best states for people in this position are California, Alaska, Nevada, and Washington. Physical therapists make the most in California with an average salary of $96,796. Whereas in Alaska and Nevada, they would average $90,530 and $82,060, respectively. While physical therapists would only make an average of $78,290 in Washington, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.
We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ physical therapists and discovered their number of physical therapist opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Avant Healthcare Professionals was the best, especially with an average salary of $72,365. Health Carousel follows up with an average salary of $71,782, and then comes Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute with an average of $73,882. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a physical therapist. The employers include SSM Health, Emory University, and Veterans Affairs Dept