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Become A Physical Therapist

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Working As A Physical Therapist

  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Performing General Physical Activities
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Performing for or Working Directly with the Public
  • Deal with People

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $68,099

    Average Salary

What Does A Physical Therapist Do

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:

  • Review patients’ medical history and any referrals or notes from doctors, surgeons, or other healthcare workers
  • Diagnose patients’ functions and movements by observing them stand or walk and by listening to their concerns, among other methods
  • Develop individualized plans of care for patients, outlining the patients’ goals and the expected outcomes of the plans
  • Use exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy, and equipment to ease patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and facilitate health and wellness
  • Evaluate and record a patient’s progress, modifying a plan of care and trying new treatments as needed
  • Educate patients and their families about what to expect from the recovery process and how best to cope with challenges throughout the process

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.

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How To Become A Physical Therapist

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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Physical Therapist Jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Physical Therapist 5.0 years
Staff Therapist 4.9 years
Senior Therapist 3.7 years
Top Employers Before
Internship 7.4%
Volunteer 4.6%
PRN 2.1%
Supervisor 2.0%
Top Employers After
PRN 3.7%
Supervisor 3.7%
Internship 3.7%
Volunteer 3.5%
Owner 3.0%
Director 2.8%
Manager 2.6%
Therapist 2.3%

Do you work as a Physical Therapist?

Physical Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

63.4%

Male

34.5%

Unknown

2.0%
Ethnicity

White

73.1%

Asian

12.2%

Hispanic or Latino

11.7%

Unknown

2.3%

Black or African American

0.7%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

47.7%

Hindi

7.5%

French

4.6%

Gujarati

4.0%

Russian

4.0%

Portuguese

3.8%

Chinese

3.1%

Arabic

3.1%

Italian

2.9%

Mandarin

2.7%

Polish

2.6%

Swedish

2.0%

Korean

2.0%

German

2.0%

Japanese

2.0%

Marathi

1.5%

Filipino

1.3%

Vietnamese

1.1%

Tagalog

1.1%

Thai

0.9%
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Physical Therapist Education

Schools

University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences

9.7%

Northeastern University

8.1%

Ithaca College

7.5%

Temple University

6.8%

Quinnipiac University

6.0%

University of Montana

5.5%

Boston University

4.6%

Loma Linda University

4.6%

Utica College

4.5%

State University of New York Stony Brook

4.3%

New York University

4.2%

University of Pittsburgh -

4.2%

University of Central Arkansas

3.9%

State University of New York Buffalo

3.9%

University of Indianapolis

3.8%

Sacred Heart University

3.8%

Oakland University

3.8%

University of Rhode Island

3.6%

Northwestern University

3.6%

Saint Louis University-

3.5%
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Majors

Physical Therapy

69.1%

Kinesiology

8.9%

Business

2.8%

Biology

2.0%

Nursing

1.8%

Health Sciences And Services

1.8%

Health Care Administration

1.6%

Rehabilitation Science

1.6%

Psychology

1.6%

Medical Assisting Services

1.3%

Education

1.1%

Exercise Physiology

1.1%

Health Education

0.9%

Clinical Psychology

0.8%

Public Health

0.8%

Athletic Training

0.7%

Health And Wellness

0.6%

Medicine

0.6%

Medical Technician

0.6%

Liberal Arts

0.5%
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Degrees

Doctorate

30.4%

Bachelors

27.3%

Masters

20.7%

Other

13.5%

Associate

5.5%

Certificate

2.0%

Diploma

0.5%

License

0.2%
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Part Time
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Temporary

Real Physical Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Physical Therapist Sportslabnyc LLC New York, NY Jun 02, 2015 $156,525 -
$187,830
Physical Therapist Sportslabnyc LLC New York, NY Jan 01, 2016 $156,525 -
$187,830
Physical Therapist American INDO Global Solutions LLC Allentown, PA Aug 04, 2015 $156,525
Physical Therapist Brighter Days Early Interventionagency LLC Newtown, PA Sep 15, 2015 $150,264
Physical Therapist Morya Group LLC San Antonio, TX Dec 08, 2016 $146,090
Physical Therapist Morya Group LLC San Antonio, TX Dec 10, 2016 $146,090
Physical Therapist Total Care Home Health Services, Inc. Southfield, MI Sep 23, 2015 $146,090
Physical Therapist Morya Group LLC San Antonio, TX Aug 16, 2016 $146,090
Physical Therapist Arm Healthcare LLC El Paso, TX Jan 01, 2016 $138,000
Physical Therapist Intrepid USA Jackson, TN Mar 21, 2016 $135,655
Physical Therapist, Post-Bachelor's Visiting Nurse Service of New York-Home Care Inc. New York, NY Jun 26, 2015 $75,795
Physical Therapist, Post-Bachelor's Visiting Nurse Service of New York-Home Care Inc. New York, NY Jun 27, 2015 $75,795
Physical Therapist Sentara Healthcare South Boston, VA Oct 09, 2016 $75,758
Physical Therapist Intergro Resources Inc. Chico, CA Jul 14, 2015 $75,754
Physical Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Cleveland, OH Jul 01, 2015 $75,633 -
$89,678
Physical Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Streetsboro, OH Jul 01, 2015 $75,633 -
$89,678
Physical Therapist Active Outpatient Therapy LLC Farmers Branch, TX Jan 09, 2016 $75,629
Physical Therapist Advanced Care Rehab Services LLC Farmers Branch, TX Sep 25, 2016 $75,629
Physical Therapist Management Health Systems, Inc. Trenton, NJ Aug 31, 2015 $66,888
Physical Therapist Tender Touch Rehab Services LLC Trenton, NJ Aug 15, 2015 $66,888 -
$76,551
Physical Therapist Management Health Systems, Inc. Ewing, NJ Jul 01, 2015 $66,888
Physical Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Richmond, VA Aug 17, 2015 $66,847 -
$98,339
Physical Therapists Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Goochland, VA Apr 01, 2015 $66,847 -
$98,339
Physical Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Ashland, VA Jan 04, 2015 $66,847 -
$98,339
Physical Therapist Genesis Eldercare Rehabilitation Services, Inc. Richmond, VA Jan 04, 2015 $66,847 -
$98,339

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Top Skills for A Physical Therapist

OccupationalTherapyPhysicalTherapyAssistantsRehabOutpatientClinicDirectPatientCareFacilityTreatmentPlansAcuteCareSettingPhysicalTherapyServicesManualTherapyTechniquesSuperviseOrthopedicConditionsSportsMedicineUltrasoundDischargePlanningMedicalRecordsOutpatientOrthopedicSettingCVAPtasSNF

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  1. Occupational Therapy
  2. Physical Therapy Assistants
  3. Rehab
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Collaborated with occupational therapy and speech therapy in the treatment of neurologically involved and medically complex patients.
  • Coordinate care with occupational therapists, nursing staff, home health agency, physicians, and physical therapy assistants.
  • Lead therapist within skilled nursing facility providing sub-acute rehabilitation.
  • Worked for an outpatient clinic specializing in the treatment of patients with acquired traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.
  • Direct patient care and associated physical therapy duties within a skilled nursing facility *Managing a rehabilitation department

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Top Physical Therapist Employers

Physical Therapist Videos

Physical Therapist Salary | How Much Money Does a Physical Therapist Make?

Physical Therapist, Career Video from drkit.org

Physical Therapist, Career Video from drkit.org