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What is a Physical Therapist

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.

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.

Learn more about what a Physical Therapist does

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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Average Salary
$75,776
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
22%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
86,604
Job Openings
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Average Salary for a Physical Therapist

Physical Therapists in America make an average salary of $75,776 per year or $36 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $91,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $62,000 per year.
Average Salary
$75,776
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12 Physical Therapist Resume Examples

Learn How To Write a Physical Therapist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Physical Therapist resumes and compiled some information about how to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Physical Therapist Resume Examples And Templates

Choose From 10+ Customizable Physical Therapist Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Physical Therapist templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Physical Therapist resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

Physical Therapist Resume
Physical Therapist Resume
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Physical Therapist Resume
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Physical Therapist Resume
Physical Therapist Resume
Physical Therapist Resume
Physical Therapist Resume
Physical Therapist Resume

Physical Therapist Demographics

Physical Therapist Gender Distribution

Male
Male
36%
Female
Female
64%

After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among Physical Therapists, 63.7% of them are women, while 36.3% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among Physical Therapists is White, which makes up 73.9% of all Physical Therapists.

  • The most common foreign language among Physical Therapists is Spanish at 47.9%.

Job Openings

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Physical Therapist Education

Physical Therapist Majors

5.2 %

Physical Therapist Degrees

Bachelors

57.9 %

Doctorate

17.3 %

Masters

14.3 %

Top Colleges for Physical Therapists

1. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

2. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Private

In-State Tuition
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

3. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC • Private

In-State Tuition
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

4. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition
$54,568
Enrollment
8,451

5. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$59,430
Enrollment
8,216

6. Tufts University

Medford, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,382
Enrollment
5,597

7. University of Florida

Gainesville, FL • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,381
Enrollment
34,564

8. Washington University in St Louis

Saint Louis, MO • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,399
Enrollment
7,356

9. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

10. California State University - Long Beach

Long Beach, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$6,798
Enrollment
31,503
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Online Courses For Physical Therapist That You May Like

Occupational Therapy Introduction - ACCREDITED CERTIFICATE
udemy
4.7
(385)

How to become occupational therapist, basic Psychology, Physiology & Anatomy, working with disabilities, children adults...

Prehospital care of acute stroke and patient selection for endovascular treatment using the RACE scale
coursera

Acute stroke is a time-dependent medical emergency. In acute ischemic stroke, the first objective is to restore brain flow using sistemic thrombolytic treatment and, in patients with large vessel occlusion, by endovascular treatment. In hemorrhagic stroke there are also specific treatments that can improve the clinical outcome. The sooner the initiation of all these therapies the higher the clinical benefit. Thus, the organization of Stroke Code systems coordinated between emergency medical syst...

Managing Your Health: The Role of Physical Therapy and Exercise
coursera

Managing Your Health: The Role of Physical Therapy and Exercise will introduce learners to the concepts and benefits of physical therapy and exercise. Over six weeks learners will explore: Why physical activity and exercise are important, Exercise and Cardiovascular Disease, Exercise and Osteoporosis, Exercise and Cancer, Common Sports Injuries, Exercise and Arthritis...

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Top Skills For a Physical Therapist

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.

Best States For a Physical Therapist

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, Washington, Nevada, and Wyoming. Physical Therapists make the most in California with an average salary of $100,516. Whereas in Washington and Nevada, they would average $88,054 and $82,723, respectively. While Physical Therapists would only make an average of $81,267 in Wyoming, 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.

1. Washington

Total Physical Therapist Jobs:
1,143
Highest 10% Earn:
$106,000
Location Quotient:
1.12
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Wyoming

Total Physical Therapist Jobs:
96
Highest 10% Earn:
$96,000
Location Quotient:
1.15
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. California

Total Physical Therapist Jobs:
4,108
Highest 10% Earn:
$123,000
Location Quotient:
1.01
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
Full List Of Best States For Physical Therapists

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Top Physical Therapist Employers

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 $77,221. Access Services follows up with an average salary of $77,644, and then comes Health Carousel with an average of $77,125. 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 KBR, Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy, and Alliance Physical Therapy

Physical Therapist Videos

Becoming a Physical Therapist FAQs

How long does it take to become a Physical Therapist?

It takes 3 years of professional experience to become a physical therapist. That is the time it takes to learn specific physical therapist skills, but does not account for time spent in formal education. If you include the normal education requirements to complete a college degree, then it takes 6 to 8 years years to become a physical therapist.

Can you become a physical therapist in 2 years?

Yes, you can become a physical therapist in 2 years. However, this is only true if you already have a bachelor's or master's degree. Once you have that, you must apply to a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program to be eligible for the exam and license.

Do physical therapists go to med school?

No, physical therapists do not need to go to med school. However, to become a physical therapist, you must complete a doctorate of physical therapy degree from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education-accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam.

How many years will it take to become a physical therapist?

It will take between 6 to 7 years to become a physical therapist. First, you must earn a bachelor's degree (4-years), followed by a doctorate of physical therapy (2 to 3 years).

If you're a non-traditional student thinking about a career change, some DMT programs will take individuals with bachelor's degrees in unrelated fields (e.g., psychology, economics). Going this route usually takes three years to complete the program.

Is it worth it to be a physical therapist?

Yes, being a physical therapist is worth it. A physical therapist earns good money, has a flexible schedule, and has options to experience a lot of variability in the type of jobs they work in as a physical therapist. If that wasn't good enough, they also experience high levels of job satisfaction and overall health.

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