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Become A Registered Physical Therapist

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Working As A Registered 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

  • $79,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Registered 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 Registered 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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Registered Physical Therapist Typical Career Paths

Do you work as a Registered Physical Therapist?

Average Yearly Salary
$79,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$48,000
Min 10%
$79,000
Median 50%
$79,000
Median 50%
$79,000
Median 50%
$79,000
Median 50%
$79,000
Median 50%
$79,000
Median 50%
$79,000
Median 50%
$130,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Alacare Home Health & Hospice
Highest Paying City
Aurora, CO
Highest Paying State
North Dakota
Avg Experience Level
4.7 years
How much does a Registered Physical Therapist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Registered Physical Therapist in the United States is $79,400 per year or $38 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $48,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $131,000.

Real Registered Physical Therapist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Registered Physical Therapist/Staff Golden Age Home Health Care, LLC Greenwood, IN Mar 17, 2014 $104,350 -
$125,220
Registered Physical Therapist East Bay Physical Therapy Richmond, CA Sep 29, 2014 $100,176
Registered Physical Therapist Mariner Health Care Managment Compnay San Pablo, CA Apr 08, 2013 $93,915
Registered Physical Therapist Mariner Health Central Inc. San Pablo, CA Apr 26, 2013 $93,915
Registered Physical Therapist Rehab Pathways, LLC New York, NY Oct 01, 2010 $87,500
Registered Physical Therapist United Health Care Staffing, Inc. San Francisco, CA Oct 01, 2013 $87,360
Registered Physical Therapist/Staff Golden Age Home Health Care, LLC Greenwood, IN Nov 04, 2016 $83,480 -
$125,220
Registered Physical Therapist East Bay Physical Therapy Richmond, CA Dec 15, 2010 $83,480
Registered Physical Therapist United Health Care Staffing, Inc. San Jose, CA Sep 01, 2013 $82,320
Registered Physical Therapist United Health Care Staffing, Inc. San Jose, CA Sep 20, 2013 $82,320
Registered Physical Therapist United Health Care Staffing, Inc. San Jose, CA Mar 25, 2013 $82,250
Registered Physical Therapist United Health Care Staffing, Inc. San Jose, CA Sep 12, 2013 $82,250
Registered Physical Therapists United Health Care Staffing, Inc. San Jose, CA Sep 01, 2013 $82,250
Registered Physical Therapist United Health Care Staffing, Inc. Fort Smith, AR Feb 28, 2012 $82,000
Registered Physical Therapist Achieve Rehab, Inc. Farmington Hills, MI Oct 01, 2013 $76,000
Registered Physical Therapist Professional Home Care Advantage, Inc. Calumet City, IL Dec 27, 2009 $75,967
Registered Physical Therapist Alpena Regional Medical Center Alpena, MI Apr 12, 2015 $75,132
Registered Physical Therapist Omega Pt LLC. Rochester Hills, MI Dec 20, 2013 $73,045
Registered Physical Therapist Omega Pt LLC. Rochester Hills, MI Sep 01, 2014 $73,045
Registered Physical Therapist Physicians Homecare, Inc. Lafayette, IN Jul 22, 2011 $73,045 -
$93,915
Registered Physical Therapist Alpena Regional Medical Center Alpena, MI Sep 20, 2012 $70,541
Registered Physical Therapist Alliance Rehab, Inc. Arlington Heights, IL Oct 01, 2010 $68,871
Registered Physical Therapist Achieve Rehab, Inc. Bolingbrook, IL Sep 17, 2015 $68,640
Registered Physical Therapist Achieve Rehab, Inc. Oak Park, IL Sep 17, 2015 $68,640
Registered Physical Therapist Achieve Rehab, Inc. Farmington Hills, MI Sep 17, 2015 $68,640
Registered Physical Therapist Professional Therapy Solutions, LLC Madison Heights, MI Oct 06, 2013 $65,000
Registered Physical Therapist Professional Therapy Solutions, LLC Madison Heights, MI Oct 07, 2013 $65,000

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Top Skills for A Registered Physical Therapist

  1. Patient Care
  2. Treatment Plans
  3. Traumatic Brain Injury
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Supervised technicians and equipped them with information necessary to provide quality patient care.
  • Performed evaluations and co-treatments with OT's and delegated treatment plans to PTA's.
  • Performed diagnostic and prognostic exams to evaluate muscle, nerve, joint and functional abilities.
  • Customize the a POC to meet the specific needs of the individual patients .
  • Provide Physical Therapy services for a 40-bed, specialized acute-care hospital.

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Top 10 Best States for Registered Physical Therapists

  1. Alaska
  2. New Mexico
  3. Alabama
  4. Nevada
  5. Wyoming
  6. Michigan
  7. Mississippi
  8. Connecticut
  9. South Carolina
  10. Kansas
  • (49 jobs)
  • (136 jobs)
  • (354 jobs)
  • (104 jobs)
  • (52 jobs)
  • (529 jobs)
  • (199 jobs)
  • (246 jobs)
  • (447 jobs)
  • (237 jobs)

Registered Physical Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

55.9%

Male

29.1%

Unknown

15.0%
Ethnicity

White

50.8%

Hispanic or Latino

18.0%

Asian

13.2%

Black or African American

10.3%

Unknown

7.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

German

33.3%

Hindi

33.3%

Dutch

33.3%

Registered Physical Therapist Education

Schools

Utica College

10.5%

Wayne State University

7.9%

Southwestern University

5.3%

University of Mobile

5.3%

University of Connecticut

5.3%

University of North Alabama

5.3%

University of Oklahoma

5.3%

University of South Alabama

5.3%

University of Kansas

5.3%

State University of New York Buffalo

5.3%

Quinnipiac University

5.3%

Loma Linda University

5.3%

Independence University

5.3%

Northeastern University

5.3%

California State University - Long Beach

5.3%

Chattanooga State Community College

2.6%

Columbus State Community College

2.6%

University of Tennessee-Health Science Center

2.6%

New York University

2.6%

National University

2.6%
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Majors

Physical Therapy

57.5%

Medical Technician

10.0%

Rehabilitation Science

5.0%

Business

3.3%

Occupational Therapy

3.3%

Kinesiology

3.3%

Psychology

2.5%

Social Work

2.5%

Health Sciences And Services

1.7%

Health/Medical Preparatory Programs

1.7%

Counseling Psychology

1.7%

Management

0.8%

Public Health

0.8%

Mental Health Counseling

0.8%

Nursing Assistants

0.8%

Electrical Engineering Technology

0.8%

Health Education

0.8%

General Studies

0.8%

Fine Arts

0.8%

Computer Science

0.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

32.8%

Masters

25.4%

Doctorate

15.7%

Other

12.7%

Associate

10.4%

Certificate

2.2%

License

0.7%
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