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Become A Student Physical Therapist

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Working As A Student 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

  • $74,927

    Average Salary

What Does A Student 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 Student 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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Student Physical Therapist Career Paths

Student Physical Therapist
Per Diem Physical Therapist Therapist Clinical Director
Administrative Director, Behavioral Health Services
11 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapy Technician Registered Nurse Registered Nurse Case Manager
Clinical Care Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist Outpatient Physical Therapist Clinician
Clinical Director
9 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapy Technician Massage Therapist Clinical Supervisor
Clinical Program Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Staff Physical Therapist Staff Clinical Director
Clinical Services Director
11 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapy Aide Office Manager Case Manager
Director Of Case Management
11 Yearsyrs
Rehabilitation Aide Occupational Therapist
Director Of Correctional Therapy
8 Yearsyrs
Staff Physical Therapist Staff PRN Registered Nurse Case Manager
Director Of Health Services
10 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapist
Director Of Rehabilitation
8 Yearsyrs
Group Fitness Instructor Personal Fitness Trainer Athletic Trainer
Director Of Sports Medicine
6 Yearsyrs
Personal Trainer Registered Nurse Nurse Manager
Emergency Services Director
10 Yearsyrs
Per Diem Physical Therapist Staff Therapist Clinician
Health Care Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Clinical Supervisor Nursing Director
Health Director
9 Yearsyrs
Massage Therapist Licensed Practical Nurse Occupational Health Nurse
Health Services Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Instructor Adjunct Faculty Director Of Health Services
Home Service Director
8 Yearsyrs
Doctor Assistant Professor Clinical Director
Outpatient Services Director
10 Yearsyrs
Personal Trainer Physical Therapist
Physical Therapist, Director Of Rehabilitation
5 Yearsyrs
Physical Therapy Aide Physical Therapist
Rehab Director
7 Yearsyrs
Outpatient Physical Therapist Adjunct Faculty Physical Therapist
Rehabilitation Center Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Doctor Phlebotomist Respiratory Therapist
Therapy Program Manager
7 Yearsyrs
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Help others decide if this is a good career for them

Average Length of Employment
Physical Therapist 4.6 years
Top Careers Before Student Physical Therapist
Volunteer 14.9%
Internship 7.9%
Aide 2.2%
Server 2.0%
Instructor 1.9%
Top Careers After Student Physical Therapist
Volunteer 5.4%
Internship 2.0%
Doctor 1.5%
Resident 1.1%

Do you work as a Student Physical Therapist?

Student Physical Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

61.4%

Male

35.9%

Unknown

2.7%
Ethnicity

White

62.0%

Hispanic or Latino

13.1%

Asian

10.8%

Black or African American

10.1%

Unknown

3.9%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

52.8%

French

6.9%

Russian

5.6%

Chinese

4.9%

Mandarin

4.2%

Korean

4.2%

Hindi

3.5%

Cantonese

2.1%

Italian

2.1%

Portuguese

2.1%

German

2.1%

Japanese

2.1%

Gujarati

1.4%

Ukrainian

1.4%

Polish

1.4%

Telugu

0.7%

Vietnamese

0.7%

Marathi

0.7%

Hungarian

0.7%

Croatian

0.7%
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Student Physical Therapist Education

Schools

Ithaca College

10.6%

University of Saint Augustine for Health Sciences

10.0%

Northeastern University

7.8%

Quinnipiac University

5.6%

Temple University

5.6%

Midwestern University

5.3%

University of Southern California

5.0%

Sacred Heart University

5.0%

Northwestern University

4.2%

Regis University

4.2%

Chapman University

4.2%

Elon University

3.9%

Cleveland State University

3.9%

Drexel University

3.9%

Central Michigan University

3.9%

State University of New York Stony Brook

3.6%

University of North Dakota

3.3%

Duquesne University

3.3%

Wheeling Jesuit University

3.3%

Creighton University

3.3%
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Majors

Physical Therapy

82.0%

Kinesiology

3.2%

Physics

3.1%

Medical Assisting Services

2.1%

Health Sciences And Services

1.2%

Public Health

0.9%

Biology

0.9%

Occupational Therapy

0.9%

Rehabilitation Science

0.8%

Health Education

0.6%

Health And Wellness

0.6%

Psychology

0.5%

Special Education

0.5%

Chemistry

0.5%

Business

0.4%

Military Applied Sciences

0.4%

Athletic Training

0.4%

Clinical Psychology

0.4%

Education

0.3%

Nursing

0.3%
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Degrees

Doctorate

65.9%

Bachelors

10.2%

Associate

10.0%

Other

8.0%

Masters

5.3%

Certificate

0.4%

License

0.1%

Diploma

0.1%
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Top Skills for A Student Physical Therapist

  1. Physical Therapy
  2. Occupational Therapy
  3. In-Service Presentation
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed all aspects of the physical therapy scope of practice with emphasis on inpatient step-down ventilator unit and outpatient pediatric population.
  • Communicated with nursing staff, occupational therapy staff, and patient families concerning patient status and recommendations.
  • Attended in-service presentations regarding complications with chemotherapy and radiation as well as different types of surgery available for patients with breast cancer
  • Developed a new procedure to prescribe HEP for orthopedic diagnoses and post-surgical rehabilitation that is now utilized by clinicians.
  • Provided rehabilitative services at this 16 bed unit for patients with traumatic brain injury, stroke, and bilateral knee replacements.

How Would You Rate Working As a Student Physical Therapist?

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