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How To Become A Physical Therapist

The question ” How to Become a Physical Therapist? ” is on the minds of thousands of people daily who are seeking insight into how to be a Physical Therapist(s) and also a Physical Therapist (Therapy) degree.

Firstly, becoming a physical therapist needs years of education and training in areas like kinesiology, anatomy, biology, and fitness.

Also, Many physiotherapists also receive extensive training in patient psychology. This helps them better understand and help clients cope with the emotional challenges of a physical illness.

Furthermore, as with most careers, the road to success can take many different forms. In physical therapy, which courses should a student follow to prepare? Should budding therapists complete a residency? This article answers such questions giving you the solutions you crave.

About Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy, also known as physiotherapy, is a paramedical profession that uses force and mechanical movement (biomechanics or kinesiology), manual therapy, exercise therapy, and electrotherapy to solve deficiencies and enhance mobility and function.

Furthermore, it is used to improve the quality of life of a patient through examination, diagnosis, prognosis, physical intervention, and patient education.

What Does A Physical Therapist Do?

Specifically, people with injuries or serious illnesses often have difficulty managing their movements and pain. They depend on physiotherapists to help them recover.

Through specific exercise programs and individual attention, these professionals help patients regain their range of motion, build strength, improve flexibility, and control their pain as they recover.

Physiotherapists usually work in private offices, clinics, hospitals or retirement homes. Generally, physiotherapist positions are full-time, although some therapists work for lesser hours or multiple part-time positions.

Also, they are usually part of a rehabilitation team. They provide hands-on therapy, exercises, and stretching exercises to patients with serious illnesses or injuries to relieve pain and promote health and well-being.

In addition, other members of the health care team may include physical therapist assistants, aides, physicians, and surgeons.

Physical Therapist Salary

The Average Annual Salary for a Physical Therapist in the United Statesis$86,520. Also, the median pay for PTs is$7,210 per month, $1,663 per week, and $41.59 per hour.  

How to Become A Physical Therapist Steps

In most cases, it takes approximately seven years to become a physical therapist starting from the moment you enter the university when you obtain your license to practice.

However, as you will see in this article, not all follow the same path. For instance, some people become physiotherapist assistants before deciding to pursue the additional education necessary to become a physical therapist.

Here are some of the steps on How to Become A Physical Therapist:

#1. Job Shadow a Few Physical Therapists

This is an important step in knowing how to become a physical therapist (PT). Firstly, always be courteous and respectful when approaching physiotherapists about job shadowing (observation) opportunities.

Also, show your enthusiasm for the field and your willingness to volunteer for your labor in exchange for the opportunity to learn more about what they are doing.

Remember that if everything goes well, they can serve as exceptional references, which you will need later.

During your job shadowing experiences, maintain a written log that includes the dates and times you volunteered as well as what you observed or helped out with on those days. At the end of each experience, get the supervising PT to sign and date your log.

Also, keep a written record that shows the dates and times you volunteered and what you observed or helped during these days. Furthermore, at the end of each experiment, ask for the PT supervisor’s sign and the date in your journal.

#2. Decide Whether You Want to Start Your Career as a Physical

Therapists Assistant (PTA) First

After some time job shadowing, decided whether to become a PTA before pursuing physical therapy as a career.

Furthermore, if you think about it, PTAs usually do more physical and practical work and spend more time directly helping patients than PTs.

Ultimately, starting your career as a PTA can be helpful if you have enough advanced planning and choose the right schools and programs.

When it’s time to pursue a career as a physical therapist, you can complete most of your additional studies online. Also, your time as a PTA gives you a better understanding of the field and helps you learn a lot.

#3. Research DPT Programs (and Their Requirements)

Even if you have not started attending a college or university, it is important to find out what you will need for a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) graduate program in physiotherapy.

Furthermore, this helps you develop a simplified plan. This would include all the prerequisites for the course and minimizes the additional time that could happen at the school.

Colleges and universities across the country offer DPT programs, so you can probably find options in your area.

However, be sure to look for physical therapy schools accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This is to you may have problems later when it’s time to get your PT license.

#4. Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Still on the quest, ” How to Become a Physical Therapist? “, a Bachelor’s Physical Therapist (Therapy) degree in a DPT program is another important step to be taken.

Some DPT programs are open to first-year students. They include post-secondary and undergraduate education (usually lasting only six years).

However, most DPT programs are for people who have already finished university studies after graduating with a bachelor’s degree. So maybe that’s where you have to start.

Some of the most common college majors of students who have been accepted into DPT programs that require a bachelor’s degree are:

  • Exercise science
  • Kinesiology
  • Biology
  • Health Science
  • Psychology
  • Pre-physical therapy
  • Exercise Physiology

#5. Do More Job Shadowing (If Necessary)

After obtaining your Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapist (Therapy) degree, you can still do more job shadowing if you feel it is necessary.

As part of their prerequisites, many DPT programs require candidates to have some verified clinical experience under the supervision of one or more licensed physical therapists.

This experience can be paid or voluntary, but it must include many hours of direct observation in a physical therapy environment. (In most cases, the requirement is more than 100 hours of observation at work, verified by PT supervisors).

#6. Gather Letters of Recommendation

To begin with, throughout your undergraduate and job shadowing experience, bear in mind that you will need to provide excellent references when applying to DPT programs.

Also, look for good relationships with your teachers, educational advisors, supervising physiotherapists, club leaders, and anyone else who can describe your best qualities.

Some physiotherapy schools require up to four letters of recommendation. They want to know that important personalities think highly of you, especially in relation to qualities such as compassion, trust, leadership, commitment, critical thinking skills, social intelligence, maturity, attention to detail, and communication skills.

#7. Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Unless you have chosen an entry-level DPT program for first-year students, you may need to take the Graduate Record Exam (also called GRE General Test).

GRE is a common standardized test used to measure a student’s ability to succeed in a graduate-level degree program.

Many physiotherapy schools have minimum GRE scores that candidates must meet before applying. Therefore, it is important to take GRE well before the deadlines for DPT applications. (Depending on your scores, you may need to retake it).

In addition, the GRE is offered as a test on paper or on a computer. If you use the computer version, you can move through different questions and change your answers if necessary.

The test includes three main sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing

#8. Apply to Your Preferred DPT Programs

In addition, apart from your GRE scores and letters of recommendation, you must retrieve your official transcripts (from each post-secondary school you attended) or request that they are sent directly to the PTCAS or physiotherapy schools to which you are applying.

Most students use the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) system when they apply for DPT programs, as this allows them to apply to several schools with a single web application. Also, it allows them to track all aspects of their application in real-time.

Each physiotherapy school has its own admission process, but it is usually best to register as soon as possible instead of waiting for the deadline. Along with your personal references and GRE scores, schools will also weigh your grade point average.

Furthermore, most physical therapy schools also request written essays and/or conduct pre-admission interviews.

#9. Earn Your DPT Degree

This is where you will really begin to learn what it takes to become a physiotherapist. Your DPT program will likely bring many interesting and exciting challenges along the way.

In addition to the courses (which may include laboratory studies), you will have a clinical internship.

However, staying organized and keeping great study habits will be vital for your success.

Your courses will likely consist of subjects such as:

  • Biomechanics
  • Exercise physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Functional anatomy
  • Functional biology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • The musculoskeletal system
  • The endocrine system
  • The cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • Neuroscience
  • Cellular histology
  • Life span development
  • Applied physical therapy
  • Clinical and evidence-based practice
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Communication
  • Management
  • Ethics

During your clinical internship (usually six months), you’ll be supervised by a licensed PT as you start applying what you’ve learned in a real physical therapy setting.

#10. Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)

Upon earning your DPT degree, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) to meet the requirements of your state to become a licensed PT.

The exam usually includes around 200 multiple-choice questions. They evaluate your basic knowledge of physical therapy and interventions in relation to various systems of the human body, therapeutic devices and techniques, evidence-based practices, professional obligations, and safety.

You are allowed to take the NPTE up to three times within one year.

#11. Get Licensed in Your State

It is necessary to get a license from the appropriate licensing authority in your state. In addition to approving the NPTE, there might also be additional requirements like:

  • Being at least 18, 19, or 21 years of age (depending on the state)
  • Having a Social Security number
  • Passing a criminal background check, which may include fingerprinting
  • Passing a jurisprudence exam that tests your knowledge of relevant state laws and regulations

Once you have received your practice license, you can officially call yourself a physical therapist. Remember that you may need to renew your license from time to time, which may require a small amount of continuing education before each renewal.

#12. Complete A Residency (Optional)

After obtaining a Doctor of Physical Therapy (Therapist) degree, you can apply for a residency clinic program to receive additional training and experience in specialty care areas.

These programs usually last one year. After this, you can specialize even more if you take a fellowship in an advanced clinical field.

However, Fellowships usually include longer and more intensive clinical supervision than residencies.

#13. Obtain Board Certification (Optional)

After working in the field, physiotherapists can apply to become a Board Certified specialists in one of the eight clinical specialty areas offered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

In order to become board-certified, physical therapists must complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical work or an APTA-accredited residency program in the specialty area and pass an exam.

To be board-certified, physiotherapists must complete at least 2,000 clinical work hours or an APTA-approved residency program in the specialty area and pass an examination.

Furthermore, the nine (9) specialty areas that you can become board-certified in are:

  • Orthopedics
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Sports
  • Pediatrics
  • Women’s Health
  • Cardiovascular/pulmonary
  • Clinical electrophysiology
  • Oncology

In conclusion, what’s left is for you to seize the moment !!! We have shown you how to become a physical therapist.

And you’ve discovered that getting there can be a little different for everyone. So why not plan on how to get your physical therapist (therapy) degree (s).

If you are interested in becoming a PTA as part of your journey, be sure to check out some options for physical therapist assistant training.


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