The field of physical therapy is wide, diversified, and complex. Physical therapists assess physical injuries, develop treatment plans, track progress, rehabilitate after injuries, manage chronic illnesses, and prevent future injuries in patients of all ages.
They can work in a variety of settings, including large hospitals, nursing homes, and home healthcare.
With so many alternatives available, deciding which path to take to maximize your income potential as a physical therapist can be tough.
We’ll go through the fundamentals of a physical therapist and a comprehensive list of the top 13 physical therapy certifications in the world you can pursue. With any of these physical therapist certification programs, you can build a strong physical therapy career pathway.
What Certifications is it good to have for physical therapy?
Many physical therapists opt to focus on treating certain body parts such as the shoulders, knees, neck, spine, or hands. They could also specialize in treating sports injuries, stroke rehabilitation, prenatal/postpartum care, or another aspect of physical therapy.
A small number of licensed physical therapists will go on to become board certified in a specific therapeutic specialization.
Orthopedics, sports, geriatrics, cardiopulmonary, neurology, women’s health, pediatrics, and clinical electrophysiology are among the eight specialties covered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).
Within the next two years, a ninth specialty, oncology, will be added to the list.
Those who desire to become board certified in a clinical specialty must first finish a residency or fellowship in that field.
While criteria vary by specialty, all board certification candidates must complete at least 2,000 hours of dedicated practice within their field to be eligible for the board certification exam.
How much money do physical therapists make?
Physical therapists earn an average of $85,000 a year. Salaries vary depending on the role, years of experience, education level, geographic area, and type of practice.
Physical therapist demand varies by geographic region and practice area, although unemployment rates for PTs are typically low across the country.
Physical therapists are likely to be in high demand as the population of the United States ages and the demand for their services rises.
What professional certifications are required for physical therapy?
Before you can be called a professional physical therapist, you must earn a degree from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education-accredited physical therapist education program. Afterward, you must successfully pass a state licensure exam.
Talking about the degree, it must be a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from an accredited institution. Though you can get a physical therapy job with a master’s degree, a doctoral degree will give you more leverage and a head start in your career pathway.
Now, to apply for a doctor physical therapy degree you must have taken such as biology, physiology, anatomy, and chemistry. Then you must have a bachelor’s degree, preferably with an emphasis in health, science, or health-related field.
During the degree program, which is a three years program, the areas you will cover may include biology/anatomy, cellular histology, physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, pathology, behavioral sciences, communication, ethics/values, management sciences, finance, sociology, clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, cardiovascular and pulmonary, endocrine and metabolic, and musculoskeletal.
Upon graduation, you can the national licensure exam for physical therapists. Note, Licensure is necessary for each state in which a physical therapist practices.
What is the highest paying PT specialty?
One interesting fact about choosing a physical therapy specialty is that it comes with a fat paycheck, unlike some other specialties.
Although the paychecks vary due to some factors like experience, location, qualification, or gender, every physical therapist earns well. As a physical therapist, you can make $100,000 annually or more. For the clarity purpose, below is a list of physical therapy specialties that pay higher:
- Neurological Physical Therapist – $32,000 – $116,000.
- Orthopedic Certified Specialist – $55,218 – $82,912.
- Pediatric Certified Specialist – $42,048 – $77,737.
- Certified Hand Therapist – $73,124 – $93,852.
- Director of Rehabilitation – $46,127 – $79,479.
- Acute Care Physical Therapist – $54,346 – $87,585.
Are PTAs board certified?
Yes, of course
To become a PTA board, you must be certified or licensed. Basically, PTAs are can get certification in all the states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This certification is what allows you to practice or work as a physical therapist in any state. However, this certification must be renewed regularly based on the state’s requirements.
With the certificate, you can comfortably practice within the scope of physical therapy as defined by licensure laws (physical therapy practice acts).
On the contrary, before you can become a certified PTA especially in the USA, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination.
Then, you must have graduated from an accredited physical therapy educational program. In this regard, the program must have been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education- the U.S. Department of Education-recognized specialized accrediting agency for physical therapy education programs.
This body has a set of quality threshold standards that physical therapy education programs must meet in order to be accredited.
What are some subspecialties for physical therapy?
Over 27,000 people have been certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties for demonstrating advanced clinical knowledge and abilities in physical therapy specialist areas.
Currently, the body provides certification in ten different physical therapy specialties:
- Clinical Electrophysiology
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Systems
- Wound Management
- Women’s Health
13 Physical Therapy Certifications to have in 2022
Here is a list of certifications for physical therapists worth going for this 2022:
- Pediatric Therapy Certification
- Sport Certification
- Geriatric Specialist Certification
- Cardiovascular and pulmonary Certification
- Neurologic Specialty Certification
- Acute Care Certification
- Director of Rehabilitation Certification
- Hand Therapist with a Certification (CHT)
- Orthopedic Specialist Certification
- Women’s well-being Certification
- Clinical electrophysiology Certifications
- Certification in oncologic physical therapy
- Wound Management Specialist Certification
Pediatric Certifications for Physical therapists
Getting Pediatric physical therapy certification may be the right for you if you enjoy dealing with children.
With this Physical therapy certification, you can work with children as young as infants and as old as teenagers. You would be able to handle a wide range of diseases and problems that prevent children from developing and functioning normally.
Moreso, you will gain an understanding about developmental difficulties, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, scoliosis, and brain traumas are all common.
In the area of work setting, you’ll work in hospitals, schools, outpatient centers, rehabilitation centers, and, in certain cases, the patient’s home.
Similarly, you may work with family members to teach them how to care for and help their children in addition to treating them.
Certifications for Sports Physical Therapists
Another physical therapy certification work going for is sports certification. This will pay you more if you’re a lover of sport.
Normally, Athletes who have been injured may be familiar with this type of physical rehabilitation.
With this type of certification, you can comfortably help athletes recover from injuries sustained while participating in sports.
Also, you will get to understand ACL tears, concussions, tennis elbow, hip flexor strains, and shoulder injuries such as dislocation or rotator cuff tearing which are some common sports ailments.
Additionally, you will use strengthening, stretching, manual therapy, hydrotherapy, and heat or cold application to help patients regain function and movement in their damaged areas.
Geriatric Specialist Certification
This is one of the top certifications on our list of physical therapy certifications. Geriatric certification is specially designed for a specialist who enjoys taking care of elderly people.
Yes, it is unavoidable that a person’s health deteriorates as he or she grows older. As a Geriatric Certified Specialist, you will witness a variety of health conditions that the elderly face, including rehabilitation following hip or knee surgery.
With this certification, you can easily identify how to handle some common issues older people face such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Also, you will assist the aged in coping with the challenges that come with age and will modify the exercises to the manner the elderly manage with daily chores such as bathing and the like.
Furthermore, you will assist them in the alleviation of emotions of inadequacy such as depression.
Talking about the remuneration, you will earn up to $76,689 a year.
Cardiovascular and pulmonary Certification
This is one of the best certifications on our list of physical therapy certifications right for therapists who are passionate about helping patients with lung or heart surgery.
They, like many PTs, are interested in helping their patients become self-sufficient. They also provide information for patients with lung or heart problems who are genetically predisposed.
As a professional in this field, you should be able to motivate and lead others, among other abilities. Physical therapists interested in this field must possess qualities such as endurance and stamina, as they will be expected to physically assist their patients.
To excel in this area, you must learn to tolerate it because you’ll most likely attend to patients with health issues such as chronic heart disease, hypertension, and bronchitis.
Considering the factor that this job area is in high demand, its pay is also high. As a specialist in this area, you can earn about $76,700 annually.
Neurologic Certifications for Physical Therapists
This field of study focuses on the rehabilitation and treatment of those who have suffered from traumatic brain injury or other similar conditions. Having this kind of specialization means that you, as a physical therapist, should be able to examine and treat persons who are suffering from such problems.
As a result, you’d be able to help people who are suffering from difficulties as a result of a CNS trauma. As a result, you’ll be able to assist those sufferers in moving their bodies, if not improving them, so that they can operate normally.
You must be able to motivate and inspire individuals with neurological disorders while they are receiving therapy, as this type of rehabilitation might be difficult for them.
Also, you should or take the time to master the skills required for rehabilitation, as well as to recognize patients with challenges with coordination, balance, and movement. As a professional in this field, you should anticipate challenges like the ones listed below:
- Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects the brain.
- Pain that lasts a long time
- Cystic fibrosis is a disease that affects the lungs.
- Diseases of Degeneration
- Delays in development
- Spina bifida is a condition in which the spine is split in two.
- Injuries to the spinal cord
- Head/brain injuries resulting from a traumatic event
One of the reasons for its inclusion on the list is that continuing education is required, and this is a highly specialized area because physical therapists deal with nervous system difficulties. As a result, it’s not unexpected that the annual salary for this specialty is around $74,947.
Acute Care Certification
Interested in working with hospitalized patients as a physical therapist? This certification is right for you. Though your work may vary based on the hospital you are working you, you will major be in charge of attending to patients with injury, cancer, cardiac issues, and those in the intensive care unit.
In other words, any patient that is bedridden or that has lost his/her motor functions, muscle control may require your attention as an acute Care Physical Therapist. With your help, people can regain their mobility and live comfortably once they’re released.
Director of Rehabilitation Certification
A Director of Rehabilitation certification can help you oversee the whole rehabilitation program at your workplace. You will be responsible for staff education, creating treatment plans, and enlisting the help of additional physical therapists.
In addition, you will be charged with assessing the quality of patient care, handling the most effective therapies, as well as handling problems within the department
Although you need a master’s degree to get this certification, getting a bachelor’s degree can be a good start.
Hand Therapist with a Certification (CHT)
As a physical therapist that is certified in hand therapy, you will focus on a specific and vital aspect of the body: the hands.
Becoming a certified hand therapist will permit you to handle hand injuries, post-operational recovery, handle hand rehabilitation, and treat hand ailments as a preventative measure.
Orthopedic Specialist Certification
Orthopedic physical therapy is critical for diagnosing and treating physiological problems that many of us face. Patients with musculoskeletal disorders are treated by an orthopedic physical therapist.
An OCS can treat diseases and injuries that cause pain or damage to the bones, joints, and muscles. The following are some of the most common concerns that might prompt a patient to seek treatment from an Orthopedic PT:
- Bone fractures are a common symptom of arthritis.
- Alignment of the spine
- Plantar Fasciitis Bursitis
- Inflammation and joint injuries
You must complete a minimum of 2,000 hours of orthopedic patient care before becoming an Orthopedic Specialist. Passing a certification exam is required of all physical therapy specialists.
Women’s well-being Certification
Physical therapists can specialize in women’s health, which includes both the treatment of specific problems that women confront and the therapy of women at various phases of their lives.
The main purpose of this certification is to assist women in maintaining and promoting good health throughout their lives.
As a physical therapist in this field, you can help patients with diseases like pelvic discomfort, osteoporosis, and lymphedema, as well as prenatal and postnatal care. Also, you can work with women of various ages and activities, from female athletes to senior citizens.
Clinical electrophysiology Certifications
Electromyography is a technique used in electrotherapy (EMG). EMG is a method that measures the electrical activity in a muscle using electrodes and is used to detect the health of muscles and nerve cells. Physical therapists can use this knowledge to aid patients with muscular or nerve issues.
Electrotherapy may be used by physical therapists who work in this field to benefit their patients. Electrotherapy, or the use of electrical stimulation, can aid in the prevention of blood clots, the healing of wounds, the relaxation of muscle spasms, and the improvement of blood circulation.
Certification in oncologic physical therapy
Also on our list of top physical therapist certification programs is Oncologic certification. The record has it that the Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Oncologic Physical Therapy is a new specialty and qualification in the field of physical therapy.
Physical therapists with this certification gain the required knowledge and skills to assist cancer patients in regaining mobility during and after treatment. Some of them may even have to specialize and deal with a specific group, such as children or the elderly, within this field.
All you have to do to get this certification is to write and pass the exam. Then work with oncology patients for at least 2,000 hours.
Wound Management Specialist Certification
This is among the newest physical therapist certification programs. According to the Academy of Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management, certified specialists in this field will take a multidisciplinary focus, treating both superficial and deep wounds with emphasis on the relationships between body systems and how treating one system impacts another.
With this certification program, you can be ready for clinical practice with a wide range of patients, as well as advanced roles in research, practice leadership, and policymaking.
Guide on how to get Physical Therapy Certifications Online
Here is a step by step guide on how to get physical therapy certifications online:
Before you can get physical certifications online, you must
- First earn a bachelor’s degree in the following courses; anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry or physics.
- Secondly, get a doctor of physical therapy degree that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), most of which last three years.
- Then, meet your state’s licensing requirements by passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This exam is a computerized, multiple-choice exam that is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
- Get work experience for at least 3 years.
- Afterward, you can apply to become a board-certified specialist in one of eight clinical specialty areas. This will require you to complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical work or an APTA-accredited residency program in the specialty area, and pass an exam.
The certifications for physical therapists worth going for include:
Yes, of course. To become a PTA board, you must be certified or licensed. Basically, PTAs are can get certification in all the states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Physical therapists earn an average of $85,000 a year.
Physical therapy is a big field, and there is a growing demand for qualified experts in this industry. Physical therapy occupations are expected to expand 18 percent by 2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With the above list of certifications for physical therapists, you can create pathways to becoming a physical therapist. All you have to do is to dive into the field by picking the physical therapy specialty that best suits your professional aspirations.