How to become a physical therapist

Physical therapists have a challenging job but one that's potentially deeply rewarding — they have an ability to make an incredibly positive difference in the lives of their patients. PTs, as they're sometimes called, help people who are injured or in chronic pain manage their recoveries and improve their mobility. That might involve something as simple as helping an arthritis patient perform stretches, or as complex as helping a paraplegic patient learn to walk again after a car accident.

How to become a physical therapist

Because being a physical therapist requires such extensive knowledge of the human body, the job also requires a great deal of education and training. Anyone aspiring to a career in physical therapy must start by following these steps:

  1. Get a bachelor's degree — ideally in a relevant field, such as kinesiology
  2. Pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree
  3. Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
  4. Get licensed by any state where you wish to practice

It's also crucial to renew your license as often as necessary. Those looking to advance their careers can also consider a board certification in a clinical specialty such as geriatrics or sports.

Largely due to the aging population in the U.S., career opportunities for physical therapists are expected to be particularly strong in the coming years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The BLS predicts job growth of 25 percent nationally through 2026, which is much higher than the national average of 7 percent. Certain states are expected to have even higher growth than that, with Colorado, Kentucky and Tennessee all expecting more than 45 percent growth through 2024, according to state labor department data.

Where physical therapists work

Although many physical therapists work in hospitals, those are far from the only employment option. According to the BLS, other common possibilities include:

  • Health practitioners' offices (this might include chiropractors or private practice, among other options)
  • Home health care services
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Doctors' offices

If this growing and sustainable career interests you, check out the visual below for more details on how to become a physical therapist. A complete list of sources is included at the end.

Article Sources
Article Sources
  • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2016: Physical Therapists, Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291123.htm
  • Physical Therapists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm#tab-1
  • Long-Term Occupational Projections: Physical Therapists, Projections Central, http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm
How to Become a Physical Therapist
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