Physical Therapist Education Requirements

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A physical therapist is a person who helps you rehabilitate and regain motor control of your body after a serious injury or surgery. They help you prevent any such future injuries and help you fix any current issues. Let us see the education requirements that are required to become a physical therapist.

Bachelor’s degree
A Bachelor’s degree is the first step to becoming a physical therapist. You need to undergo 4 years of schooling and get a degree related to health in most cases. It helps if the courses you take include some subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Anatomy and Physiology. You may sometimes have to check out your desired doctoral course and accordingly register for a pre-requisite subject.

Master’s degree
Though not always necessary, it helps to achieve a master’s degree in any of the medical fields to help with the knowledge required to become a PT.

Doctorate of Physical Therapy
To be a physical therapist you must earn a doctorate degree in physical therapy. The doctorate degree must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), To apply for a DPT program you will need to go through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). After this, you are required to undergo a clinical internship in any given physiotherapy area such as acute or orthopedic care. The things that you will learn during DPT are things like applied Physical Therapy, Functional Anatomy, Complex Conditions, Life Span Development, and Pharmacotherapy.

The licensing requirements differ from one state to another. Some of these states require you to pass a background check and a law exam to be a licensed practitioner. To get licensed you need to give the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This test is usually governed by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). You could also give the Practice Exam and Assessment Tool (PEAT) to practice for the NPTE as they both have a similar format and questions. You are allowed to give the NPTE thrice in a twelve-month period.

Though not mandatory, after getting a license, it is recommended that you apply for a clinical residency program. This allows you learn much more and specialize in any given field of Physical therapy. It usually lasts for about a year.

Get a specialization
After practicing for a few years, you can opt to get board certified in any one of the 8 specialized fields of physiotherapy recognized by APTA. These are –

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports Physical Therapy
  • Women’s Health

There are of course many other ways to become a physical therapist. One can choose to become a Physical therapist assistant (PTA) first and then move on to become a PT after getting a doctorate. Or one might opt for a combined bachelor’s – master’s program which might last for 6 years. Master’s Physical Therapy (MPT) is another option like the DPT that many students also go for in order to complete their education.

Bachelor’s (4) + Master’s Degree (2) + Doctorate (3-4) + Licensure (0-1) + Residency (1) = Total (8-12) years
So, it might take about 8 to 12 years to become a fully-fledged Physician assistant. With flexible working hours and an average salary of $80,000 early in the job, this job is definitely worth everything. Later, you could choose to other open your private practice, teach other prospective PTs or go into the field of research to diversify yourself and earn a bit more. For more information on being a physical therapist, you can always visit American Physical Therapy Association.