What Do You Need to Be a Physical Therapist?

A physical therapist assesses, diagnoses and treats injury patients with functional and mobility limitations. Physical therapists have good interpersonal skills and enjoy helping their patients with physical limitations. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 34% increase in job opportunities in the marker over the next 5 years.

The increasingly aging population has been attributed to the fast growth in this job market. The aged require rehabilitative services for injury or illness management and recovery from surgery. Rural locations and places where the elderly receive care are expected to be hot spots for physical therapy jobs.

In May, 2015, physical therapists earned $85,790 annually. With the good job projects and attractive salary in this profession, many would want to become physical therapists. But, what do you need to become a physical therapist? Here are the requirements to becoming a professional physical therapist in the US:

Top 4 Requirements to become a Physical Therapist

  1. Educational Requirements

The minimum requirement to become a physical therapist is a graduate degree in physical therapy from an accredited college or CAPTE-approved academic program. Admission into an undergraduate program requires that you be a holder of a bachelor’s degree and/or physical therapy volunteer experience.

It’s also important to study sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy in high school to be eligible for an undergraduate physical therapy program.

A Master of Science in Physical Therapy is also important to practice as a physical therapist. The program takes two to two-and-a-half- years to complete with a focus on the theoretical and methodological aspects of physical therapy.

With lectures taking place in laboratories and classroom settings, courses include cardiopulmonary treatment, rehabilitation techniques, management of patients, research techniques and neurological physical therapy. The final semesters involve hands-on clinical experience supervised by licensed therapists.

Doctoral studies in a physical therapy program mark the highest educational qualification of a physical therapist. Based on laboratory and classroom settings, course electives include orthopedic rehabilitation, pediatric physical therapy or pharmacology.

Compulsory clinical practicum is undertaken in the last year of study. It’s only after successfully completing your doctoral studies that you can get state licensure as a physical therapist.

  1. Licensure Requirements

After completing your education and meeting all the educational requirements, get licensed by your state. Although licensure requirements vary from state to state, you must be a holder of a CAPTE-accredited graduate degree in physical therapy from an accredited college and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination.

In some states, you should pursue further education to maintain your licensure and even pass jurisprudence exams to get licensed.

  1. ABPTS Certification

Although certification by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) is optional, it can offer you opportunities to advance your career. The board offers certification in various specialties including, clinical electrophysiology, cardiovascular and pulmonary, and geriatrics.

You must have worked for at least 2000 clinical practice hours and be licensed to be certified by ABPTS. Each certification is renewed every 10 years.

  1. Further Education

It’s important for physical therapists to further their education and take part in APTA-sponsored live classes, conferences and online lessons to keep abreast with changes in the profession.

Therefore, you require a doctoral graduate degree, state licensure and optional certification to be a physical therapist. Upon becoming a licensed physical therapist, you can open your own practice, become a lecturer or even engage in research.

Contact us to find a physical therapist near you or book an appointment with a licensed practitioner to help treat your injuries.