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How to Become a Physical Therapist

How to Become a Physical Therapist
Master's degree

Physical therapists rely on numerous techniques including: stretching and massage to help patients. Those desiring to become a physical therapist require a DPT or Doctor of Physical Therapy. Licensure is required.

Education & Training

Typically, DPT programs last three years. The majority of programs need a bachelor's degree for admission. Specific prerequisites including biology, anatomy, physics and chemistry must be completed. The majority of DPT programs prefer applicants apply through the PTCAS or Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service.

Programs in physical therapy typically include the following classes: neuroscience, anatomy, pharmacology and biomechanics. Clinical internships are often completed by physical therapy students. These practicums allow students to gain experience under a supervisor in fields including orthopedic care and acute care.

After graduating, physical therapists may apply to and finish a clinical residency program. Most residencies last one year; providing experience and training in special areas of care. Physical therapists that have finished a residency program may choose to continue specializing by finishing a fellowship in another advanced clinical specialty.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Physical therapists must be licensed. The requirements for obtaining a license include successfully passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Numerous areas require a criminal background check and a law exam as well. Most PTs have to undergo continuing education in order to maintain their license.

Becoming a board certified specialist is an option. There is certification available from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. They offer certification in 8 clinical specialty areas such as geriatric physical therapy and orthopedics. Board certification requires completing an APTA accredited residency program and at least 2000 hours of clinical work experience in the specialty area.

Skills and Qualities that will Help

Compassion: Physical therapists often gravitate toward the profession as part of a desire to help people. They must have empathy for patients who are in pain.

Detail oriented: Similar to other healthcare providers, strong observational skills and analytic skills are required to diagnose a patient's issues, offer safe care and evaluate the treatment to see if it is working.

Dexterity: Physical therapists rely on their hands to provide therapeutic and manual therapy. They need to feel comfortable assisting patients and maneuvering them into position.

Interpersonal skills: Since physical therapists spend a copious amount of time interacting with patients, it is important that they have great people skills. Having the capacity to motivate patients, explain treatment protocols and listen to concerns can be great for providing effective therapy.

Physical stamina: Physical therapists spend a great amount of time on their feet. They have to move alongside patients and complete lots of physical activity through the day.

Resourcefulness: Physical therapists customize a variety of treatment plans for patients. They must adapt care plans and be flexible in order to meet their patient's needs.