How to Become a Physical Therapist – Education and Certification Requirements

Physical therapists dedicate their lives to helping patients who cannot move properly because of injuries or diseases. These therapists use rehabilitation techniques such as physical exercises to help their patients manage their pain in addition to regaining their mobility. Succeeding in this endeavor is possible if the physical therapists work closely working with the patients. Therefore, these medical practitioners require excellent interpersonal skills in addition to the requisite educational standards.

Work Settings for Physical Therapists

Physical therapists services offer health care services to people of all ages. In most cases, these services are cost effective and they help patients manage pain. They also prevent loss of mobility. Moreover, these services facilitate a patient’s recovery without resorting to painful surgical procedures or taking medication. This recovery process improves day by day if there is a recovery plan in place.

A physical therapist can offer his services in a wide range of settings including rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, sports facilities, private facilities, hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. However, before practicing, a physical therapist has to meet certain educational standards. A license is also necessary for him to work as a physical therapist.

Education Requirements for a Physical Therapist

Before a physical therapist can get into this practice, he has to attain a Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy (DPT). Usually, it takes three years to complete it. CAPTE is responsible for this accreditation. During the course, the students learn through classroom and lab instructions. These lessons include patient evaluation & examination, orthotics & prosthetics, medical screening, and diagnostics. Learning about supervised clinical program at this stage is also critical.

Before you commence DPT program, you must have a bachelor’s degree that includes units in biology, psychology, chemistry, physics, human anatomy, and physiology. However, some institutions will combine undergraduate and doctorate degrees.

With clinical experience, an aspiring therapist develops interpersonal skills. That means undergraduate students can gain these skills if they volunteer at physical therapy units run by clinics or hospitals. Through observation, volunteering work exposes these students to different specialties including physical therapy for kids and neuro-rehabilitation. Exposure and first-hand experience in physical therapy environments such as rehabilitation centers, outpatient, and inpatient are necessary before you start your doctorate degree program.

Certification for a Physical Therapist

After graduating, a physical therapist needs certification from the relevant body before he can start a career as a physical therapist. Each state has its individual licensing requirements, but each must contain the computerized multi-choice National Physical Therapy Examinations offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. The exam is taken thrice in a period of one year.

Additionally, the graduates may also practice taking the test using an FSBPT developed Practice Exam and Assessment Tool. After passing those exams, a law exam and background check may be carried out before certification is offered. To have your license renewed, make sure you have completed all your continuing education credits.

Program to be a Physical Therapist Assistant

To become a physical therapist assistant (PTA), one requires having an associate degree which helps them understand how a clinical environment works. The students are also enlightened on all the essential activities carried out by a physical therapist. For example, these students need to know how to check the vital signs of a patient. They also need to know how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in addition to administering the Heimlich maneuver.

A physical therapist assistant has clinical kinesiology skills that allow him to differentiate between normal and abnormal patient gait. These skills also help him when it comes to measuring joints and carrying out proper muscle testing. Additionally, this kind of therapist has therapeutic skills that help him develop patient recovery programs. Moreover, he also monitors the progress a patient makes as he keeps track of the patient’s therapeutic exercises.

Top Schools Offering Physical Therapy Programs

Three institutions are known to provide quality education when it comes to physical therapy programs. These institutions are:

The University of Indianapolis: This school, which is located in Indianapolis, offers technical, physical therapy classes in the evening while general education classes occur during the day. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education certified this institution of higher learning. The schools’ admission for PTA is highly selective.

St. Catherine University: This school is located in Minneapolis and offers physical therapist assistant programs at both undergraduate and doctorate levels. It offers an Associate Degree in Applied Sciences in Physical Therapy Assisting at its Minneapolis campus. This program allows graduates to learn alongside doctorate students in some cases.

Louisiana College: This privately managed college offers PTA programs including an Associate Degree in Applied Science. The students go through a whole year of general education and another one for technical studies.

Physical Therapists: Compensation and Demand

Over the years, the salary rates for those who have chosen a career in physical therapy continues to increase. According to statistics, their salary growth rate stands at 34%, which is a fast growth rate when compared to other occupations. The average annual income for a physical therapist is $84,020.

The elderly population is increasing rapidly, which in turn, increases the demand for physical therapists. Remember, baby boomers are prone to conditions such as injury, stroke, and heart attacks, all of which require the attention of physical therapists. Diseases such as asthma and obesity also call for the services of physical therapists to help the patients maintain their physical mobility.

Other factors that are likely to increase the need for physical therapists include advancements in technology that increase the survival rate of people born with defects. Moreover, victims of traumas require physical therapy as part of their rehabilitation process. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act has also increased the number who can afford to pay for physical therapy services.

Conditions That Require Attention of Physical Therapists

Conditions calling for the assistance of a physical therapist have led to a rise in the demand for these professions. These conditions include arthritis, cerebral palsy, chronic pains, back injury, cancer-related complications, back pain, fractures, sports injury, and pelvic pains. Congenital disabilities and spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, obesity, muscle strains, and cystic fibrosis also require the help of a physical therapist.

Choosing a career as a physical therapist is really beneficial. Mean physical therapist salary is quite good and it gives you a chance to earn handsomely. Besides this, you also get an opportunity to exercise humanity by helping others. The course is competitive, but you can easily secure a job if you meet all the requirements, both in term of education and certification.