How to Become a Physical Therapist is devoted to providing individuals who are considering a career in physical therapy with unbiased information which they can use to make educated decisions about where and how to pursue their physical therapy career goals. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions about this site, contact us.
What types of physical therapy degrees / programs exist and what are they called?
There are several degrees and programs for becoming a physical therapist.
- Physical Therapy Assistant Program – One can be a physical therapy assistant with as little as two years with an associate’s degree offered through various traditional schools and online programs.
- Bachelor’s-to-Master’s Physical Therapy Degree – There’s also a physical therapy degree which is a joint bachelor’s and master’s in physical therapy, usually consisting of a 5-6 years of school.
- Direct Entry to Master’s Physical Therapy Degree (MPT) – This is for students whom already have a bachelor’s (usually in the arts) and want a career in physical therapy. This degree allows for students to take the courses needed to prepare them for testing to obtain a physical therapy license without taking the entire program that requires core classes, which the student has already done (in gaining their bachelor’s). This program may also be referred to as MPT.
- Direct Entry Doctorate’s Physical Therapy Degree (DPT) – This is similar to MPT and is for students with a bachelor’s degree. This is also called DPT.
- Transitional DPT – For students who have a physical therapy degree, work in the field and decide they want to further study the subject to obtain their Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. This can be done in 2 years.
How long does it take to become a physical therapist?
A lot of students ask me, “how many years to become a physical therapist?”. The answer, is that it depends on what current education you have and whether you want to become a licensed physical therapist or a physical therapist assistant. To become a physical therapist, you need your bachelors degree then your masters degree. Combined these can take 5-6 years. To obtain your doctorate in physical therapy, which is not necessary to become a physical therapist, but may be needed for some top level jobs, add an extra 2 years, so approximately 7-8 years of post high school education. To become a physical therapist assistant the process can be completed in as little as 2 years of schooling after you have your high school diploma.
Physical therapy program rankings?
As with most associate degree rankings, there’s no rhyme or reason to how these rankings are achieved. It is important to seek out a school that is accredited by a regional or national accreditation organization to ensure a proper career when you are done with your associate’s degree. Also consider how long the school has offered the physical therapy program, since the longer it’s been in business, the more resources and experienced staff they’re likely to have. In addition, look to whether they have the specific sub-specialty that most interests you, whether that’s becoming a pediatric physical therapist or any of the numerous other sub-specialties.
Transferring physical therapy school credits
Many core classes for physical therapy programs will transfer from school to school, as long as the schools in question are accredited by the same organization. Check with your former school and potential school before assuming anything. Most schools are accredited by a regional or national accreditation organization and do not accept credits from schools outside of the same organization.
Core classes that may transfer are various science courses, such as physics, biology, anatomy, human physiology and chemistry. As students reach the latter part of programs where lab and field work are required, it is not likely that these courses will transfer since most schools have specific requirements tailored for their own curriculum.
What sorts of careers are common for students with this degree?
- Physical therapists can be utilized in many places. About 25% of physical therapists are self-employed.
- Schools and Universities – Many learning institutions employ physical therapists for athletes. This is especially true of Big 10 and Big 12 schools where the care for athletes is similar to that taken for professional athletes who need a physical therapist on duty.
- Clinics and Hospitals – Physical therapists often work at clinics or hospitals, seeing patients for a myriad of reasons when referred to by a general doctor.
- Private Practice – Doctor’s often employ an in-house physical therapist for patients.
- Nursing Home – Many nursing homes have a physical therapist on staff or hire physical therapists on a contract basis to tend to elderly patients.
- Private At-Home Care – In-home care is often required by patients who are extremely injured. In these cases, a physical therapist is hired to come to the patient’s home to work with him or her.
What is the average salary of a physical therapist?
The average salary for a physical therapist is a little over $77,000 per year. On the high end of the scale, physical therapists can make upwards of $100,000 per year, while on the low end, $44,000 per year is the pay rate. All of this varies based on the place of work and area of living. For example working a clinic in a small town will pay remarkably lower than a large university in a major city.
In late 2009, the Department of Labor named physical therapy an area that is growing at an alarming rate . This is likely because the Baby Boomer generation is aging and there are more senior citizens to tend to than ever before. While Americans are living longer, their health is not always stellar, leaving plenty of room for the medical community to help senior citizens attempt to improve their quality of life at a later age.
The same report on physical therapy slated the industry to grow by 30% between the years of 2008 and 2018. Physical therapists will continue to be in high demand, even in rural areas, since most therapists tend to take jobs in urban cities.
Physical therapy scholarships and physical therapist grants
Some schools or programs may have their own scholarships or grants. If you are in need of funds for school, this is something to explore before you commit to a program. For scholarships, you will need to provide all academic records and may also need to submit financial information. For grants, financial need is the area that weighs most.
Tylenol Scholarship – This scholarship is aimed at students pursuing an education in healthcare. 10 students receive $10,000 scholarships and 30 students receive $5,000 scholarships. The Tylenol scholarship has been around for almost 20 years and you can download the application here.
Texas Physical Therapy Association Scholarship – This is a great organization because they have scholarships for each sector of physical therapy, such as those pursing a doctorate’s, a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree. Scholarships range from $2,000-$7,000.
American Physical Therapy Association Scholarship – The Florence P. Kendall scholarship is granted to students who want a career in physical therapy and are $5,000. Promotion of Doctoral scholarships are worth up to $7,500 and another up to $15,000. These two scholarships are aimed at those pursuing their doctorate’s in physical therapy.