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How can I Prepare for a Career As a Physical Therapist?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Becoming a physical therapist is demanding, but the career can be very rewarding once you start working with patients in a clinical environment. In this job, you will help patients improve mobility after accidents, strokes, and other trauma, as well as reducing pain and teaching patients how to prevent future injury. At a minimum, expect to attend a Bachelor's program in physical therapy and take an examination to be licensed, although be aware that a Master's program will enhance your abilities as a physical therapist and increase your employability.

Some physical therapists also work as personal trainers or massage therapists. A personal trainer/physical therapist can help patients get back in shape after an injury with their extensive knowledge of human anatomy, and can also take on new, healthy clients and keep them that way with carefully monitored exercise. Offering massage therapy in tandem with physical therapy will help your patients relax, improve their flexibility, and feel better as a whole.

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If you are a high school student interested in working in physical therapy, start by taking lots of science and psychology courses, along with volunteering or working in a clinical environment. Interacting with patients in a hospital or physical therapy office will help you to decide if this career is right for you, while science classes will prepare you for college. In addition, get physically active: you need to be in good shape to work in this job, and it will also give you a deeper understanding of body mechanics and sports injuries.

In college, aim for a Bachelor of Science degree with a focus on anatomy, physiology, and biology. In addition, be prepared to take advanced math courses, and take psychology and social science courses as well. As a physical therapist, you will deal with patients in a wide range of psychological states, and you will be better able to help your patients if you understand human psychology and use it to develop strong interpersonal skills. If you pursue a Bachelor's in Physical Therapy, be prepared to take continuing education courses to hone your skills.

Most people interested in a career as a physical therapist attend a Master's program, where they learn more about biomechanics, anatomy, techniques used to help bodies recover from trauma, pathology, and ethics. A Master's program also gives you an opportunity to specialize in physical therapy in fields like sports medicine or stroke recovery. You can also learn how to work with medical professionals from a variety of fields, as a physical therapist is often part of a cooperative medical team working together to make a patient feel better.

After you have graduated, you will need to take a national licensing exam in order to qualify as a physical therapist. Once you have passed this exam, you are eligible to join an existing practice or start your own: many therapists prefer to start out in an established practice to take advantage of existing facilities and a strong patient base. While practicing, plan on staying in excellent shape, as you will use your muscles on a daily basis. In addition, keep up with advances in physical therapy through trade journals and conferences, so that you can provide high quality patient care.

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anon288087
Post 5

I would love to become a physical therapist. I'm going to start training to become a physical therapist in my sophomore year at CHS. I'm going to put my mind and heart into achieving this goal. I love to help people and I love to take care of people who are sick or elderly.

anon242839
Post 4

The new standard for physical therapy is now a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree(DPT). A handful of schools continue to offer a Master's degree, however, 98 percent are requiring a DPT as the entry level degree to graduate and practice. This requires a higher level of scientific course preparation in order to get in.

Usually, it includes eight hours of biology with lab (for science majors), eight hours of anatomy and physiology with lab (for science majors), eight hours of chemistry with lab (for science majors), eight hours of physics with lab (for science majors), a statistics course and abnormal/developmental psychology. These are the most important courses to score well in. The average GPA heading into a PT program

is 3.5, while a minimum of 3.0 is required at most.

At one local school, 50 slots were filled from 750 applicants. Competitive to say the least! You also need 50 to 100 hours of documented volunteer time in various PT settings with a recommendation coming from a licensed PT.

LittleMan
Post 3

As far as training goes, will a physical therapists salary necessarily be higher with more education, or is it more dependent on their work experience?

galen84basc
Post 2

My best friend is a pediatric physical therapist, and she had to go through a ton of training to prepare for her career.

Besides the normal training you get in physical therapist schools and programs, she also had to learn about common diseases that can cause deformities in children, child development, and even how to teach parents things they can do at home to complement your work.

It really is quite a difficult job, and one I think that this even gets glossed over in the physical therapist job description blurbs -- physical therapists are a hard-working bunch, and they deserve all the respect we can give them.

pleats
Post 1

I had no idea that becoming a physical therapist was such a demanding process.

I guess I just never thought of how much physical therapists do; training, reading trade journals, even going through basic medical studies -- I think that that, if nothing else, would be enough to put me off a physical therapist career!

I wonder if it's the same for a physical therapist assistant? Do they have to go through the same rigorous training?

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