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How do I Become a Pediatric Physical Therapist?

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  • Written By: Elva K.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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The pediatric physical therapist works to help children and adolescents improve their movement skills. For example, they work with children or adolescents who have prosthetic limbs, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome, muscular challenges, injuries, or surgical challenges for the purpose of helping them improve their motor skills, muscular strength, and coordination. If you aspire to become a pediatric physical therapist, you generally will need a college degree and postgraduate training.

Graduate physical therapy programs vary in terms of the particular undergraduate majors they prefer from applicants. Some graduate programs will allow any undergraduate major while other schools prefer specific majors from their undergraduate applicants. Thus, if you hope to work as a pediatric physical therapist, it is important to check with the specific graduate physical therapy programs you think you might be interested in after college.

Generally speaking, whatever subject you end up majoring in during college, there will be specific courses you must take. For instance, to even meet application requirements for most graduate physical therapy programs, you will need to take courses such as chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, physiology, and statistics. Also, keep in mind that physical therapy is a very competitive career field. Thus, for you to impress prospective graduate physical therapy programs, it can be helpful for you to get good grades to demonstrate that you have the learning ability and stamina to successfully complete graduate training.

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If you want to become a pediatric physical therapist, most likely you will seek graduate school training immediately upon completion of your bachelor's degree. Getting the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in physical therapy is generally recommended for anyone who hopes to become a pediatric physical therapist. Not only will the doctorate give you the skills you need to work as a physical therapist but the doctorate will enable you to get research experience that could be helpful in the event you choose to become a college professor later in your career.

Upon completion of schooling, there is a physical therapy licensure exam called the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) that you must pass so that you can successfully apply to the licensing board in the locality in which you hope to work. Then, once you become a working physical therapist, you will have the option of working with children in hospital settings or home health. By contrast, you could work in rehabilitation centers, osteopathic centers, or other medical settings where there are children who need physical therapy.

If you seek to become a pediatric physical therapist, it is necessary to remember that in addition to having adequate physical therapy skills, it is necessary to have good social skills. Pediatric physical therapists work with children and also have to communicate with parents and others as the child participates in physical therapy. Thus, it is necessary for the pediatric physical therapist to have a personality that is appropriately patient and encouraging to a child during physical therapy sessions but firm, professional, and no-nonsense in discussions with parents, doctors, or other service providers. Granted, if you have the necessary academic skills and personality characteristics, being a pediatric physical therapist can be a compatible career for you.

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