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3 Steps to Become a Physical Rehabilitation Therapist

Physical therapists are respected medical professionals who apply exercise and rehabilitation techniques. These techniques are used for patients that have suffered an injury or abnormality that limits their movement or range of motion. A physical therapist works with patients to reduce pain and increase mobility and prevent disability. To become a physical therapist the following steps must be completed:

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Before one is eligible to gain admission in a graduate program, those who hope to become a physical therapy assistant must first graduate with a bachelor’s degree. At the undergraduate level, it doesn’t matter what major you choose. However, graduate programs often carry a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0. Many also require prerequisites in anatomy, physiology, physics and psychology. Keep the requirements in mind as you choose a major and select your courses.

Step 2: Obtain a Graduate Degree

Completion of a physical therapy degree program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is a necessity for anyone who aspires to become a physical therapist. A small percentage of accredited physical therapy programs offer master’s degrees, while the vast majority of them result in doctoral degrees, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reports.

Master’s degree programs take from two to three years, while doctoral programs usually last three years. Both programs include supervised clinical rotations, classroom and lab instruction in prosthetics, orthotics, examination and evaluation of patients, medical screening and diagnostic techniques and procedures.

physical therapy assistant

Step 3: Become Licensed

A physical therapist cannot practice in any state in which they are not licensed. Once an accredited physical therapy program has been successfully completed, anyone who wishes to practice physical therapy must pass the National Physical Therapy examination. This examination is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. The examination is used to ensure competency in the theory of physical therapy as well as it’s practice.

physical therapy assistant

These three steps are necessary for anyone to become a practicing physical therapist in the United States. Some choose to further educate themselves by completing a residency. Physical therapy residency programs consist of 1,500 hours of clinical practice, usually lasting from nine months to three years. Residents in these programs gives one the opportunity to work with patients under the supervision of experienced Physical Therapists while obtaining experience in specialties. They may also participate in research and supervise other healthcare staff.

There are eight different specialties recognized by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). This organization is also the one responsible for certifying physical therapists with a specialty. Some of the specialties are neurology, sports therapy and geriatrics. Candidates who aspire to be certified must be licensed Physical Therapists with a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience within their desired specialty. They also need to pass a specialist certification exam administered by the ABPTS.

A career as a physical therapist is rewarding and challenging, but requires a significant time and financial investment and should not be entered into lightly. A good way to determine if it’s a good fit for you is to speak with professionals that have spent some time as a practicing Physical Therapist.

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