How to Become a Physical Therapist

How to Become a Physical Therapist

If you have ever wanted to know how to become a Physical Therapist, you are in the right place. Physical therapy is one of the most demanding yet rewarding careers in the healthcare industry. Working very closely with patients and, in many cases, a team of other healthcare providers, Physical Therapists focus on regaining lost mobility and quality of life. Their patients range from individuals who have suffered injuries during an accident to children with special conditions to older individuals who are losing mobility due to the aging process. While physical therapy can be a long and grueling process, most Physical Therapists (PT’s) agree that the rewards far outweigh the demands.

If you’re considering this healthcare career, you’re undoubtedly wondering just how to become a Physical Therapist. Here, we’ll take you through the process step by step. Keep in mind that everyone’s educational and professional path is different – these are simply the steps required to obtain the required physical therapy degree.

Starting Early

How to Become a Physical Therapist

Not everyone is fortunate enough to discover what they want to do with the rest of their lives while still in high school. However, the earlier this can be determined, the further ahead of the curve you will be. If you’re a high school student reading this, you have a big advantage. You can begin taking classes right now which can contribute to your future career.

At the high school level, there are several steps you can take. Begin by enrolling in as many science classes as you can. These will give you a wonderful base knowledge which will serve you well once you get to college.

You should also look into taking some college-level courses if at all possible. In many areas, colleges offer classes which high school students can take to earn both high school and college credits at the same time. Not only will this give you a head start toward college graduation, but you will be learning at a higher level than most high school classes offer. Focus on science and nursing classes.

Choosing a college should be determined by your financial situation and the availability of accredited physical therapy schools in your area. There are many schools all over the United States which are fully accredited, so there’s no need to move across the country in order to obtain your physical therapy degree. Ensuring that the school is fully accredited is the most important component.

Want To Know How to Become a Physical Therapist? It Starts With Studying

Undergraduate Work

Some students mistakenly believe that working as a Physical Therapist assistant (PTA) is how to become a Physical Therapist. While the experience gained in this occupation is certainly valuable, it should not be looked at as a fast-track for how to become a Physical Therapist.

Students interested in how to become a Physical Therapist will need to complete either a Doctorate or Masters’ degree in physical therapy. In order to be admitted to either of these programs, students must have some prerequisites in place. Depending on the school, a student may be required to have already earned a Bachelor’s degree in an area of study which complements the field of physical therapy. Nursing is a common Bachelor’s degree for this purpose, but there is a wide variety of degrees which are commonly accepted.

At other schools, students can be admitted into a Doctorate or Master’s physical therapy program after having completed three years of study toward a Bachelor’s degree. Just as with schools which require obtaining a degree, it’s always preferable to have those years of study complement the field of physical therapy.

Graduate Work

Physical Therapist programs are either Doctorate or Master’s programs. These are known as graduate-level classes, since graduation from college or a certain amount of college-level work is required for admittance.

While Master’s programs in physical therapy still exist, they are rapidly being replaced by Doctorate-level programs. For this reason, many experts advise prospective students to seek out a Doctoral degree, since this is becoming the industry standard.

Your physical therapy courses will vary depending on the school you’re attending. However, they will be made up of a combination of classroom work and clinical work. In the classroom, you will take on in-depth studies of science, particularly the sciences which apply to physical therapy such as biology, physics and chemistry.

Psychology is also a major focus of most physical therapy programs, since the process of physical therapy has a strong element of emotional and mental discipline. A Physical Therapist must be able to help their patients through therapy which is often grueling, both physically and mentally. A strong background in psychology helps greatly with this aspect of the field.

Clinical studies will involve working closely with licensed Physical Therapists and their patients in different facilities associated with your school. These clinical experiences are vital, since they will give you a hands-on chance to see what the job is really like. You can gain knowledge through experience that simply can’t be learned in a classroom, and you also get a chance to benefit from the knowledge of doctors who have been working in the industry for years.

Graduate level physical therapy programs typically last approximately three years. After successfully completing your studies, you will receive your degree and become eligible to take the nationally recognized certification examination. Upon successfully passing this exam, and fulfilling any state specific requirements, you will be legally able to work as a Physical Therapist!

Important Points to Remember

When determining if this career is right for you, remember that physical therapy demands a great deal from its practitioners. Physically and mentally, this is a hard job. Many Physical Therapists experience “burnout” if they are not properly prepared. Be aware of these demands and be honest with yourself about whether or not you can handle the pressure.

Remember to prepare yourself academically as well. Beginning in high school certainly is not necessary, but it helps a great deal. Choosing a school which has been fully accredited is also essential, since these are the only schools which can confer a properly accredited degree in physical therapy. If you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to a career in one of the most rewarding healthcare fields. That’s how to become a Physical Therapist!

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