Physical Therapist Education Requirements

Those wishing to become a Physical Therapist are required to obtain a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Master’s degree programs are typically between two and two and a half years in length, while most doctoral degree programs take 3 years to complete.


Physical Therapist Education Requirements

Physical Therapist education programs typically include basic classes, some of which are listed here:

Basic Science Courses:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Physiology
  • Exercise Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Cellular Histology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Radiology/Imaging

Behavioral Science Course Requirements:

  • Evidence Based Practice
  • Clinical Reasoning

Clinically-Based Courses:

  • Medical Screening
  • Examination Tests & Measures
  • Diagnostic Process
  • Therapeutic Interventions
  • Outcomes Assessment
  • Practice Management

In addition to attending these courses and receiving instruction in the laboratory, students will be required to participate in supervised clinical training.

Vision 2020 Requirements

There has been a trend in the Physical Therapist education requirements that has been in motion for the last eleven years. Thanks to a series of goals put in place by the American Physical Therapy association called “Vision 2020,” candidates entering the physical therapy career path need to graduate with nothing less than a Doctor of Physical Therapy if they hope to compete for a job in the Physical Therapist arena.

Vision 2020 is not a mandate, but rather a set of goals, one of which states that “by 2020, physical therapy will be administered only by physical therapists who are Doctors of Physical Therapy.” It is the hope of APTA that by driving this goal of more aggressive Physical Therapist education requirements, patients will have the ability to go directly to the Physical Therapists instead of the current requirement of obtaining a referral from a general practitioner before visiting a DPT.

Before Entering A Physical Therapy Doctorate Program

Before entering a University level Physical Therapist training program, applicants are usually required to have completed undergraduate courses in anatomy, chemistry, biology, mathematics, social science statistics, and physics. Many of the Physical Therapist programs suggest or require that applicants have previous work experience in the field of physical therapy. This can be in the form of volunteer work or internships, preferably in more than one type of work environment. Examples include: physical therapy clinics, hospitals, sports medicine clinics, pediatric clinics etc..

Practical Requirements

The ability to communicate well and possessing good interpersonal skills will be beneficial when educating patients and their families about conditions and physical therapy routines that will need to be explained. Compassion and a general interest in helping patients are other qualities that make for a good Physical Therapist. Read more about the Physical Therapist job description to see if you are up for the challenges of becoming a DPT.

Continuing Education Requirements For Physical Therapists

It is expected that Physical Therapists should continue their education and professional development by taking courses, attending workshops, or becoming board certified. While it is not yet mandated, currently employed PT’s who do not have a Doctorate should consider working towards a goal of earning their DPT, since it is more and more common for newcomers to the field to graduate as a DPT.

Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

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