- Kate Darne
The path to becoming a PT.
I attended an Entrepreneur Fair at a local high school last week and many student told me that they were interested in becoming a physical therapist. I took that opportunity to educate them on the path to becoming a PT. The student were all surprised to hear that a PT degree is 7 years of college!
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities for physical therapists will grow 36 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average of all occupations. The overall demand is expected to stem from the increase in physical therapy services for aging baby boomers. The aging population is more likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes and injuries affecting mobility, all of which can require physical therapy as part of rehabilitation. More cases of patients with chronic conditions such as obesity and asthma are also expected, and physical therapists will be needed to help patients maintain their mobility.
Major advances in medical technology will also likely play a role in the increased need for PTs, as survival rates increase for trauma victims and newborns with birth defects. These patients will require rehabilitative care to recover from surgeries. The Affordable Care Act may also increase the number of individuals with access to physical therapy services.
STEPS TO BECOMING A PHYSICAL THERAPIST
EARN A BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN A HEALTH-RELATED FIELD
Before enrolling in a doctoral degree program for physical therapy, you must meet certain prerequisites. This normally includes completing a bachelor’s degree program with a heavy dose of the following courses:
Check with the doctoral degree program you plan to enroll in for specific prerequisite requirements.
COMPLETE A DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY DEGREE PROGRAM
In order to work as a physical therapist, you must complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program. As of 2014, there were 228 physical therapy programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), most of which last three years.
It is usually necessary to apply for DPT programs through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). Students in DPT programs must complete a clinical internship in an area such as acute or orthopedic care with supervised experience.
DPT programs involve coursework in the following subjects:
MEET YOUR STATE’S LICENSING REQUIREMENTS
All states require PTs to become licensed. Licensing requirements are set by individual states, but include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The NPTE is a computerized, multiple-choice exam. Applicants may take the exam three times in a twelve-month period. The Practice Exam and Assessment Tool (PEAT), also developed by the FSBPT, allows applicants to practice taking the test using an exam that resembles the NPTE.
Other licensing requirements may include a law exam and a criminal background check. Most renewal programs require the completion of continuing education credits. Make sure to check with your state board for specific licensing requirements.