Completing the requirements needed for a career in the physical therapy field can be quite challenging and demanding, but being able to put those skills to use can be incredibly rewarding! While a genuine desire to help others is a big plus, it is helpful to understand all that will go into your training to become a physical therapist.
One of the first things you should think about is, what exactly does a physical therapist do? A very basic definition of a physical therapist is someone who evaluates any disabilities or limitations in a patient’s physical function, and devises a treatment plan to help that patient improve, with the hopes of gaining the same mobility they were capable of before the treatment. Physical therapists will work with individuals that have been in accidents, have cerebral palsy, to those that have lower back pain and arthritis.
As far as the educational requirements, they are many, but again, the skillset you will obtain will be unmatched. While in high school, it is definitely helpful to take extra health and science courses, in addition to the regular requirements to graduate. Since most of us don’t know until later in high school exactly what we want to study in college, at the very least it is extremely important to get the best possible GPA you can in order to get into a college that will provide you with a great education in this field.
You will be required to eventually go to graduate school, so it is again imperative to continue to study hard in college to get the best grades possible. You will also be required to take a number of science classes in order to get into graduate school, such as anatomy, biology, and physics. After earning your Associate’s Degree, you are at this time eligible to become a physical therapy assistant. This is important to note because many graduate programs require some work experience or volunteering in the field. If you can obtain work as an assistant, this will give you more experience in your field of study, and will help you in graduate school.
After graduating with a Bachelors’ Degree, you are then on to earn your Doctorate Degree. There are two types of degrees, Master of Physical Therapy (MPT), and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). It has been stated that as of 2020, the only acceptable degree for a physical therapist will be the DPT, so it is best to go that route. Your program will be study in both classroom and laboratory settings, and you will also be required to complete a supervised clinical experience.
Lastly, you will need to be licensed in the state you wish to practice in. Getting licensed typically means passing a set of exams, but check with your state first to determine what, if any, other requirements are needed.
After all of your studies, you may wish to work in a specialized field. This is not necessary, but at this point in your education you may have an area of medicine in which you prefer to practice in.
Again, this sounds like a lot, but just imagine the countless patients you will be able to help! There is nothing worse than not being able to do all the physical activities you are used to doing, and imagine the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that you will get when helping someone achieve that goal!