Each year, physical therapists perform well over 300 million sessions in America. These physical therapy sessions can help cut treatment costs by up to 72%. It’s no wonder that so many Americans sign up for this type of treatment.
A career in physical therapy can help you significantly improve patients’ quality of life. In return for your service, you get to earn an impressive salary. As of May 2020, physical therapists earned an annual median wage of $91,010.
For those looking for information on how to become a physical therapist, this is the right place. This step-by-step guide tells you all you need to know about choosing a career path in physical therapy.
Apply for a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program
The first step in becoming a physical therapist is to submit an application for a doctor of a physical therapy program. Most learning institutions require people to apply through the PTCAS.
Exact application requirements may vary from school to school. However, most institutions require an application fee, a bachelor’s degree unless the program combines both bachelor’s and doctoral education, and transcripts that are used to calculate GPA. You’ll also need references, supplemental materials, and PT-supervised observation hours.
Some programs will also require you to take the GRE, as well as specific prerequisite coursework. Confirm with the school what exactly they require and get it ready.
You’ll need to apply to a CAPTE-accredited DPT program.
Earn the DPT Degree
As soon as your application to a DPT program is accepted, you may start the process of completing your degree. In America, this program takes three years to finish. The typical program is made up of 80% classwork and lab work, while the remaining 20% consists of clinical education.
While the curriculum may vary based on the program, expect to cover:
DPT coursework gives students a solid science background in addition to preparing them to manage a physical therapy business. Coursework also helps students know how to keep their physical therapy practice current based on the latest research.
Among the topics included in the DPT curriculum are biology, biomechanics, behavioral science, cellular history, cardiovascular disease, and communication. Students also study ethics, critical reasoning, musculoskeletal, exercise physiology, and metabolic.
On-Campus Lab Work
As you complete the DPT program, you’ll also participate in lab work. The goal of this lab work is to provide you with valuable hands-on experience in physical therapy.
Learners are also expected to complete several clinical experiences or PT internships where they work in physical therapy settings under the supervision of physical therapists. Generally, a clinical experience takes place off-campus and is helpful when it comes to finding a job once you’re through studying.
Take and Pass the NPTE
The next important step for people interested in physical therapy careers is to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). You’ll need to be approved by your state and the FSBPT.
There are certain requirements you need to meet before you can be approved for the exam. For instance, you’ll need to register for the exam online and pay the required registration fee. Candidates also need to possess a CAPTE-accredited DPT degree or a foreign equivalent.
Learn about any other requirements you need to fulfill and adhere to them within the required time. After that, start preparing for the exam to give yourself the best chance of passing it. The great news is that there’s a lot of online help today that can help students with physical therapy board exam prep.
Once you’ve been approved to take the NPTE exam, you need to make sure you’ve scheduled an exam date online. The typical NPTE exam consists of 250 questions that candidates must complete within five hours. To pass, you need to score at least 600.
For students who pass the exam, the state issues a license. You won’t need to go through any more steps to get licensed since you’ve applied for approval to take the NPTE exam. That said, it’s still prudent to check with your state whether they need any extra information.
Now that you’re a licensed physical therapist, you may want to specialize in a certain area of physical therapy practice. Among the most popular areas of specialization in this industry are:
Applying for a clinical residency allows you to advance your knowledge in a specific area of physical therapy. This residency will help you get a job as a physical therapist in the area you want to specialize in.
You’ll have a physical therapist to supervise and mentor you in the specialty you choose. In the end, clinical residency gives you the scientific inquiry skills you need to work in more advanced practice.
A clinical fellowship is meant for PTs who want to demonstrate expertise in a given field of the physical therapy profession. Often, people who complete a fellowship have already gone through a clinical residency. A fellowship offers advanced instruction in a given subspecialty of physical therapy.
Just like in residency, you get strong mentorship when you enroll in a fellowship.
Now You Know How to Become a Physical Therapist
The place of physical therapists in the health field is without question. Through their help, patients can effectively manage their conditions while spending less on treatment. With the information we’ve shared in this guide on how to become a physical therapist, you can start your journey to joining this wonderful profession and begin to make a difference in the lives of others.
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