Is becoming a physical therapist right for me?

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How to become a Physical Therapist

To become a physical therapist, you must complete a specific educational path and obtain a license to practice in your state. Here are the steps to become a physical therapist:

  • Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: While there is no specific major required to become a physical therapist, you must first obtain a bachelor's degree in any field. However, many students choose to major in a science-related field such as biology or kinesiology, as these degrees may provide a more solid foundation for future study.
  • Complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program: After obtaining a bachelor's degree, you must then complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, which typically takes three years to complete. DPT programs include both classroom and clinical coursework in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, biomechanics, and patient care.
  • Complete Clinical Rotations: DPT programs require students to complete clinical rotations, which provide hands-on experience working with patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. Clinical rotations are typically completed during the final year of the DPT program.
  • Obtain a License: After completing a DPT program, you must obtain a license to practice physical therapy in your state. Licensure requirements vary by state but typically include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and completing a certain number of clinical hours.
  • Optional Specialization: After obtaining licensure, physical therapists may choose to pursue additional specialization in areas such as sports therapy, neurologic therapy, pediatric therapy, or geriatric therapy. Specialization typically requires additional coursework and clinical experience.

Physical therapists can pursue a variety of certifications to demonstrate their expertise in certain areas of practice. Here are some of the most common certifications for physical therapists:

  • Board-Certified Clinical Specialist: The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) offers clinical specialist certification in a variety of areas, including orthopedics, neurology, sports, and pediatrics. These certifications require additional education and clinical experience beyond what is required for licensure, and passing a specialty certification exam.
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS): Offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), this certification is designed for professionals who work with athletes and active individuals to improve their physical performance.
  • Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist (COMT): This certification is offered by the International Academy of Orthopedic Medicine and is designed for therapists who specialize in manual therapy techniques to treat musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Certified Hand Therapist (CHT): The Hand Therapy Certification Commission (HTCC) offers certification for therapists who specialize in treating conditions of the hand and upper extremities.
  • Clinical Electrophysiology Specialist (ECS): Offered by the ABPTS, this certification is for physical therapists who specialize in the use of electrotherapy and other physical agents to treat conditions such as pain and muscle weakness.
  • Geriatric Certified Specialist (GCS): This certification is offered by the ABPTS and is designed for physical therapists who specialize in treating older adults.

Online Resources
There are a variety of online resources available for physical therapists that can help with continuing education, professional development, and staying up-to-date with the latest research and trends in the field. Here are some of the top online resources for physical therapists:

  • American Physical Therapy Association (APTA): The APTA is the largest professional organization for physical therapists in the United States, and their website provides a wealth of resources for members, including continuing education courses, research articles, and career development tools.
  • Physical Therapy Web: This website provides a variety of resources for physical therapists, including articles on clinical topics, job listings, and discussion forums for networking with other professionals.
  • Physiopedia: This online platform provides an open-access repository of knowledge for physical therapy professionals, with articles, videos, and case studies on a variety of topics.
  • MedBridge: MedBridge is an online education platform that provides continuing education courses for physical therapists, as well as tools for patient education and engagement.
  • PTNow: PTNow is an online resource provided by the APTA that includes clinical practice guidelines, patient education materials, and other resources for evidence-based physical therapy practice.
  • Rehab Essentials: Rehab Essentials is an online education platform that offers continuing education courses for physical therapists, as well as resources for exam preparation and career development.