The process of selecting a career is never easy — it requires evaluating the educational and financial requirements and whether the growth prospects will benefit you in the long run. The medical industry is usually a wise choice, since job markets are hearty in most healthcare professions.
Physical therapy is one of the fastest growing professions in the medical industry today, and for many people driven to help others, it’s increasingly the answer to their searching process. Of course, like any other career option, there are aspects to consider.
The educational requirements for becoming a physical therapist include a bachelor’s degree, an advanced degree and a license for practice.
Get a bachelor’s degree.
Although you’ll certainly want to consider a Bachelor’s of Science degree during your undergraduate years, it’s not absolutely necessary. Still, if you’re lucky enough to figure out that you’d like to pursue physical therapy during your undergraduate coursework, useful majors to pursue might include biology, psychology or exercise science. Bear in mind, too, that once you begin working toward your advanced degree, you will probably need to take courses in the sciences — so, the earlier you prepare for this, the better off you’ll be.
Get an advanced degree.
After you conclude a bachelor’s degree, it’s time to earn your post-graduate, professional degree. You will need to complete the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) before you apply to these programs. Some programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (or DPT) degree, while others offer a Master of Physical Therapy (or MPT) degree. Either of these will lead you to the goal of becoming a physical therapist. Your advanced degree program will likely include classes in anatomy, physiology, neuroscience and biomechanics. Furthermore, you will probably do clinical rotation for hands-on experience before the degree is awarded.
Get licensed to practice.
So you’ve completed all of your coursework — congratulations! The next step is getting your physical therapy license. In most of the United States, the licensing process means passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. You will need to check the requirements for your particular state to find out.
Yes, it is expensive to attend both college and post-graduate programs, but you may find it to be well worth the financial investment to become a physical therapist. The median income for physical therapists is around $69,000 per year and can be more than that depending on location, specific position, experience and practice environment.
Emotional and Physical Investments
If you want to become a physical therapist, there are certain traits that will help you adapt to the position. Some of these traits include:
Patience during a tedious or time-consuming process.
Physical therapy involves helping the patient learn to use his or her body after illness or accident. The process can be quite frustrating for the patient and possibly painful. In order to be a great physical therapist you will need to be considerate and patient.
Sincere love of physical activity.
If you’re a couch potato yourself, becoming a physical therapist may not be right for you. If, on the other hand, you find yourself bicycling, swimming and running on a regular basis and using exercise or physical activity to enrich your own life, the passion is more likely to transfer to your patients.
A friendly and optimistic disposition.
Would you rather work behind a desk or in a cubicle, not interacting with anyone around you? Then physical therapy is not the right career choice for you. Physical therapists should possess a good attitude in order to bolster patients’ attitudes about their recovery. They should also be willing to work with people on a daily basis.
Before you find the ideal job in physical therapy, it’s a good idea to do the legwork, meet other folks in the field and figure out what suits you best.
Do online research.
Relevant websites, such as the American Physical Therapy Association’s site (Visit APTA.org) can help you learn about the industry, find jobs in your area, engage in online networking with other therapists and stay abreast of industry news.
Scout the area.
If you aren’t sure whether you’d rather work in a hospital, a private doctor’s practice or in the home of patients, do a little bit of research first. You can meet other physical therapists that work in various environments and make a personal list of pros and cons. The more you know about what position you want, the better your chance is of finding it.
Physical therapy is an excellent career choice, but make sure that it’s right for you before you invest the time, education and money necessary to become a physical therapist. With a little bit of research, you can determine whether physical therapy is a profession that will bring you job fulfillment.
Kiersten Ferreira is the Director of Rehab Therapy for CompHealth’s permanent placement division. Her team provides placement services for occupational therapists, physical therapists, rehab managers and directors of rehab, in a variety of settings throughout the United States. Kiersten has over 17 years’ experience in healthcare staffing experience, 11 of those with CompHealth.