How can I become a Physical Therapist?
A physical therapist (PT) works with patients who have suffered physical
disabilities as the result of an accident or a disease. In consultation
with doctors and other medical professionals, the PT designs a patient's
rehabilitation therapy and works with the patient over a course of
weeks, months or even years. Therapy can include exercise, deep-tissue
massage and ultrasound treatments.
1. Understand that you will need a bachelor's or master's degree in
physical therapy, and that it will include numerous science courses,
including chemistry, biology and physics. You should begin taking these
science courses in high school.
2. Work on polishing your interpersonal skills. You will often have to
advise frustrated patients and family members about long-term physical
3. Go to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Web site
(apta.org) for up-to-date information about this field. Also look for
the APTA list of accredited schools and contact your top choices for
their admissions information.
4. Maintain an excellent grade point average. The physical therapy field
is highly competitive.
5. Consult local hospitals, rehabilitation centers and private therapy
practices about their hiring forecasts. Try to get your internship where
jobs might be available after you graduate.
6. Pass the mandatory licensure exam after you have received your
degree. Check your state's exact licensing requirements long before
7. Decide if you want to specialize in an area such as
sports medicine. Ask your counselor about the additional
training or degrees required for certification in a specialty. Remember
that you can work toward a specialty after you graduate from college.
How do I Become a Physical Therapist Aide?
Growth in employment of physical therapy aides is expected to grow 29
percent from 2006 to 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. As of 2009, approximately 46,000 physical therapy aides are
currently employed--71 percent in physical therapy offices and hospitals
and the rest in nursing facilities, offices of physicians, home health
centers and outpatient care centers.
1. Get a high school diploma, a moderate degree of strength and the
ability to kneel, stoop and stand for long periods of time. You will
also need to be well organized and detail oriented, have strong
interpersonal skills, and be a caring person who likes to help others.
2. Understand that physical therapy aides are often responsible for
gathering and preparing therapy equipment. They prepare the treatment
rooms with the required equipment for each individual patient's
needs. They are there to assist the physical therapist or physical
therapist assistant. They are given the task to keep the area clean,
organized and prepared for the next session. Physical therapy aides will
assist the patients to and from the treatment area pushing the
patient’s wheelchair or having the patient lean on their shoulder
as they walk. Physical therapy aides are also responsible for clerical
tasks, such as ordering supplies, answering phones and filling out
3. Be prepared to work full-time or part-time; a large number of
positions are part-time. They receive on the job training and with
direct supervision from physical therapist or physical therapy
assistants can learn advance techniques often performed by physical
therapy assistants. In a number of states, physical therapy aides can
become physical therapy assistants with experience and if necessary
further education. Physical therapy aides can expect a median income of
$22,060 a year, as of 2009. The range is $15,850 to 32,600 for physical
therapy aides. The factors included in that range involve the
geographical location as well as where you are employed. Nursing care
facilities average $24,170 per year, physician offices $22,680 per year,
hospitals $22,680 per year and physical therapy offices $21,230 year.
Assisting patients regain skills and abilities they have lost due to
accident, illness or age is a rewarding career. If you have a true
desire to help those in need and a strong back, this may be the path you
were meant to take.
How do I Become an Animal Physical Therapist?
An animal physical therapist helps a variety of species including
horses, dogs and exotic zoo animals. These animals need assistance
because they have experienced a trauma or sickness that is affecting
their ability to move, and causing pain. These professionals work in a
variety of settings including private practices and city zoos. But to
become an animal physical therapist, you must gain the required
education and pass a state exam. Here's a guide to becoming an animal
1. Earn a Master's Degree in Physical Therapy with a specialty in
animals. These programs typically take three years to complete. Western
University of Health Sciences (see Resources) offers a Master's Program
in Animal Rehabilitation. You can also find programs in your area by
checking out NaturalHealers.com, a directory that includes programs
across the nation.
2. Pass a state licensing exam. After completing your program, you must
pass a state exam to practice physical therapy. Since every state's
requirements for animal physical therapists are different, check with
your state's licensing, permits and registration department.
3. Get internship experience. While attending college, seek animal
physical therapist internships with local zoos and veterinarian physical
therapy practices to get hands on experience. This will also provide
networking opportunities that may land you a job after graduation.
4. Update your resume. Once you graduate with your Master's Degree in
Physical Therapy, update your resume to include important qualifications
such as internship experience, volunteer work with animals and
education. For sample resumes, check out Best Sample Resume (see
5. Apply to animal physical therapist jobs. Because animal physical
therapy is a unique niche, you won't find many of these positions on
large job boards.
How do I become a Physical Therapist Assistant?
1. Decide that you want to do it. It is as simple as that. I agonized
over whether or not to change my direction. Even though the one I was on
wasn't working, I was comfortably uncomfortable. If you know this is
what you want to do, DO IT!
2. Research the profession. The American Physical Therapy Association
website, apta.org, is your first source for all things physical therapy.
Use it to choose a school, read about what physical therapy is, and the
different career options.
3. Know the differences between the physical therapist, physical
therapist assistant, and physical therapist aid.
The physical therapist evaluates the patient and devises a treatment
plan. More complex therapies are done by the physical therapist. A
masters or doctorate of physical therapy is required.
The physical therapist assistant carries out the treatment plan. A large
majority of the therapy is carried out by the assistant, especially
routine therapies. The assistant is a patient's cheerleader and reports
on patient progress. An associates degree in an accredited program is
The physical therapist aid does not participate in most of the therapy.
The aid is responsible for the appearance and organization of the clinic
and may handle insurance and clerical responsibilities. The aid may
assist patients by following unsteady individuals with a wheelchair
while they walk. A high school diploma or GED is required. Training is
done on the job. Most jobs are volunteer.
4. Choose a school. The APTA website lists schools by state for both PTs
5. Find out what the requirements for the program are. Apply to the
program. Most PTA programs require a student to visit 1-2 physical
therapy sites, usually one inpatient and one outpatient. The visitations
are discussed during the admissions interview with the school's PTA
6. Start taking science classes and other general education credits as
soon as possible. Most PTA programs require 1 or 2 English classes,
math, 1 or 2 psychology classes, and several science classes. The better
you do in science classes, the more likely you will be selected to begin
7. Competition for entrance into PTA programs is generally not fierce,
but good grades and an aptitude for science or willingness to learn
science are essential. As the profession grows in popularity,
competition might grow. Generally, students who do will in science and
other general education subjects won't have a hard time getting
admitted. If you don't have strong high school grades, consider doing
your first year by taking the necessary science and GE classes if you
aren't ready for acceptance. Most PTA program directors will accept you
if you prove you have the drive and ability to do well in school.
8. If you can, do more than just 2 visitations to PT clinics. Volunteer
as a physical therapist aid. Most hospitals have aids assisting in both
inpatient and outpatient clinics. It's great experience, gives you a
better understanding of what you are going into, and you make contacts
with potential employers. Your supervisor can provide you with a glowing
recommendation in your future search for employment after school if you
show you are dedicated and have a talent for working with people and
listening to directions.
9. Commit to finish the degree. You will have days where you will want
to give up. Physical therapy school is vigorous and requires a large
commitment of time and energy. Remember why you are doing it. To help
others. To start a great career with stability and great pay. To
recession proof your job (most health care jobs fare well in economic