For prospective students looking into becoming physical therapists, you have likely already learned the path you will need to take in order to gain your degree. But what happens from there, and what kind of continuing education is either required or recommended for practicing physical therapists in the field? Use this guide to learn about continued education, advancement and further studies after graduating with your degree.
First, let’s do a quick review about what kind of degree you’ll be getting and what it means. Physical therapists, by and large, will aim to get a DPT, or Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. Of the 212 accredited programs in the United States, more than 200 offer this form of physical therapy degree, and within a few short years, the mandate is that all of them must. Today, MPT degrees, or Masters level physical therapy degrees, are available from some accredited institutions, but they represent a tiny minority of the whole.
Once you have your degree from a CAPTE accredited program, then you’ll be able to take the licensure exam and obtain your license. Some students enroll in study courses or review programs prior to taking their licensing test, although this is by no means required. Since you’ll be doing this after your graduation, some people already refer to this kind of learning and studying as continued education.
But after that, when you actually have your license, and you can practice as a physical therapist anywhere in the country, what comes next? The truth is that the exact requirements for continued education may vary from state to state. The license you receive will be valid nationwide, however, to maintain your licensure and practice in a certain state you may have to meet other standards.
Besides maintaining your licensure through continued education courses, certificates or programs every so often, there are more opportunities to continue your education, while allowing you to progress farther in the field as well. These come in the form of clinical residencies and clinical fellowships, which typically follow residencies.
A residency is a planned program with both clinical and classroom components, offering supervision and mentoring, and providing care in a specific clinical area or practice. A fellowship is similar but is designed for a professional who already demonstrates clinical expertise in the area related to the fellowship, which is why it typically follows a residency.
In addition to these, physical therapists can also become board-certified clinical specialists with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties, ABPTS. At this time, there are 8 different specialties in total, including cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, sports physical therapy and women’s health. Certification is not necessary for physical therapists, however, it can provide a great foundation, as well as source of recognition, if you plan on opening a specialized practice, for example.
As you can see, there are a number of options for continued education for physical therapists. From maintaining licensure with continued learning credits, to clinical residencies and fellowships, and board-certified specializations, physical therapists looking to continue to learn and grow will have no shortage of places to turn.