How do You Become a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapy is attracting a lot of prospective students these days, and there are some truly great reasons for that. From a dynamic work environment to a rewarding position where you can be hands on directly helping the lives of others, to high salaries and much more, physical therapy offers a lot to its professionals. In order to get started for yourself, you’ll need to know how to become a physical therapist, and what to expect along the way including the amount of time the journey will take and what you’ll need to do.

First of all, in order to be a physical therapists you’ll need to obtain your license. Exact licensing requirements may vary from state to state, but the basics stay the same, and that’s passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. This is your entrance exam to become a physical therapist, but the key thing to know is that you are only eligible to take the test after completing your school program.

Specifically, you will need to complete a physical therapy program that is accredited by the Commission on Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This is the official accreditation body for the field, and right now there are over 200 different programs to choose between, which means that you’ll have a lot of options to choose between.

There are two different levels of degrees offered for physical therapy, doctorate and masters level degrees. Bachelors degree programs or certificate programs for physical therapy are not available as of now. The vast majority of CAPTE programs are for doctorate degrees. By the numbers, 200 of 212 programs in 2009 offered these degrees, while just the remaining 12 offered masters degrees.

The programs varied in length depending on the degree offered. Doctorate degrees, which are the vast majority of the available programs, take about three years to complete, while masters degree programs are little bit shorter, averaging two years for completion.

Typically there are no requirements to join a postgraduate physical therapy degree program in terms of the kind of bachelors degree that you have. Many people who know that they want to go down the road towards physical therapy might study or major in kinesiology or exercise science, or even human biology and anatomy, physiology, or a number of related fields. However, and as mentioned, these majors aren’t typically required, although you may find some programs that have specific prerequisites for admission.

So, in order to become a physical therapist, you’ll need to graduate from a CAPTE program with a doctorate or masters degree in physical therapy. Then, you’ll need to pass your licensing exam, and then you’ll be ready to enter the workforce as a fully fledged professional. Including the time spent applying to schools, going through the school program, taking your license exam and receiving the results, the total length of time can be anywhere from 2.5 to 4 years. That’s not too bad to join one of the best careers across any field or industry available.

Next: Summary of Physical Therapy Education and Training



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