Many people are not familiar with the exact degrees and educational courses that are required in order to become a licensed and practicing physical therapist. There are actually several different choices, although one is far more common than the other at this stage, and it’s important to know about what you will be studying and what your total curriculum will be like. Use this guide to learn more about the available physical therapist degrees and their corresponding curriculums.
First, it’s important to note that there are no bachelors degrees for physical therapy. Therefore, all of the degree options at your disposal will be postgraduate degrees. Plus, the vast majority of physical therapy programs will require you to already have a bachelors degree before you can enroll. Specific majors typically aren’t required, although a few specific prerequisite courses or prerequisite grade levels may be necessary.
As of right now, there are over 200 programs across the country which offer graduate degrees for physical therapy, and nearly all of them offer a doctorate level degree called the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree, or DPT. Only 9 of 212 programs offered a Masters of Physical Therapy, or MPT, or the Masters of Science in Physical Therapy, MSPT. Further, by the end of 2015, all programs will be required to offer the DPT. So that’s certainly the favored option and looks to continue to become even more of the standard in the near future.
It’s also important to note that all of these degree programs must be fully accredited. The accreditation body for physical therapy is CAPTE, or the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. In order to become licensed, you must graduate from a CAPTE school and then take the national examination.
Moving onto the curriculum itself, DPT degrees take about three years to complete. During this time, you will be taking a wide range of courses including basics like biology and anatomy, physiology, kinesiology and so forth. Then you’ll also move onto more specific studies of different systems within the body, biomechanics, pathologies and more. It’s a course load that’s heavy on the sciences, and with good reason of course as the entirety of your profession is based around evaluations, diagnosis and treatment of your patients.
About 80% of your curriculum will be done in the classroom, or in the laboratory. This is more than many people imagine, but it’s important to know all of the appropriate information before moving onto clinical applications and firsthand practices. From there, the remaining 20% is just that , clinical education, culminating in direct clinical experience for about six months.
Hopefully by now you have a better understanding of not only the degrees available in the field of physical therapy, but also the type of courses and the overall curriculum that you’ll be moving through. With the right knowledge and firsthand experience, your physical therapy program will prepare you for the examination and then for the immediate beginning of your new, rewarding career as a physical therapist.