Just as with any line of work or professional career, becoming a physical therapist requires a very specific line of education. This education will prepare you to work for the rest in your life in the field of physical therapy, with all of the requisite skills that can only be learned through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training. Learn more about what the educational preparation for physical therapy is and what’s involved here.
The first thing to know are the basics in terms of what you will need to do in order to become an actual physical therapist. To be practicing in this field you’ll need to be licensed, and that licensure is gained by passing a national licensing examination.
Before that examination can be taken, however, prospective professionals will first have to graduate from an accredited physical therapy program offering a postgraduate degree. Accreditation is provided by CAPTE, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, and as of today there are 212 accredited programs.
All of them are postgraduate degrees, with the vast majority being doctoral level degrees. No bachelor degree programs are available for physical therapy, and by the end of 2015, all programs will be required to offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DPT, as opposed to the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT).
Your time spent in these programs will not only prepare you for the examination and licensure, but also to be a fully practiced and well-versed professional physical. This includes not only the specific scientific and physical systems, information and knowledge that you’ll need for practicing, but also a variety of other skills, from communication and interacting with patients, to administrative skills for the office or practice.
About 80% of your education will be spent in the classroom, with the remaining 20% being clinical work. This disparity surprises some students, but mastering the firsthand tools of the trade is only possible when the required knowledge has been obtained.
The basics of physical therapy can be broken down into a few different main areas. You’ll be examining and testing patients, and then diagnosing their injuries. You’ll need to know how to conduct these examinations, which ones to use when, and then learn what the results mean. From there, you’ll need to develop treatment plans based not only on the patients’ needs, but also on the setting of your work.
Treatment and management plans will vary of course depending on whether you’re in a long term rehabilitation facility or short-term acute care, or a private practice, to give a few examples. Providing this treatment, while also educating your patients and their families, is also essential.
All of the above areas are crucial components of your profession, and the building blocks of your career. Therefore, they will be the building blocks of your education as well, and learning the skills needed to confidently handle these different responsibilities and tasks will be the main objective of your studies.