Are you interested in the field of rehabilitation? Do you like helping people get back on track after getting sick? Then perhaps physical therapy is for you! But yes, there are many options. You can become a physical therapy aide, a physical therapy assistant, or a physical therapist. What is the difference of the three you say? Well, let me highlight the educational requirements of each to get you started and perhaps ease you in making a choice for your future career path.
First, let us look into being a physical therapy aide to give you an idea of what they do. The common tasks done by a physical therapy aide are clerical tasks such as answering phone calls and helping with paperwork. They also help patients move about and clean and setup equipment. Physical therapy aides typically have a high school diploma or equivalent. They need not get any formal education to become a physical therapy aide; they get on-the-job training for that. It is a good idea if you are not sure yet of what you want to try out being a physical therapy aide. If you like it, you can proceed to becoming a physical therapy assistant or physical therapist.
Next up is the physical therapy assistant. These professionals do higher order work in comparison to physical therapy aides. They perform assessments of patients, help patients with exercises, teach patients to use walkers and canes, and educate family. Physical therapy assistants require a two year accredited Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapy. After graduating, they need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam to be able to practice their profession. Most physical therapy assistants and aides continue their education to qualify for higher positions.
Lastly is the physical therapist. The physical therapist can be considered doctors with the length of education that they take. Physical therapists diagnose, plan, implement, evaluate, and educate the injured or disabled patient much like a regular doctor does with an ill patient. Physical therapists require a Bachelor’s Degree of four to five years, a Master’s Degree of two to three years, and a Doctoral Degree of three years. That is a total of nine to eleven years of education. They also need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam just like physical therapy assistants. Moreover, upon finding work, physical therapists have to enter in a residency program of one to three years. That is almost like becoming a doctor! Understandably, most physical therapists work on the job to get needed experience whilst going to school to cut down on the time. If you love your work, there is no reason to keep getting better at it.