Physical Therapy Specialties: The Degree You Need To Earn

As students, you are always faced with tough choices regarding your education and career path. At first, you believe that you are 100% decided on a specific career but once you get in college, your mind starts changing. With the availability of courses and degree programs today, you cannot be blamed for changing your mind too. Even after people have earned a degree, they still find themselves choosing and thinking about their careers.

What about a career as a physical therapist? Have you given this a thought? A career in physical therapy should be fun as you work with different patients and help them regain their movements back. Physical therapists work with patients with physical disabilities, injuries or are recovering from a traumatic incident that has debilitated their movements. If a PT chooses to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree, they will find themselves specializing in different types of physical therapy fields.

The Master’s And Doctorate In Physical Therapy

The Degree You Need to EarnTo become a physical therapist, you will need either a master’s degree or a doctorate degree. The American Physical Therapists Association (APTA) is now favoring PTs to get doctorate degrees. This might actually be the only recognized degree in the future. Why? The APTA believes that a doctorate in physical therapy or DPT helps physical therapists to be independent healthcare professionals so they can bill patients like that of physicians. Also, DPT provides more evidence-based treatment and teaches physical therapists the latest research methods to find the best medical treatments today.

The doctorate degree will take 3 years of study and this will involve training of the different expertise and abilities of a physical therapist. DPT involves evaluating and analyzing the physical health system, healthcare managing, imaging, preventative medicine, pathology, pharmacology and evidence-based treatment. After earning the doctorate in PT degree, the physical therapists have to complete 1 year of clinical work. After that, the physical therapist can now take the state licensing examination to be able to practice professionally.

How can you apply to a doctorate in physical therapy degree program? It is very important that you have high marks when applying although it is not the sole requirements. PT schools will be looking into the applicant’s volunteer work and work experience in the field of physical therapy. There is the GRE or graduate record exam that will also be required in the application. There will be ample time given to complete all the admission requirements so make sure you start preparing ahead of time. This way, you can still work on your test scores if it does not pass the requirements. Start your preparation at least 3 months before the application process starts.

The Different Types Of Physical Therapy

There is still no mandate from the APTA that all physical therapists should earn a doctorate degree to specialize. So, you should take this chance to pursue a master’s degree right away and choose a specialization if you wish too.

The first specialty area in physical therapy is orthopedic physical therapy. What do these physical therapists do? Orthopedic physical therapists make a diagnosis of patients who have injuries and disorders in the musculoskeletal system. After making the diagnosis, the physical therapist manages and treats the condition. Also, orthopedic PTs help patients recover after an orthopedic surgery. Orthopedic PTs are often found in the out-patient unit of the hospital. These therapists are trained to do treat post-operative joints, arthritis, amputations and sports injuries. They use joint mobilization techniques, hot and cold packs, strength training and electrical stimulation in their treatment plans. Patients who are suffering injuries or diseases in the tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones can consult an orthopedic PT for an assessment too.

Therapy SpecialtiesThe second specialty area is geriatric physical therapy. Geriatric physical therapists are focused on the aging population. Most of the physical problems they treat are associated with arthritis, cancer, incontinence, hip and joint replacement, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s Disease and balance disorders. Geriatric physical therapists help in reducing pain, restoring movement and mobility as well as strengthening the muscles once again.

The third specialty area is neurological physical therapy. Neurological physical therapists work with patients with neurological disorders that are affecting their physical functioning. Disorders include cerebral palsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS and spinal cord injury. The common problems that these patients have to deal with are poor vision, poor balance and coordination, paralysis, loss of independence and problem with movement such as walking.

The fourth specialty area is cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation physical therapy. CPR physical therapists work with patients with cardio-pulmonary disorders. These are patients who have had pulmonary or heart surgery already. These physical therapists focus on improving the patient’s physical endurance as well as improving his physical functions.

The last specialty area is pediatric physical therapy. Pediatric physical therapists focuses on treating infants, children and young adults with diseases, injuries and disorders that are affecting their physical mobility and movement. Problems can be found in the joints, bones or muscles. Pediatric physical therapists help improve balance, coordination, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, strength, endurance, sensory processing and cognitive skills. Most of the patients suffer from developmental delays, torticollis, cerebral palsy and spine bifida.


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