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Physical Therapy as a Career

how to become a Physical Therapist

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There are all sorts of roles and specialties within the medical field. Whether you’re interested in becoming a registered nurse, dentist, paramedic or even a veterinarian, all of these positions fall into this category. No matter what the state of the economy is, people and animals get sick, meaning there are always jobs within the medical world that need filling to help those in need.

Physical therapy is a rewarding field and is growing faster than most occupations.

The career outlook for physical therapists is good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for physical therapists is over $87,000 per year and the hourly rate is over $42.00 per hour.

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What is a Physical Therapist?

A physical therapist is a licensed medical professional who helps patients restore and maintain mobility, and reduce pain after surgery, an injury, or illness. For example, a patient who has had knee surgery would go to a physical therapist to help strengthen and restore mobility to the knee joint, while reducing pain and stiffness. A patient who has had a traumatic brain injury would work with a physical therapist to relearn how to walk. A patient with a degenerative nerve disease could work with a physical therapist to help preserve mobility in their arms and legs and learn ways to adjust to the limitations of his illness.

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Where They Work

Physical therapists work in a variety of environments, including rehab centers and nursing homes, physical therapy clinics, hospitals, and in the patients’ homes. Where the therapist works depends on the primary focus of her practice. A physical therapist who specializes in providing post-injury care would be more likely to work in a rehab setting, while a therapist who focuses on caring for patients with neurological diseases might focus more on a hospital or nursing home setting.

Educational Requirements

Physical therapists must complete a graduate program from an accredited university physical therapy program. The length of the program depends on the student’s prior education. If you have recent medical training, with a strong background in Anatomy & Physiology, Biology, and exercise science, you might be able to enter a graduate program immediately, once you pass the application process. People who do not have prior medical or biology training will need to meet certain prerequisites before applying.

In addition to coursework, a physical therapy student will also have to complete a clinical rotation where she will receive hands-on training, working on real patients in an actual physical therapy setting.

The application section, for the program, will tell you that school’s requirements for admission, and what items you need to submit with your application.

Cost

The cost of a physical therapy degree varies depending on where you go to school, the length of the program, and whether or not you need to take extra classes to meet the prerequisites.

As a rule, graduate-level courses are more expensive than undergrad, but the length of the program is usually shorter. An undergraduate degree program can take four years, or more, while a graduate program could take two or three to complete.

For those who are concerned about cost, there are several agencies that provide loans for graduate students, as well as grants, scholarships, and other forms of funding.

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Career Outlook

The career outlook for physical therapists is good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for physical therapists is over $87,000 per year and the hourly rate is over $42.00 per hour. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the expected growth for the physical therapy profession is 22 percent in the next ten years, which is much faster than average. Physical therapists have an extremely low unemployment rate, 0.2 percent, versus other professions.

Additionally, as the general population continues to age, there will be even greater demand for physical therapy professionals in nursing homes and other residential care settings.

If you are looking for a career that combines elements of medicine, massage therapy, and athletic training with hands-on patient care, consider a career in physical therapy.

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