Career Information for a Degree in Rehabilitation Therapy

Individuals can find careers in rehabilitation therapy with an undergraduate or graduate degree. Depending on their chosen field, rehabilitation therapists may assist patients in regaining physical, mental or social abilities.

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Rehabilitation Therapy Degree Information

Rehabilitation therapy provides patients with healing treatments for illnesses, injuries and disabilities. Students can find a variety of degree programs in physical and occupational therapy, such as the Associate of Applied Science in Physical Therapy Assistant, Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Science, Master of Science in Occupational Therapy or Doctor of Philosophy in Rehabilitation Science.

Coursework can vary depending on the level and focus of study, but generally covers anatomy and physiology, pathology, complementary therapies, psychology, ethics and therapeutic practices. Graduates with an associate's or bachelor's degree may consider working as a physical therapist aide or assistant.

Physical Therapist Assistants

Graduates of an associate's degree program in physical therapy may be prepared to begin work as physical therapist assistants. These workers operate under the supervision of physical therapists to provide therapeutic care to clients and patients. They may apply cold and hot packs, provide massage therapy, demonstrate exercises and record progress for patients suffering from accidents, surgery, disease or developmental disorders.

Career Information

Most U.S. states require physical therapist assistants to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy ( Individuals must register for the exam, provide a fee and proof of education, as well as schedule an exam date. Depending on the individual's state, they may be required to pass a separate licensing exam.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted employment for physical therapist assistants would grow by 46% between 2010 and 2020 ( According to the BLS, the median annual salary for physical therapist assistants was $52,160 in 2012.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists are required to hold a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited program. They work to develop range of motion and physical strength, flexibility and stamina for patients who have been injured in accidents, undergone surgery or suffered from disease. These therapists oversee and direct the work of physical therapy aides and assistants, as well as design and adjust therapy programs.

Career Information

Licensing and education requirements can vary depending on the state in which they work, but NPTE exam and an additional state exam are general requirements. They may also be required to continue education to maintain their license.

The BLS predicted that employment for physical therapists would grow by 39% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for physical therapists was $79,860 in 2012, according to the BLS.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists are typically required to hold a master's degree. They help individuals with physical or mental injuries, illnesses or disabilities restore their living and work skills. Occupational therapists may help patients learn or develop basic skills, such as eating, grooming, driving, budgeting and shopping. These professionals may work at patients' homes or in hospitals, clinics or rehabilitation centers.

Career Information

Occupational therapists are generally required to pass the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exam ( Depending on the state, they may also be required to take a separate state exam.

The BLS predicted that employment for occupational therapists would grow by 33% between 2010 and 2020. The median annual salary for occupational therapists was $75,400 in 2012.

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