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What Should You Major in to Become a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists generally major in biology, anatomy or another foundational science as an undergraduate, and they undergo specialized training in physical therapy at the graduate level. All states require physical therapists to obtain licensure and at least a master's degree in order to practice.

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Degree Options for Physical Therapists

A student must earn a graduate degree in order to become a physical therapist. Undergraduate preparation may include majoring in one of the sciences, such as biology, anatomy or physiology. In a bachelor's degree program, students learn basic physics, chemistry and mathematics, as well as gaining experience in a volunteer capacity or an internship.

At the graduate level, students study the methods and practices of the physical therapy profession. Graduate courses teach body movement and therapeutic techniques, as well as how to work with pediatric, adult and geriatric patients. Students must typically participate in supervised clinical training during the program.

Licensure Requirements for Physical Therapists

Physical therapists in the United States are required to be licensed, though each state has different licensing criteria. In general, physical therapists must have graduated from an accredited program and passed national and state examinations. Continuing education requirements must usually be fulfilled in order to maintain licensure.

Salary and Employment Information for Physical Therapists

In March 2014, PayScale.com reported a median salary of $63,889 for physical therapists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 28% of all physical therapists worked in hospitals in 2012 (www.bls.gov). The remainder practiced in nursing facilities, rehabilitation and outpatient care centers, physicians' offices, schools, home healthcare and the offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists. The BLS predicts an increase in job openings of 36% from 2012-2022, especially in rural areas and locations with a larger elderly population.

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