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 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.
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 gain 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 2010, Payscale.com reported a median hourly rate of $32.42 for physical therapists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than half of all physical therapists worked in hospitals or other practitioner offices in 2008 (www.bls.gov). The remainder practiced in nursing facilities, rehabilitation and outpatient care centers, physicians' offices,schools, and home healthcare. The BLS predicts an increase in job openings to increase 30% from 2008-2018, especially in rural areas and locations with a larger elderly population.
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