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Becoming a Physical Therapist: What Degree Do You Need?

February 09, 2023 · 4 min read

The field of physical therapy is expanding and provides a fulfilling occupation by assisting individuals in injury recovery and chronic condition management. To become a physical therapist, you will need to obtain a specific level of education and meet certain requirements. In this article, we will explore the degree requirements for becoming a physical therapist.

The first step to becoming a physical therapist is to earn a bachelor's degree in a related field such as exercise science, kinesiology, or biology. While these programs do not directly lead to a career in physical therapy, they provide a strong foundation in anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics that are critical to success in the field.

Exercise science programs typically focus on the study of human movement and the physiological responses to physical activity. These programs often include coursework in anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and exercise physiology. Kinesiology programs also focus on human movement, but often with a broader scope that includes topics such as motor control, sport psychology, and injury prevention. Biology programs provide students with a solid understanding of biological systems and processes, including cell biology, genetics, and evolution.

By obtaining a bachelor's degree in one of these related fields, students will gain a strong foundation in the sciences that are central to the practice of physical therapy. This education will prepare them for the next step in their journey towards becoming a physical therapist, which is to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

After obtaining a bachelor's degree, you will need to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, which is the entry-level degree for the profession. DPT programs typically take three years to complete and combine academic coursework with clinical experiences. The academic portion of the program will cover topics such as anatomy, neuroscience, exercise physiology, and pharmacology. The clinical portion of the program provides hands-on experience under the supervision of licensed physical therapists in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, and private practices.

In addition to obtaining a DPT degree, aspiring physical therapists must also pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and obtain a license to practice in their state. The NPTE is a standardized exam that tests your knowledge of the profession and assesses your ability to apply that knowledge in real-world scenarios.

Once you have obtained a license, you can begin practicing as a physical therapist. However, it is important to note that continuing education is a requirement to maintain your license and stay current with advances in the field. Many physical therapists choose to specialize in a specific area, such as pediatrics, sports medicine, or geriatrics, and pursue additional certifications or training.

Physical therapy is a dynamic field that offers a variety of career paths. In addition to working in traditional clinical settings, physical therapists may also work in schools, research organizations, or government agencies. Some physical therapists choose to open their own private practices, while others may choose to teach or mentor future physical therapists.

In conclusion, to become a physical therapist, you will need to obtain a bachelor's degree in a related field and then pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. You must also pass the National Physical Therapy Examination and obtain a license to practice in your state. Physical therapy is a growing field that offers a rewarding career helping people recover from injuries and manage chronic conditions, with opportunities for specialization and advancement.

If you are interested in a career in physical therapy, it is important to research programs, consider your personal interests and strengths, and gain hands-on experience through internships or volunteer work. With dedication and a strong educational foundation, you can achieve your goal of becoming a physical therapist and make a positive impact on the lives of others.

by Liza Sushko

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