Becoming a physical therapist could be an excellent option if you’re looking for a rewarding healthcare career.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for physical therapists is anticipated to increase by 17% from 2021 to 2031, making it a promising career path.
As a physical therapist, you’ll help patients improve their quality of life through exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to become a physical therapist in 2023, including:
- The Educational Requirements for Acceptance Into DPT Programs
- The Next Steps After Graduation
- The Job and Salary Outlook
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The Educational Requirements to Become a Physical Therapist
In this section, we’ll explore the educational requirements for becoming a physical therapist, including the typical length of DPT programs, the primary content areas of the curriculum, and the role of clinical education in the DPT program.
A Bachelor’s Degree or Participation In a 3+3 Program
Meeting specific requirements is integral to gaining acceptance into an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. Completing prerequisite courses as part of your undergraduate coursework is one of those requirements.
The required courses can vary depending on the DPT program. Still, they often include anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and statistics. You must also meet a minimum GPA requirement and Graduate Record Examination score.
Additionally, obtaining some experience in a physical therapy setting, either through volunteer work or a paid position, is typically required.
Alternatively, you could consider a “3+3 program,” which allows you to complete three years of undergraduate work and enter your three-year DPT program. This option reduces the time spent in school to six years instead of seven years to complete a traditional Bachelor and DPT program.
If you’re interested in pursuing a “3+3 program,” it’s important to note that you must complete specific physical therapy-related undergraduate classes and fulfill other state requirements, including maintaining a minimum grade point average before starting the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.
Earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree
In the United States, becoming a physical therapist requires obtaining a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited program. These programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).
By earning a DPT degree from a CAPTE-accredited program, individuals can meet the educational requirements necessary to become licensed physical therapists.
The DPT program typically takes three years to complete and includes classroom instruction and clinical education.
You’ll study a variety of subjects in a DPT program, such as the following:
- Behavioral Sciences
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
- Clinical Reasoning
- Endocrine and Metabolic
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Exercise Physiology
- Management Sciences
Around 80% of a DPT program involves classroom and study in the lab, while the other 20% is focused on clinical education.
During the program, you’ll gain hands-on experience through clinical rotations where you’ll work with patients under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist.
On average, PT students commit 27.5 weeks to their final clinical experience.
The Cost of a DPT Program
As you plan to pursue a career as a physical therapist, it’s essential to consider the costs associated with the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program.
The program’s overall cost depends on various factors like location, program length, certificate or degree awarded, and whether the institution is private or public.
According to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), the median total cost of a DPT program is $66,714 for public in-state programs, $115,858 for out-of-state programs, and $114,128 for private programs.
In addition to tuition, you’ll also incur expenses such as background check fees, activity fees, identification card fees, textbooks, and professional liability insurance.
It’s also crucial to account for other expenses like housing and transportation during the program.
The Next Steps After Graduation
Before becoming a licensed physical therapist, you must meet the state requirements for licensure where you plan to practice, including completing a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
You must also pass a state licensure exam to practice legally in many states. All states require a license to practice physical therapy, so check with your state’s requirements to ensure you’ve met them before pursuing your career.
Once you’ve obtained your license, you can advance your practice through optional residencies, fellowships, or board certification.
- Clinical residencies serve as a means for physical therapists to improve their patient care service skills in a specific area of clinical practice. Through a combination of clinical supervision and mentoring, as well as advanced training and scientific inquiry, physical therapists can gain valuable experience and expertise in their chosen specialty.
- Clinical fellowships offer post-professional education to physical therapists who have already demonstrated clinical expertise in a specific area of practice. These programs are designed to provide specialized training and education, both didactic and clinical, to help physical therapists gain advanced knowledge and skills in their chosen fields.
- Physical therapists can obtain board certification as clinical specialists through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. This certification process involves expanding upon foundational education and practical experience to gain a deeper understanding of a specialized practice area. By becoming board-certified, physical therapists can showcase their advanced skills and knowledge to patients and employers, leading to better job opportunities and higher-quality care.
Job and Salary Outlook for Physical Therapists
Physical therapy is a promising career field, with strong job prospects and a solid salary outlook. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for physical therapists was $95,620 as of May 2021.
However, salaries vary based on the following:
- Your Position
- Your Experience
- Your Degree
- Where You Live
- The Setting of Your Practice
The demand for physical therapists is also expected to grow as our population ages. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an average of about 15,400 openings for physical therapists annually from 2021 to 2031.
Physical Therapy a Promising Career Path in 2023
A career as a physical therapist is a promising path for those interested in healthcare. Becoming a licensed physical therapist requires dedication and commitment to ongoing education and development. However, it can lead to substantial job prospects and solid salary potential.
Suppose you want to work as a locum tenens physical therapist. In that case, Daily Care Solutions offers personalized attention and quality care to organizations needing first-rate physicians and specialists.
Our team collaborates with healthcare organizations to ensure the highest level of hospital-based care for patients.
By working with Daily Care Solutions, locum tenens physical therapists can positively impact patients’ lives while enjoying a fulfilling and rewarding career.
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