Physical Therapist Career


A career in physical therapy as a physical therapist, often just referred to as PT, can be very rewarding as it is a health profession offering direct treatment of individuals  with a possible variety of problems. The physical therapist job description can be summed up in three words like many health careers and those are development, prevention, and treatment for maintaining proper movement and functionality for daily routines. Every one of all ages, races, and gender can face issues in a loss or change of movement so physical therapists will a wide range of people from babies to the elderly. Some cases of what a physical therapist will diagnose, come up with a treatment plan, and implement are listed below.

Physical Therapist Job Description

List of Sample Cases

  • A pediatric physical therapist may be involved helping babies and gross motor functions like crawling and sitting up.
  • A teenager who has broken an ankle during a school activity may be aided by a PT in getting back the full range of motion in ankle.
  • Instead of opting for back surgery, an adult may go with intensive physical therapy.
  • An adult who has not in good shape and is placed on a workout program may be assisted by a physical therapist in preventive exercises in order to prevent or minimize problems that can occur.
  • A geriatric physical therapist may help an elderly person who is recovering from an illness or injury compensate for any loss of motion, regain movement, and adjust to any pain with various techniques.

In order to help out their patients, physical therapists diagnose the specific problems in movement and come up with a plan to restore, alleviate, or prevent the loss of movement.  The regimen can include any number of techniques and exercises to help blood flow, relieve pain, relax and strengthen muscles, minimize possibilities of injury, and many more benefits. All these of course are tailored to the specific person, their condition, and persona traits. Hip abduction, adduction, extension, and flexions are possible exercises for hip conditions.  Long arc quads, short arc quads, and knee extensions are examples for some knee conditions. All these and more are part of the physical therapist job description. Physical therapists may perform this routines themselves but usually hire physical therapist assistants to supervise patients during treatment.

Physical Therapist Career Options

Physical therapists have a few options in their career from opening up their private practice to going into research and with the Bureau of Labor and Statistics expecting a growth of 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, there could be more opportunities.  The majority of physical therapists are salaried and work in private out-patient offices.  They can be employed in out-patient care centers, hospitals, health and wellness companies, and other facilities. Some physical therapist can go into research or teaching and hold positions with academic institutions or industry research companies. Private practice is also an option where a physical therapist can bring in patients or contract with hospitals and other health facilities. Some can do home care where they visit the patient’s location for treatment. Many non-salaried physical therapists can have these types of contracts with one or more organizations and perform their duties a few times a week as needed through their contract or patient’s schedule. Physical therapist can also become clinical specialist in one of the following fields: cardiovascular & pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, sports, and women’s health. Becoming a specialist is achieved by passing a 200 question exam and obtaining one can usher advanced positions and opportunities.

Physical Therapy Schools and Licensing

To become a PT requires graduation from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, or CAPTE, which is part of the American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA. The CAPTE is moving towards the Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DPT, degree as the postbaccaluareate degree option for physical therapists.  There are around 212 accredited programs that offer the DPT degree. Check out the Physical Therapy Schools page for detailed information.

All states require physical therapist to be licensed according to state regulations or the state’s physical therapy act. To apply for license requires graduation from an accredited program, passing the National Physical Therapy Examination offered through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, and other specific state requirements such as a background check and a jurisprudence exam.

Physical Therapist Salary

How much a physical therapist makes will depend on many factors including experience and geographical location. The pay scale will also depend on if they are salaried or have contracts with other facilities. According to the BLS May 2008 report, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $72,790 with the lowest 10 percent making less than $50,350 and the top 10 percent making over $104,350. View the physical therapist salary page for detailed earnings information including a state breakdown.