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Major Options for Aspiring Physical Therapists

Higher Education Articles March 31, 2015

At the undergraduate level, physical therapists pursue majors in a foundational science, such as anatomy or biology, and at the graduate level, they opt for specialized training in physical therapy. Licensure is compulsory in all states for physical therapists, who must also hold at least a master’s degree before being allowed to practice. In this article, we take a look at educational options for aspiring physical therapists:

Degree Choices for Physical Therapists

A student who aspires to become a physical therapist must earn a graduate degree. Preparation at the undergraduate level may include a major in one of the sciences, such as physiology, anatomy, or biology. Bachelor’s degree programs are devised to teach students basic mathematics, chemistry, and physics, in addition to imparting experience in an internship or volunteer capacity.

Graduate level coursework is devised to teach students the practices and methods of the physical therapy profession. Therapeutic techniques and body movement are also taught, in addition to instruction on ways of working with geriatric, adult, and pediatric patients. During the program, participation in supervised clinical training is typically included.

Licensure Requirements for Physical Therapists

Licensure is compulsory for physical therapists in the United States, although licensure requirements vary by state. Common requirements include graduation from an accredited program and passage of state and national exams. Students must usually fulfill continuing education requirements to ensure maintenance of licensure.

Job and Wage Outlook

In March 2014, physical therapists brought in an average annual wage of $63,889. In 2012, job growth rates of 36% have been predicted for all physical therapists in hospitals (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Career Choices

These professionals can seek employment in the offices of speech, occupational, and physical therapists, in addition to hospitals, home healthcare, schools, physicians’ offices, rehabilitation and outpatient care centers, and nursing facilities. Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, an increase of 36% in job openings has been predicted for physical therapists (BLS). Locations with a predominantly elderly population and rural areas find the largest growths.


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In 2018, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
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*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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