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Physical Therapist Educational Requirements

Majors Overview December 31, 2012

Patients who are unable to move or perform normal daily functions owing to physical disorders rely on the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of those disorders from physical therapists. The career of a physical therapist is ideally suited for an individual equipped with interpersonal skills and who sincerely seeks to help other people who have physical limitations.

Educational Prerequisites of a Physical Therapist

A physical therapist who seeks to practice his/her profession is required to have earned a graduate degree from an accredited academic program. Master and doctoral degree programs in physical therapy are offered by colleges and universities; they usually last for durations of two to three years. Admission to these programs requires previous completion of a graduate degree by prospective applicants. Admission prerequisites call for the completion of some science courses, gaining of volunteer or observation experience in the physical therapy field, submission of GRE scores and maintenance of grade-point averages that are found acceptable by the college offering the program.

Coursework in physical therapy programs includes topics such as neurological dysfunction management, musculoskeletal system pathology, biomechanics and human anatomy, among others. The program includes participation in hands-on clinical courses and clinical internships for training in medical intervention, apart from treatment, assessment, screening, and care of patients.

Satisfaction of Licensure Norms

Physical therapists need to meet licensure norms as specified by the states in which they are located and where they want to practice. While the licensing requirements vary from state to state, majority of states required candidates to have completed accredited graduate degree programs in physical therapy. Prospective candidates will need to take the National Physical Therapy Examination. There may be additional requirements such as jurisprudence exams in some states. Some states require continuing education in order to maintain licensure.

Certification Norms

Employers do not insist on certification when they employ physical therapists; however, physical therapists will increase their chances of getting employed by volunteering for board certification in a clinical specialty. Board certification for physical therapists are offered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS); certificates are awarded in eight areas, including geriatric physical therapy, clinical electrophysiology, pulmonary and cardiovascular specialties (source: www.abpts.org). Certification norms include licensure and completion of a minimum of 2,000 training hours in a clinical setting. Additionally, candidates need to take a day-long exam with multi-choice questions. Those who receive certificates are required to renew them every ten years.

Advancement Potential

Apart from obtaining specialty certification, physical therapists should look at continuing education as a way of advancing their profession and staying updated on the latest advances in the field. They must consider continuing education even in states that do not insist on CE for licensure. Physical therapists should attend national conferences such as the ones sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and other professional organizations. They can consider attending online lessons and live classes. While many physical therapists take up research and teaching jobs, many others choose to start their own private practices.

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