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Understanding The Requirements For Physical Therapists

, Understanding The Requirements For Physical Therapists, eTurboNews | eTN
image courtesy of Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Written by Linda Hohnholz

Physical therapists work with patients to improve their mobility and range of motion while managing their pain.

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The goal of therapy is to help a person restore their functioning to the highest possible level. Before a person can work in this field, they must complete certain steps. The following guide provides an overview of these steps.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Before applying to physical therapy programs, a person must obtain a bachelor’s degree. This degree needs to be in a related field. Depending on the physical therapy program selected, a student might need to take other classes in topics such as chemistry, human anatomy, or kinesiology. The student must know what the program they would like to take part in requires and the schooling needed to be a physical therapist.

Earn the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree, the student needs to be accepted into an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. First-year students take classes in subjects such as biomechanics and pathophysiology. During the second year, they will take part in hands-on rotations under the direction of a clinical instructor.

Today, some schools also have students take part in a simulation component. Students can engage mock patients using this simulator before entering a clinic to work with human patients. Students might find they can choose from residential and flex programs. Residential programs take less time to complete as all classwork takes place on weekdays. Flex programs are designed for individuals who are working and offer clinical labs on weekends.

Licensing Requirements

A candidate must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination upon completion of their coursework and clinical labs. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy oversees this exam, which is administered on a computer. The student must answer 250 multiple-choice questions that are divided into five separate sections.

A student may score anywhere from 200 to 800 on this exam. However, a passing grade of 600 is required for the student to move forward with the licensing process. Students may take the exam in January, April, July, or October, and they can only sit for the test three times in one year. However, nine out of ten students who complete a US-accredited PT program find they pass on the first try.

With these test results in hand, the student can apply to become licensed in their state. However, most states have additional criteria that must be met. For example, the student might need to undergo a background check or take part in compliance training. The student needs to learn the licensing requirements for the state where they plan to practice.

Maintaining the License

A physical therapist’s license is only good for a short period. To maintain the license, the therapist must take part in continuing education. Most states require these courses, and it falls on the therapist to know what their state guidelines are.

Additional Training

A physical therapist might choose to take part in a residency or fellowship program. Pursuing a clinical residency following licensure is something every therapist should consider. The individual will receive additional training while taking part in classes and clinical experiences. Men and women who wish to specialize in a specific area of physical therapy often choose this option or they pursue a fellowship.

Board Certification

Once a therapist has gained work experience, they may wish to become a board-certified clinical specialist. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists (ABPTS) oversees the board certification process. Ten specialty areas are offered, including geriatrics, sports, and oncology. Many steps must be taken before a person can become board certified.

Becoming a physical therapist isn’t easy. However, therapists find they don’t regret the time and money they spend on achieving this goal. They are rewarded in non-financial ways every day when they see their patients thrive with their care.

About the author


Linda Hohnholz

Editor in chief for eTurboNews based in the eTN HQ.

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