What Kind of Schooling Do I Need to Become a Physical Therapist?

Physical TherapistPhysical Therapists are medical professionals who specialize in the treatment and recovery of individuals with various mobility issues. According to the US News and World Report, the average salary for this profession is $79,860, depending on your location. Though lucrative, this career requires a specific education path that can take several years to complete. If you are considering the field but find yourself asking, “What kind of schooling do I need to become a physical therapist?” then this article is for you. The focus of this article will be on the educational requirements you need to master to become a successful physical therapist.

Undergraduate Education

After finishing high school, you must go to an accredited college or university and receive your undergraduate degree in order to become a physical therapist. While there, you will be enrolled in a variety of classes that are geared towards your ultimate career goal. It is especially important to be diligent with your grades in these courses, as they could affect the graduate programs into which you are accepted. Some of the courses that you might experience are listed below.

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Anatomy
  • Kinesiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Biomedical Ethics

As you can see, there is a heavy science concentration for those wishing to become involved with physical therapy. For that reason, an undergraduate program in health science is great preparation for your next step (see: 5 Top Health Science Degree Programs). Though it may seem daunting, stay motivated so you can move onto graduate school with success.

Graduate Education

After completing your undergraduate education, it is likely that you will have to continue on in your educational path by obtaining a master’s degree. Once you decide on a graduate school, you must be committed to another few years of intense study and training in your field. The coursework listed below is more intense than at the undergraduate level, and it is important to stay motivated.

  • Physical Therapy Practice and Interventions
  • Foundations in Human Movement
  • Pathology
  • Health Care System and Policy

While courses vary depending on the University you choose, these are some examples of what to expect from a graduate program specializing in physical therapy.

On the Job Experience

Perhaps one of the most important steps in your education to become a successful physical therapist is on the job training. Clinical experiences prepare students for the daily decisions that have to be made when involved with actual patients. Most graduate programs will include a clinical as part of their graduation requirements so that students can leave the college feeling prepared for their careers. Make sure that you find a physical therapist that you are comfortable learning with and make the most out of your time with him or her. Take diligent notes, ask questions, and volunteer to perform simple procedures under his or her supervision. There is no greater way to learn than by doing, and this clinical experience is the perfect opportunity to test the skills you have learned in the classroom. After completing all of this training, you will be required to take your state licensing test to become a certified professional in your field.

In conclusion, the path to becoming a licensed physical therapist is long and intense, but worth it if this is truly your professional passion. An undergraduate degree, graduate degree, and clinical experience are required for licensing in most states, which can take several years. However, with a 36% growth rate (much faster than average) there are plenty of physical therapy job opportunities out there for you after you have finished your education.