How to become a physical therapist

Updated February 21, 2017

A physical therapist (PT) works with patients who have suffered physical disabilities as the result of an accident or a disease. In consultation with doctors and other medical professionals, the PT designs a patient's rehabilitation therapy and works with the patient over a course of weeks, months or even years. Therapy can include exercise, deep-tissue massage and ultrasound treatments.

Understand that you will need a bachelor's or master's degree in physical therapy, and that it will include numerous science courses, including chemistry, biology and physics. You should begin taking these science courses in high school.

Work on polishing your interpersonal skills. You will often have to advise frustrated patients and family members about long-term physical therapy.

Go to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Web site ( for up-to-date information about this field. Also look for the APTA list of accredited schools and contact your top choices for their admissions information.

Maintain an excellent grade point average. The physical therapy field is highly competitive.

Consult local hospitals, rehabilitation centers and private therapy practices about their hiring forecasts. Try to get your internship where jobs might be available after you graduate.

Pass the mandatory licensure exam after you have received your degree. Check your state's exact licensing requirements long before graduation.

Decide if you want to specialize in an area such as neurology, pediatrics or sports medicine. Ask your counselor about the additional training or degrees required for certification in a specialty. Remember that you can work toward a specialty after you graduate from college.


Keep in mind that many states require you to take continuing education classes or workshops in order to retain your license. If you have a bachelor's degree in another field, you can enroll in a master's degree program in physical therapy. You will need to remain in excellent physical shape because you will be using your muscles on a daily basis as you perform your work.

Things You'll Need

  • Career Counseling
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