How to become a physical therapist

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How to become a physical therapist
Become a Physical Therapist

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.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    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.

  2. 2

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

  3. 3

    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.

  4. 4

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

  5. 5

    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.

  6. 6

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

  7. 7

    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.

Tips and warnings

  • 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.

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