Physical Therapist Archive

Physical Therapist

A physical therapist (also referred to as PT) works with people of all ages who have difficulty with motor function due to accident or illness. This is a fast-growing career within the healthcare sector offering diverse and challenging responsibility. Before you find out what Physical Therapist education requirements and training involve, let me first show you what the career entails.

Career Overview

Physical therapists treat people of all age groups—infants to the elderly—who have chronic physical disabilities that limit their ability to move and perform various functional activities. Patients include those who have back and neck injuries, arthritis, paralysis from stroke, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, sprains, fractures, as well as cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

Physical therapists perform a physical examination of each patient and develop treatment plans. The goal is to minimize pain, restore mobility and functionality, and prevent further injury.

Treatment may consist of therapeutic exercise, functional re-training (e.g. regaining manual dexterity), the use of assistive and adaptive devices, as well as electrotherapeutic equipment to stimulate muscle strength.

Physical therapists often collaborate with a variety of other healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, occupational therapists social workers, and speech-language pathologists.

Career Outlook

This is a career with a bright future! As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of growth for physical therapists is expected to be 30 percent through 2018, a rate that is much faster than that for most other occupations.

This growth arises from a few factors:

  • · Changes in reimbursement policy will increase patient access to rehabilitative services thus increasing the demand for physical therapists.
  • · The elderly and Baby Boomer demographic are two groups particularly prone to falls, stroke, heart disease, and other chronic conditions that will require therapeutic services.
  • · Advances in medical technology are also resulting in improved long-term outcomes for premature infants and trauma victims who will then need rehabilitative care.
  • · The federally regulated Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees that disabled students have access to special accommodations and therapeutic services so they may continue in school.

Physical Therapist Education Requirements and Training

The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), the accreditation body of The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), accredits entry-level education programs in physical therapy. Currently, CAPTE accredits 212 physical therapy programs throughout the United States. Of the 212 accredited programs, 203 are accredited doctoral-level programs and 9 are master’s level programs. Both degree programs prepare students to sit for the national licensing exam in all 50 states.  As per APTA, “The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) will require all programs to offer the DPT degree effective December 31, 2015.”

Upon graduation from a doctoral program you will be granted the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

Upon graduation from a master’s program you will be granted the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degree.

Coursework in physical therapy programs includes anatomy and physiology, biology, cellular histology (microbiology), neuroanatomy, biomechanics (muscle structure and movement), exercise physiology, pharmacology, psychology, radiology and /imaging, and clinical treatment planning.

Clinically-based courses include a review of therapeutic modalities, medical screening and physical examinations, diagnostic procedures, evaluation of treatment outcomes, and laboratory testing. In addition to classroom and laboratory work, students will also participate in supervised clinical training.

Visit the Web site of either APTA or the CAPTE to identify an accredited program in your state.

Specialty areas

Physical therapists may become board certified in one of several clinical specialty areas through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABTS). Through specialization physical therapists are able to build on their education by broadening their knowledge and skill set with regard to a particular area of practice. As per APTA, physical therapists may purse specialization in the following areas:

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports Physical Therapy
  • Women’s Health


All states have regulations in place regarding the practice of physical therapy, although eligibility for certification varies by state. In general, requirements include graduation from a physical therapy program accredited by CAPTE; passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE); and fulfilling any specific state requirements, such as special jurisprudence exams.

The licensing and jurisprudence exams are administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

Eligibility to site for the NPTE:

As per the FSBPT, the licensing authority of your state will individually determine eligibility requirements to sit for the NPTE. You should review the material distributed by the licensing authority where you intend to apply for licensure to ensure you are eligible before applying to take the test. It is a somewhat costly process so best to first determine that you meet all requirements. Visit the Web site of the FSBPT to learn how to contact your state licensing authority.

Registering for the NPTE

The computer-based PT and PTA examinations are administered by FSBPT through Prometric. FSBPT will score your examination and then send to the licensing authority of your state. Individual licensing make all final decisions regarding licensure or certification.  As per the FSBPT, “One commonality among U.S. licensing authorities is that, effective July 1996, all licensing authorities adopted FSBPT’s criterion-referenced passing point, so that the minimum passing score is now the same in all jurisdictions.”

Registration process for he NPTE

1. Determine that you meet your state’s requirements to sit for the exam.

2. If eligible, complete the application from your state licensing authority.

3. Your state licensing authority will review your application and make a decision regarding your eligibility.

4. Once you are deemed eligible to sit for the exam you will receive an Authorization to Test letter (ATT) from the FSBPT. The ATT will be sent by the FSBPT when the licensing authority of your state confirms that you are eligible to test. The ATT letter will also be available online under the “Status of My Request” tab on the FSBT Web site.

5. To register for the test you will need to provide your social security number or alternative identification number (AIN) available by application on the FSBPT Web site.

6.      Pay the registration fee of $370. Credit/debit card Visa or MasterCard are accepted.

7. The ATT letter will provide instruction in how to contact the testing vendor Prometric to schedule a day and time to sit for the exam.

8. Review the FSBPT Candidate Handbook available on the agency’s Web site. The Handbook provides such information as test construction, what to expect on test day score reporting, etc.  The FSBPT Web site also has practice tests you may review in preparation for the actual exam.

The FSBPT currently offers jurisprudence exams in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, and Ohio.

Jurisprudence exam fees:

Alabama:                     $50.

Arizona:                      $50.

California:                   $30.

District of Columbia $50.

Florida:                        $50.

Georgia:                      $35.

Nebraska:                    $50.

Ohio:                           $50

Median Physical Therapist salary ranges in select regional areas

Los Angeles, CA


Boulder, CO


Boca Raton FL


Atlanta, GA


New York, NY


Dallas, TX












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