Considering becoming a physical therapist can be intimidating. The education is lengthy, and the image from TV and movies isn’t always accurate. With a few tips, it can be easy to decide whether physical therapy is just the right fulfilling career.
Tip #1. Go all the way with a DPT. According to apta.org, the American Physical Therapy Association, it’s no longer possible to be a physical therapist with only a master’s degree. If you’re starting out now, plan on getting that doctorate.
Tip #2. That doctorate opens doors; consider them. Now that a DPT is the standard, physical therapists have options like research positions. No longer does being a PT mean being limited to the clinic.
Tip #3. Multiple certifications are the future. According to Renallie Arcinas, DPT, D Magazine’s 2015 Best Physical Therapist in Dallas, physical therapists in the future won’t have to decide between being a PT, OT, or ST. Many students struggle with the appeal of each discipline. While the education may take longer at this point, those therapists who are certified in multiple areas will the program leaders of the future.
Tip #4. Be ready to move! The profession is expected to grow 34% from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Physical therapy clinics and research opportunities are popping up in medical offices, stand alone facilities, and in suburbs and small towns.
Tip #5. Beginners can start as assistants. For those eager to get into the clinic setting, or those needing to work before graduate school, physical therapy assistant positions are open to those with bachelor’s degrees. Many PTs start out this way, and is a good way to find out if PT or OT is a better fit before graduate school. While they also require certification, the programs are much shorter than the three years for a doctorate.
Tip #6. Physical therapists have to know more than just about the body. While TV and movies present PTs as little more than mean coaches for hospital patients, real life PTs have to be knowledgeable about psychology, pharmacology, clinical reasoning, finance, insurance, neuroscience, and other fields, in addition to physiology and anatomy.
Tip #7. Specialization is a great option. PTs now can focus on cardiovascular and pulmonary, geriatrics, pediatrics, orthopedics, neurology, and sports physical therapy, among others. Specialization can not only increase pay scales, but also career satisfaction as science advances.
Tip #8. Pick an accredited program. A PT can only sit for the CAPTE exam after graduating from an approved program. A visit to the school before enrollment is highly recommended.
Physical therapy is a rewarding, exciting, and growing career. These few tips can make that journey easier.