What to expect in a physical therapy education

While physical therapy careers are emotionally and financially rewarding, they do require extensive education and advanced degrees. Many PTs hinge their professional excellence on physical therapy certifications, using advanced clinical knowledge in one of the seven current specialties to better serve their patients.

Since physical therapy schools mandate graduation from an institution approved by the  American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and require a Masters and/or doctoral degree in a curriculum that includes chemistry, physics, and specialized courses, such as—and get ready for a laundry list of heavy sciences—biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures—well…you need to be 100% sure this lifelong commitment to learning strikes the perfect chord within. Take a physical therapy career aptitude quiz between cram sessions.

Too busy studying to click around online? Here’s a sneak peek on personality traits the survey equates with excelling at physical therapist jobs:

  • You’re a good listener
  • You consider alternative solutions to every problem
  • You’re good at conveying info to others verbally
  • You pick up on people’s social cues
  • You don’t mind having close physical contact with people
  • You enjoy working with the public
  • You like to discuss things with both individuals and teams
  • You make decisions on your own

Remember that your physical therapy career is a precious gift to all you encounter, touch and treat. PTs give the sick, injured and physically vulnerable their lives back—helping them overcome disabilities that would otherwise detract from the quality of life. The physical therapy lifestyle must be somewhat addictive, considering that, in 2008, approximately 185,500 of them held down physical therapy jobs in the U.S.A.; these professionals earned a physical therapist salary well above that of the average American household.

For those drawn to the financial appeal of high paying physical therapy jobs, there’s the Salary Wizard, concurrent with U.S. government data, stating a median physical therapist salary of $72,790. Not bad at all.

If physical therapy jobs turn out to be the color of your parachute, get invaluable info on passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBT). The FSBT develops and administers the NPTE for both PTs and physical therapist assistants in all 50 states, each one different in its approaches to PT licensing; read up on that at FSBT.

Going through the proper channels of physical therapy education, state licensing and the rigors and joys of continuing competency means making a profound difference in somebody else’s life.

To connect to others in this field and keep informed about physical therapy trends and news, consider joining a physical therapy network group geared to the students and working PTs alike.