Physical Therapist Job Description
Physical therapists help people improve their physical well-being after suffering an injury or illness. Treatment is normally focused on increasing strength, improving mobility, and relieving pain.
Physical therapists are trained to use a variety of techniques to treat the problems that their patients have. In their field, treatments are referred to as ‘modalities.’ Examples of modalities used by physical therapists include massage therapy, stretching techniques, hot and cold treatments, and specialized exercises that treat the problem areas.
Some physical therapists have a general practice, while others choose to specialize in a particular type of injury or patient. For instance, some physical therapists focus on pediatric care, while others specialize in helping people recover from sports injuries.
Many physical therapists are assisted by physical therapist aides.
Responsibilities for physical therapists include:
- Diagnosing their patients’ problems, and setting up a plan for treatments.
- Continually adjusting the treatment plans based on a patient’s progress.
- Performing tests to determine a patient’s strength, mobility, and flexibility.
- Involving other practitioners when the treatments required fall outside the realm of physical therapy.
Work Environment and Schedule
Physical therapists work in offices, hospitals, nursing homes. Some even provide in-home care.
Compared to many occupations in the medical field, physical therapists are able to keep a pretty regular schedule. Because they don’t deal with emergency or life threatening situations, they are generally able to perform most of their work during normal business hours.
If a physical therapists owns their own practice, their schedule may become more inconsistent. It takes a lot of time to keep a business running!
How to Become a Physical Therapist
Physical therapists must have a postgraduate degree in physical therapy. Most physical therapists have a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, though master’s degrees are sometimes offered as well. All programs require a bachelor’s degree, and normally have very specific prerequisite requirements in chemistry, biology, physiology, and anatomy. With so many prerequisites, it’s best to do your research early so you can take the necessary coursework in undergraduate school.
All states require physical therapists to have a license to practice. Though the requirements vary from state to state, most require that you pass the NPTE exam, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.
If you wish to become certified in a particular specialty (such as sports or pediatric physical therapy), additional certifications are required. Your state’s board of health should be able to help you identify the exact requirements.
There are currently 198,600 physical therapists in the United States, with 10,060 new physical therapist job openings created each year.
Physical Therapist jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Physical Therapist Salaries
Physical Therapist salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most physical therapists make between $65,900 – $91,800 per year, or $31.66 – $44.14 per hour.