How to Become a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists aren't just for pro athletes: They work with patients of all ages on these areas to diagnose problems and recommend treatments to prevent disabilities, ease pain, increase range of motion, and restore mobility and function. Physical therapy has proven benefits in the treatment of work, sports or accident injuries as well as the effects of arthritis, strokes, burns and amputations, and conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

Physical Therapy Assisting

Physical therapist assistants are supervised by and work closely with physical therapists to help provide patient care. Physical therapists often work closely with other health professionals to devise integrated patient health regimens. Because of the physically demanding nature of the work--standing, stooping and lifting patients--physical therapists and assistants need to be physically fit. They should also be compassionate and caring.

Educational requirements to become a physical therapist

Campus and online physical therapy schools offer a variety of academic programs that can lead to careers in physical therapy or help you expand an existing careers if you are employed as an assistant. Online physical therapy programs are gaining in popularity because of the convenience of studying at your own pace and location. Because many physical therapy programs require supervised, hands-on clinical work, hybrid programs, which offer both online and clinical campus components, are available.

Two-year associate degree programs are required in most states if you want to work as a physical therapy assistant. Because the minimum education required to become a licensed physical therapist is a master's degree, only a few physical therapy bachelor's degree programs exist. Most are combined with a master's degree, and often are referred to as either 4+2 or 4+1 programs, in reference to the years of study required.

Online physical therapy programs that lead to a master of physical therapy degree, or MPT, are also available for students who hold bachelor's degrees. Depending on the relevance of the undergraduate coursework to physical therapy, the MPT degree can take from two to three years to complete. Doctor of physical therapy degrees, or DPT, take about three years to complete. Physical therapists must also pass national and state examinations to be accredited and are regulated and licensed by the state in which they practice. Most states also regulate physical therapy assistants; requirements vary by state.

Physical therapists salary and employment outlook

Of fields requiring a bachelor's degree or higher, the Department of Labor lists the physical therapist field as the 13th fastest growing in the nation. The number of physical therapists is expected to grow 30 percent nationally between 2008 and 2018 and create more than 56,000 new jobs. In 2009, physical therapists earned mean annual wages of $76,220, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers in Alaska, Maryland and Nevada earned the highest average wages among the 50 states, but those in certain metropolitan areas earned mean wages exceeding six figures. These areas included Jackson, Miss., and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas.

Physical therapy assistants earned mean annual wages of $48,590 in 2009, with Texas paying the highest salaries. Cited by the DOL as the third-fastest growing occupation with an associate degree requirement, jobs in the industry are expected to increase 33 percent between 2008 and 2018, from 63,800 positions to 85,100.

Obtaining an education from physical therapy schools can take you from physical therapy assistant to physical therapist and even further in a profession that is projected to continue to grow as people live longer and pay closer attention to their quality of life.

Physical Therapist Training

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            1 Program(s) Found
            • Offers training in various types of massage therapy, physical therapy/sports rehab, and personal fitness training & wellness.
            • Teaches in an environment that promotes learning and encourages empathetic and compassionate therapists.
            • Career service professionals work directly with students from the start of their program, and help them pursue employment in day spas, luxury hotels, cruise ships, and other locations.
            • Students can work in the SOCHI Massage Clinic to gain experience and build their career skills.
            • Financial aid representatives help students develop a personalized financial plan to finance their tuition.
            • Financial Aid
            • Provides students the opportunity to train at home in their spare time to get their high school diploma, train for a new career, or enhance current skills.
            • Offers programs in psychology/social work, business management, medical billing, criminal justice, and more.
            • Member of the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA), the Canadian Network for Innovation in Education (CNIE), and the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE).
            • Features a fully flexible schedule with no classes to attend, leaving the study pace up to the student.
            • Online Courses

            About Brightwood College

            Brightwood College offers accelerated programs that combine flexible schedules and professional instruction to create a rewarding learning experience for individuals focused on gaining the skills for specific careers. Brightwood College is owned and operated by Education Corporation of America.

            About Education Corporation of America

            Education Corporation of America's institutions broaden access to postsecondary educational opportunities.

            • One of the largest massage therapy schools in the nation teaching since 1979.
            • First massage school in California to be nationally accredited.
            • Has a successful job placement record— 86% of graduates get placed into work in massage therapy.
            • Provides massage therapist education with multiple methods to ensure every student learns the material.
            • Offers lifetime career placement assistance and holds partnerships with a variety of employers.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            Milan Institute , Bakersfield
            • Offers career programs in accounting, cosmetology, massage therapy, physical fitness training, and more.
            • Provides hands-on training led by instructors who have relevant, on-the-job experience.
            • Each campus features a public salon and spa for student practice.
            • Campuses are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET) and Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 11 campuses across California, Texas, Nevada and Idaho, as well as 8 additional Milan Institute of Cosmetology campuses.
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            • Accredited
            • Financial Aid
            Mayfield College , Cathedral City
            • A Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Business, with an A+ rating.
            • Computer Support Technician program is based on guidelines set by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Microsoft.
            • Offers free student services, including tutoring, campus internet access, career placement, and a student lounge.
            • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
            • 2 locations in Cathedral City and Twentynine Palms, California.
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
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            • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
            • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
            • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
            • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
            • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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            Platt College , Online (campus option available)
            • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
            • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
            • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
            • 3 campuses in Southern California.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            Good for Working Adults
            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Accelerated Programs
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Start your career with training from Blake Austin College - Beauty Academy. We offer programs in cosmetology, massage therapy, and holistic health, plus a combination esthetics/massage program.
            Intercoast Colleges , Online (campus option available)

            • Morning, afternoon, evening and weekend classes are available.
            • Offers lifetime career assistance services to graduates, including resume and cover letter assistance, employer networking, and one-on-one employment counseling.
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET).
            • 8 campuses located across California, with 3 additional campuses in New Hampshire and Maine and online options.

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            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid