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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 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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            Physical Therapy Aide - Certificate
            Advanced College , South Gate

            Trade schools in Los Angeles are built on a solid foundation of academic experience, especially Advanced College in South Gate. The founders of Advanced College have 40 years of experience when they opened their own institute of higher learning in 1999, which means Advanced College was student-oriented from day one. Our reputation as a leading vocational nursing & Allied Health school in Los Angeles is well-established, but that is just the beginning. Our expansive South Gate Campus has grown in our time as a school in order to make room for our daily operations. However, our expansion goes beyond the boundaries of our walls.

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            Platt College , Ontario
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            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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            Why Brightwood?

            Real-World Training

            We keep education relevant by employing instructors with real-world experience in the field, who bring their career backgrounds to the classroom. Our programs are continually assessed by faculty, staff and members of the business and education communities to help ensure your studies align with your career goals. Programs offered by Brightwood College focus on local employment needs, in areas such as allied health, nursing and technical and professional programs.

            Respiratory Therapy (AS)

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            Congratulations! Your interest in California College San Diego is an important first step toward changing your life. A career-focused degree is the key to a new career with a potentially higher income, better benefits, and more satisfaction.

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            Massage Therapy/Therapist
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            Mayfield College , Cathedral City
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            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.