Physical Therapist

Job Duties

Physical therapists (PTs) help patients restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities. They often focus on overall fitness, and they work with a wide range of patients, from accident victims to people with lower back pain or cerebral palsy. After examining a patients' medical history, physical therapists perform a series of tests that may include strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function. Then they create treatment plans and implement those plans with the assistance of physical therapist assistants.

Physical Therapy Assisting

Physical therapists help patients to use their own muscles, increase their flexibility, and add to their range of motion. After this phase, they move on to different sets of exercises that improve strength, balance, coordination, and endurance. The overall goal in these situations is to help the patient function more effectively at home and work. Physical therapists use a variety of tools to assist them in their work including, electrical stimulation, hot packs or cold compresses, ultrasound, traction, or deep-tissue massage. They also work with patients to help them learn how to use equipment such as crutches, prostheses, and wheelchairs. Physical therapists document a patients' progress and often consult with other health professionals, such as physicians, nurses, social workers, and audiologists.

Job Skills

Physical therapists should be compassionate and have a passion for helping other people. They need to have well-developed interpersonal communication skills so they can effectively educate patients and their families regarding treatments.


In 2002, physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $57,330. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $40,200, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $86,260. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of physical therapists:

  • Home health care services -- $62,480
  • Offices of other health practitioners -- $58,510
  • Offices of physicians -- $57,640
  • Nursing care facilities -- $57,570
  • General medical and surgical hospitals -- $57,200

Training and Education

In all U.S. States, physical therapists must graduate from an accredited physical therapist educational program and pass a licensure exam before they can begin practicing. There are about 200 accredited physical therapist programs in the U.S., offering both master's and doctoral degrees. These programs begin by covering the basic sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and then move on to more advanced courses, such as biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures. Many programs require students to participate as a volunteer in a physical therapy department of a hospital or clinic before they can graduate. Physical therapists are usually required to continue their education throughout their careers, and some States require this in order to renew licenses.


In 2002, physical therapists held about 137,000 jobs. About two-thirds worked in offices of health practitioners or in hospitals.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, employment of physical therapists is expected to increase faster than the average. This is because the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function is expected to rise, creating more demand for the services of physical therapists. Medical advances will allow more trauma victims to survive, and those patients will need physical therapy. A growing public interest in health promotion will also increase demand.

For more information on becoming a physical therapist, please see our directory of Physical Therapy Schools

Physical Therapist Training

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            • 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
            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.
            • 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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            • 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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            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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            • Online Courses
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            • Ranked among top Regional Universities in the South by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Ranked 37th among the Best Colleges for Veterans by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Stands as the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation with 100,000+ students.
            • Offers over 230 programs online, from the certificate to the doctoral level.
            • Has a student-faculty ratio of 25:1, and 42.3% of its classes have fewer than 20 students.
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            • Accredited
            • Online Courses
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits