Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who specialize in helping patients improve their physical function and mobility. They work with individuals of all ages and backgrounds, from athletes recovering from injuries to elderly patients seeking to maintain their independence.
The main role of physical therapists is to evaluate, diagnose, and treat musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions that affect a patient’s ability to move and function. They design and implement customized treatment plans that include a combination of exercises, manual therapy, education, and assistive devices to improve strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, endurance, and mobility.
Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, schools, and sports facilities. They collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, occupational therapists, and speech therapists, to provide comprehensive care to their patients.
Some of the conditions that physical therapists commonly treat include:
Overall, physical therapists play a critical role in helping patients recover from injuries, surgeries, and illnesses and regain their independence and quality of life.
The job outlook for physical therapists is positive, with a growing demand for their services expected in the coming years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 21% from 2019 to 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
The increasing demand for physical therapy services is due to several factors, including:
Aging population: As the baby boomer generation continues to age, there is an increasing need for physical therapy services to help manage chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, and mobility issues.
Advances in medical technology: Medical advances have led to an increased survival rate for patients with trauma, stroke, and other conditions, which has increased the need for physical therapy services to help these patients recover and regain their mobility.
Sports and fitness: As interest in sports and fitness continues to grow, there is an increasing demand for physical therapy services to help prevent and treat sports-related injuries.
Overall, physical therapy is a rewarding and in-demand profession with excellent job prospects. Physical therapists are highly valued members of the healthcare team, and the demand for their skills is expected to continue to grow in the future.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Physical therapists held about 238,800 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of physical therapists were as follows:
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||36%|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||29|
|Home healthcare services||11|
|Nursing and residential care facilities||5|
Physical therapists spend much of their time on their feet, working with patients. Because they must often lift and move patients, they are vulnerable to back injuries. Physical therapists can limit these risks by using proper body mechanics and lifting techniques when assisting patients.
The salary expectations for physical therapists can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, setting, and specialty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physical therapists in the United States was $91,010 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $63,410, while the highest 10% earned more than $128,990.
Physical therapists working in certain specialties, such as sports medicine or neurological rehabilitation, may earn higher salaries than those working in other areas. Those working in outpatient care centers or home healthcare services may also earn higher salaries than those in other settings such as hospitals or schools.
Location is another important factor that can affect salary expectations for physical therapists. Those working in metropolitan areas or states with higher costs of living may earn higher salaries than those in rural areas or states with lower costs of living.
Overall, physical therapy is a rewarding career path with opportunities for growth and advancement, as well as competitive salaries and benefits.
To become a physical therapist, one must complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program from an accredited institution. This typically takes three years of full-time study after completing a bachelor’s degree. Some DPT programs may also require certain prerequisite courses in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, biology, and physics.
The DPT curriculum includes coursework in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, pharmacology, and therapeutic exercise. Students also gain practical experience through clinical rotations in various healthcare settings, where they work with patients under the supervision of licensed physical therapists.
After completing a DPT program, graduates must pass a state licensing exam to practice as a physical therapist. Each state has its own licensing requirements, but most require passing the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.
In addition to completing a DPT program and passing a licensing exam, physical therapists must also maintain their licensure by completing continuing education courses to stay up to date with the latest advances in the field.
Overall, becoming a physical therapist requires a significant investment of time and resources, but it offers a rewarding career helping people improve their quality of life and regain their mobility.
Go to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) for more licensing requirements.
Physical therapists can specialize in a wide range of areas within the field of physical therapy, depending on their interests and the needs of the populations they serve. Some areas of specialization for physical therapists include:
Overall, physical therapists can specialize in a wide range of areas within the field, depending on their interests and the needs of the populations they serve. It’s important to note that physical therapists must have advanced training and education in their areas of specialization and may need to obtain additional certifications or licenses.
Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings, depending on their area of specialization and personal preferences. Some of the most common settings in which physical therapists work include:
Overall, physical therapists have a wide range of options when it comes to choosing a work setting. They can work in a variety of healthcare environments or even in non-traditional settings to help patients improve their mobility and quality of life.