Physical therapists need a masterís degree from an accredited physical
therapy program and a State license, requiring passing scores on national
and State examinations.
Education and training. According to the American Physical
Therapy Association, there were 209 accredited physical therapist education
programs in 2007. Of the accredited programs, 43 offered masterís degrees
and 166 offered doctoral degrees. Only masterís degree and doctoral degree
programs are accredited, in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation
in Physical Therapy Education. In the future, a doctoral degree might be the
required entry-level degree. Masterís degree programs typically last 2
years, and doctoral degree programs last 3 years.
Physical therapist education programs start with basic science courses
such as biology, chemistry, and physics and then introduce specialized
courses, including biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development,
manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic
procedures. Besides getting classroom and laboratory instruction, students
receive supervised clinical experience.
Among the undergraduate courses that are useful when one applies to a
physical therapist education program are anatomy, biology, chemistry, social
science, mathematics, and physics. Before granting admission, many programs
require volunteer experience in the physical therapy department of a
hospital or clinic. For high school students, volunteering with the school
athletic trainer is a good way to gain experience.
Licensure. All States require physical therapists to pass
national and State licensure exams before they can practice. They must also
graduate from an accredited physical therapist education program.
Other qualifications. Physical therapists should have
strong interpersonal skills so that they can educate patients about their
physical therapy treatments and communicate with patientsí families.
Physical therapists also should be compassionate and possess a desire to
Advancement. Physical therapists are expected to continue
their professional development by participating in continuing education
courses and workshops. In fact, a number of States require continuing
education as a condition of maintaining licensure.