What Does a Career as a Physical Therapist Look Like?

Physical therapists play a vital role in the healthcare system by helping patients to recover from injuries and illnesses through the implementation of specially designed therapy programs. Additionally, a physical therapist may work with children who have physical developmental delays, or they may assist those who are learning to manage a chronic illness such as arthritis. Ideal candidates for a career in physical therapy will be those who possess a compassionate personality with an interest in the medical field. Therefore, the following preview is offered to further explain the benefits of pursuing a career in physical therapy.

General Job Duties

Although all physical therapists will guide their patients through a therapy plan that has been specially prepared according to their specific needs, the actual day-to-day duties of a physical therapist will vary according to the type of practice in which they specialize. For example, a physical therapist who works with children may engage them in physical activities that are in the form of a game to make therapy playful yet effective. Additionally, a physical therapist that specializes in treating sports injuries may use a combination of therapies such as massage, heat and ice packs and exercises to help their patients recover and manage their pain.

Practice Settings

When many people think of a physical therapist, they tend to imagine them working in a hospital; however, according to the American Physical Therapy Association, more than 80% of physical therapists work in a setting that is outside of the traditional hospital environment. These physical therapists can be found working in schools, out-patient clinics and nursing homes. Additionally, corporations and the federal government frequently employ physical therapists in their wellness programs designed to foster good health among their employees. Due to the wide options available for work environments, physical therapists have a diverse range of specializations from which they can choose to further their careers.

Education Required

To become a physical therapist, one will need to complete an educational program that focuses on the latest research-based techniques for pain management and therapeutic exercises. They will also be required to comply with their state laws by enrolling in an accredited physical therapy education program that is designed to ensure their ability to pass the state-mandated exams for licensure. After completing their Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, prospective physical therapists are also required to complete a residency of several months to a year to receive additional experience and training within their area of specialization.

Opportunities for Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists can expect to enjoy a high rate of job growth over the next twenty years with a projected growth rate of 39 percent. Among healthcare professionals, those who pursue a career as a physical therapist can also expect to receive an average salary of $76,310 a year. Professionally, physical therapists can also expect to grow as they manage a team of assistants and other caregivers to provide optimum patient care. In addition to these opportunities, physical therapists have several areas of specialization from which they can choose such as pediatrics, geriatrics and neurology.

For those who prefer a hands-on career that enables them to provide rehabilitative services to patients, a career as a physical therapist is ideal. Recent research in this field has contributed to its high rate of growth while offering physical therapists an opportunity to expand their professional knowledge by exploring areas of specialization that are designed to provide individualized care to patients recovering from illnesses and injuries. For this reason, education, experience and training are essential to getting started in a successful career as a physical therapist.

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Gerald Faulkner writes on massage therapy, general health, fitness & nutrition, exercise, pedicures, skin care and other related topics. Lately Gerald is particularly interested in the Pedicure Chair.

JR Olson
J. Rex Olson is a freelance writer based in the greater metropolitan area of Seattle. He enjoys writing for the sake of writing, and likes to contribute material on a wide range of topics and issues. When not writing he loves playing basketball and taking in a symphony.

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