Online Physical Therapy Degree Programs
A career in physical therapy typically appeals to those with in interest in sports or physical activity, especially those who have themselves had to overcome injuries or physical disabilities. But as "physical" as the nature of the job might be, becoming a physical therapist also requires solid academic ability, particularly in the sciences, as well as strong interpersonal skills and an ability to work one-on-one with others.
A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapist
At its most basic, the role of physical therapists is to improve the way their patients' bodies work. This can involve restoring limb functions after an injury, surgery, or illness, improving mobility, and relieving pain. Physical therapists also work with patients who have chronic injuries or diseases such as lower back pain, arthritis, and cerebral palsy to prevent physical disabilities from occurring, or to limit the debilitating effects of such disabilities. Patients with heart disease or other ailments may also be prescribed physical therapy to treat pain associated with joint or muscle problems that would be treated with anti-inflammatories or painkillers in healthier patients.
Going to School for Physical Therapy
Early coursework in a physical therapy degree program is typical freshman/sophomore fare, albeit with an emphasis on science. Expect to take courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physics, as well as classes in mathematics and the social sciences. In the later stages of the degree program, you can expect a course load much more specific to physical therapy, with such classes as biomechanics, neuro-anatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures.
You will also gain practical experience through internships or by "shadowing" a practicing physical therapist. Although an associate's degree is sufficient to become a physical therapy assistant, you will need a bachelor's degree and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination to become a licensed physical therapist. A master's degree is strongly recommended for those who want to make this a full-time career.
Salaries for Physical Therapy
The median earnings of a physical therapist are more than $66,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Physical therapy assistants have an average salary of about $41,000. Increasingly, physical therapy degree holders have begun finding work in less traditional settings, such as alternative medicine facilities, rehabilitation centers, and orthopedic centers. The job market for physical therapists is very good and is expected to get better.
Physical Therapy's Job Growth Rate
The demand for physical therapists is expected to grow at about double the rate for other professions over the next decade, according to the Department of Labor. The reasons for this are varied. The primary cause is the aging baby boomer population, meaning a huge bloc of the U.S. population is reaching an age where they are particularly vulnerable to conditions that require physical therapy. Breakthroughs in medicine mean there are ever more people surviving violent trauma and who subsequently need physical therapy. And there are more people than ever participating in sports and outdoor activities, meaning more injuries.
Pursue your Physical Therapy major today…
Study online with California University of Pennsylvania.
- Post-Masters Cert: Exercise Science and Health Promotion: Rehabilitation Science
- MS: Exercise Science and Health Promotion: Rehabilitation Sciences