Online Physical Therapy Degree Programs

Physical therapists treat injuries, illnesses, and deformities without the use of drugs or surgery. They do this by incorporating different types of exercise, such as walking, stretching, and strength training, into a patient's wellness plan. They may also use heat, cold, or electrical stimulation to help heal patients' ailments and relieve pain.

Physical Therapy Degrees and Certifications

Many begin their career in physical therapy by earning a bachelor's degree in a science-related field. After graduating from an undergraduate program, students may choose to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), which generally takes three to four years of full-time study to complete.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists must possess a Doctor of Physical Therapy and be licensed by the state in which they live. DPT programs offer advanced courses in all facets of the profession, and often require students to complete clinical internships, where they gain supervised experience practicing patient care. Topics of study may include:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience
  • Pharmacology
  • Biomechanics
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Clinical Practice

Students pursuing a DPT might also examine different body regions, such as the neck, back, shoulders, knees, or hips. Some schools allow students to specialize in a specific discipline of physical therapy. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists offers certifications for the following specialties:

  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Sports
  • Women's Health
  • Pediatrics
  • Cardiovascular & Pulmonary

Career Outlook for Physical Therapy Majors

The BLS predicts substantial job growth for physical therapists over the next decade, with employment opportunities projected to increase 36 percent nationwide from 2012 to 2022. They attribute this to the anticipated physical therapy needs of an aging baby boomer population, as well as the growing number of people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

Those interested in gaining early experience in the field may consider a career as a physical therapy assistant or aide. PT aides assist patients with certain exercises, observe patients during therapy, and set up therapy equipment. According to the BLS, these positions typically require candidates to possess at least an associate degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Demand for physical therapy assistants is projected to grow a whopping 41 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022.

Sources:
American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists, http://www.abpts.org/home.aspx
Physical Therapists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm
Physical Therapy Assistants and Aides, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm

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