How to Become a Physical Therapist

By Published On: September 22, 2022

Physical therapy is an excellent career option for those interested in the exercise science field, with fast job growth, competitive salaries, and options for work environment. For those looking to work directly with clients to improve physical conditions, recover from injury, improve quality of life, and reduce pain, physical therapy is an excellent career choice.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

A physical therapist works with different clients to diagnose and improve physical conditions through exercise prescription and hands-on care. They aim to help clients reduce pain and discomfort and improve mobility, tracking client progress and making further recommendations as needed. 

Physical therapists work in hospitals, clinics, care facilities, or private offices. 

Steps to Becoming a Physical Therapist

Becoming a physical therapist takes typically six or seven years of school, in addition to passing licensure exams for your particular state. 

Step 1: Earn a Degree

In order to become a physical therapist, there are different degree options available depending on what type of program you’re interested in, and which one best fits with your life. 

Earn A Bachelors in Exercise Science, then complete a Doctorate of Physical Therapy  

For most programs, you’ll need to complete a bachelor’s degree in an exercise science related field prior to entering a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. Some Doctorate of Physical Therapy programs require specific prerequisite classes to be taken prior to the program, usually courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, kinesiology, and chemistry. 

For those seeking to work while earning their bachelor’s degree, an online exercise science program may be their best option. Concordia University Chicago’s Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology program is 100% online and designed for working adults, and features a tuition guarantee, so your tuition costs won’t change on you while you study with them. 

Earning a bachelor’s degree takes on average four years, and a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program takes on average three years. Doctorate of Physical Therapy programs include both classroom work and clinical work. 

3+3 Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program

Some Doctorate of Physical Therapy Programs offer a 3+3 format, where students complete three years of an undergraduate program and three years in a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program. This accelerated format can help fast track becoming a physical therapist. 

Step 2: Pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)

Passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) is vital to receiving licensure to practice. After completing a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited program, students must pass the NPTE exam in order to qualify for a state license to practice.

Step 3: Obtain State Licensure 

Requirements for physical therapy licensure vary from state to state. Many states require background checks and additional training, and in order to maintain your license, typically you have to complete continuing education courses every two years. 

Step 4:  Continue Your Professional Development

Some physical therapists will complete fellowships or residencies upon graduating and obtaining licensure. In residency, physical therapists can develop their skills under mentorship. Through fellowships, physical therapists can gain additional education in a specific area within the practice. 

Physical therapists can also pursue additional certification by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

Physical Therapist Salaries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists make a median annual salary of $95,620, with pay varying depending on the state.

Employment Outlook for Physical Therapists

Jobs in physical therapy are predicted to grow 17% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than the average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Get Started Today

Start your journey to becoming a physical therapist today with a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from Concordia University Chicago. The 100% online program means you have the flexibility to learn from anywhere, and balance school with work and your personal life. 

Classes start every eight weeks. Apply today to join us for the next round of classes.

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