Our desire to help and care for others is a very human trait. The entire medical industry is based on this and those who pursue careers in medicine are drawn to fulfilling it. For most, they see helping others as a calling. But there's more to forging a career in medicine than a deep desire to care for others. And, even if your calling is altruistic, earning an income is likely an important factor in choosing which field of medicine to enter.
The current trends in medicine, thanks in part to the large aging populations called the Baby Boomers, has increased the demand for physical therapists.
According to a U.S. News & World Report article, "By 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects physical therapist employment growth of 36 percent, with the field adding 73,500 more jobs. Driving this demand for physical therapists are older people who experience heart attacks, strokes and other injuries that require rehabilitation. Physical therapists are also increasingly being called upon to help manage chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity.
So, what does it take to become a physical therapist, besides a burning desire to help people of all ages?
Undergraduate Degree: Earning your four year degree is the first step to building the foundation for becoming a physical therapist (after, of course graduating high school, hopefully with an emphasis on biology, anatomy and physiology). Some colleges will offer a specific pre-physical therapy track which will include the per-requisites needed for graduate school but that's not necessary. Working with your guidance counselor, along with a list of requirements from your intended PT school, will be instrumental in building a curriculum that will put you in the best possible position for success.
Graduate Degree: All new physical therapists will be required to obtain a doctoral degree come 2015. According to the APTA this 3-4 year program "may include, but are not limited to, biology/anatomy, cellular histology, physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pharmacology, pathology, behavioral sciences, communication, ethics/values, management sciences, finance, sociology, clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, cardiovascular and pulmonary, endocrine and metabolic, and musculoskeletal."
Eighty percent of your doctoral program will be classroom and lab studies while the remaining 20% is hands-on. This clinical practice is fundamental for building communication skills, patient trust and confidence as well as 'bed-side manners'. It also allows instructors to evaluate your practical knowledge in a supervised manner.
Get Licensed in Your State: Regardless of which state you intend to practice in, you'll need to obtain licensure for that state. Passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy will likely be the last step in starting your career (be aware of any additional requirements that your state may have, such as jurisprudence exams).
Once you've fulfilled these requirements you'll be on your way to building a rewarding career as a physical therapist. Residency and fellowship programs may be available to assist in the advancement of your career and enhance your knowledge and practice.
Likewise, there are opportunities to pursue board certification as a clinical specialist and further your knowledge in the following areas:
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
- Clinical Electrophysiology
- Sports Physical Therapy
- Women's Health
The demand for physical therapists will continue to grow in the next decade providing job opportunities in a career that fulfills our need to help others. If your facility is in need of filling those positions contact us today and our staff will be happy to assist you.
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