therapists need a master's degree from an accredited physical therapy
program and a State license, requiring passing scores on national and State
Physical therapist education programs start with basic
science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics and then introduce
specialized courses, including biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and
development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and
therapeutic procedures. Besides getting classroom and laboratory
instruction, students receive supervised clinical experience.
Among the undergraduate courses that are useful when one
applies to a physical therapist education program are anatomy, biology,
chemistry, social science, mathematics, and physics. Before granting
admission, many programs require volunteer experience in the physical
therapy department of a hospital or clinic. For high school students,
volunteering with the school athletic trainer is a good way to gain
Physical therapists are expected to continue their
professional development by participating in continuing education courses
and workshops. In fact, a number of States require continuing education as
a condition of maintaining licensure.
All States require physical therapists to pass national and
State licensure exams before they can practice. They must also graduate
from an accredited physical therapist education program.
Physical therapists should have strong interpersonal skills
so that they can educate patients about their physical therapy treatments
and communicate with patients' families. Physical therapists also should be
compassionate and possess a desire to help patients.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy
Education accredits first professional (entry-level) programs in the U.S.
for the physical therapist at the master's and doctoral degree levels and
programs for the physical therapist assistant at the associate degree level.
There are currently 209 accredited physical therapist education programs.
Of the accredited programs, 43 offered master's degrees and 166 offered
doctoral degrees. Only master's degree and doctoral degree programs are
accredited, in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical
Therapy Education. In the future, a doctoral degree might be the required
entry-level degree. Master's degree programs typically last 2 years, and
doctoral degree programs last 3 years. The following table provides links
to currently accredited physical therapy programs. Be sure to check
with the Commission for updates or changes.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor