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Requirements to Become a Physical Therapist

Loveleena Rajeev
Rehabilitative programs like improving mobility, increasing strength, and pain relief are assessed and carried out by a physical therapist. To know about the requirements to become one, read on.
Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals. They work with people suffering from injuries or diseases, and help restore body function or prevent physical disabilities.
They work with many kinds of patients, such as accident victims, people afflicted with cerebral palsy, brain damage, heart diseases, arthritis, and those who are suffering from disabling medical conditions.
They work in close coordination with other health care professionals to asses, plan, and prepare treatment strategies to improve a patient's posture, motor function, muscle strength and performance, respiration, and coordination of bodily movements.
A physical therapist uses a combination of many tools, equipment, and techniques to treat patients.
Some of the tools and equipment are ultrasounds, walkers, leg braces, prosthetics, wheelchairs, etc. Some of the techniques used include electric stimulation, massage therapy (deep tissue massage), cold compresses, hot packs, etc.
Besides being involved in the actual development of their patients, they also have to complete all required documents regarding patient treatment, therapies, and progress.

Educational Requirements

As a physical therapy job is in much demand, and is extremely well-paying, it is a popular career choice for many. To become a qualified physical therapist, one needs to have an excellent educational track record in undergraduate programs.
Undergraduate programs must include anatomy, medical assisting, trigonometry, computer skills, humanities, geometry, chemistry, physiology, and/or health education for admission in physical therapy graduate programs. As admissions are competitive, some states have entrance exams.
The U.S. recognizes only those physical therapists who have earned their graduate, masters or doctoral degrees from an accredited physical therapy educational program. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 200 such accredited programs that offer graduate, masters, and doctoral degrees.
There are primarily four methods of earning a physical therapy degree; direct entry masters in physical therapy degree, transitional masters in physical therapy degree, direct entry doctorate in physical therapy degree, and transitional doctorate in physical therapy degree.
Physical therapy programs are highly intensive, and also provide hands-on clinical experience in the field of biomechanics, human development, anatomy, and therapeutic procedures.

Licensing Requirements

In the U.S., passing a physical therapy license exam and obtaining a license is essential for practicing as a physical therapist. While most states have their specific requirements, some general licensing rules are followed in most states. Aspiring students have to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
They are also required to pass state exams in the state they wish to practice in. These exams are regulated by the state's regulatory board. For foreign students, passing in an English proficiency test is also a mandatory requirement.
To appear for the licensing exam; national and state, the aspirant must provide relevant documents obtained from the accredited programs he/she has undertaken. As a policy, these credentials are evaluated and approved by a state-appointed credentialing agency.

Requirements for Foreign Students Seeking Admission to PT Programs

International students seeking admission to entry-level or post-professional physical therapy courses in the U.S. need to fulfill certain criteria. Admission requirements may vary from one academic institution to the other. Students must therefore directly approach the institutions to find out their specific requirements.
Educational credentials of international students are reviewed individually by schools where they apply for the program, and selection of students is done on a merit basis.
International students may also require to appear for Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and/ or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Students may also require U.S. licensure because it is a prerequisite for some post-professional programs.
Physical therapists work in hospitals, rehabilitation, orthopedic centers, or practice privately.
According to the American Physical Therapy Association, their minimum median salary is $68,300, which may vary depending on the location, experience, education, and position of the therapist.
Employment in this sector is expected to increase much faster than average as more and more specialized and advanced centers are coming up. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the employment to grow by 36% from the year 2012 to 2022.
For all education, licensing, and career profiling updates, one can always refer to the American Physical Therapy Association website. Other than the requirements stated above, aspirants need to polish their interpersonal communication skills, and have compassion for helping other people in order to become a physical therapist.