What is a Physical Therapist?

Are you thinking about becoming a physical therapist (also known as a PT)? These miracle workers of the modern age work with people who have suffered injury or disease. They help their patients by reducing pain and improving overall physical function. Physical therapists work with people of all ages. This area of the medical industry is growing as Baby Boomers age and need more care.

Becoming a Physical Therapist

There are certain attributes that will help you excel at becoming a PT, including physical strength, patience, endurance, dexterity, communication skills, and believe it or not, optimism. However, these will only take you part of the way.

One of the first things you are going to need is your high school diploma. If you are still in high school, it’s a good idea to take physics, math, chemistry, biology, and social studies to help give you a good foundation. It is also a good idea to have 200 to 300 hours of volunteer time to help you get into a good school.

Next, you need to get a bachelor’s degree, preferably in physical therapy. After that, earn a master’s degree with a focus on physiology, human anatomy, or neuroanatomy. As of 2016, you will need to get your doctorate to become a PT.

After you get the degree, you will need to pass the national physical therapy exam and then get a license for the state in which you are going to practice.

Employment Outlook

While many occupations may suffer from a recession, physical therapy enjoys a very low unemployment rate of 1.1%. It is a rapidly growing area that is made even more popular by the baby boomers reaching an age where they need more care.


A primary responsibility of the PT is to help restore a patient’s body from injury, illness, pain, or other types of disability. The therapy may include a variety of methods to help increase the patient’s range of motion, strength, and coordination. A therapist may use heat, light, water, and cold therapies as well as traction to accomplish the goal. Orthotic and prosthetic devices may also be used to help train patients.

Physical therapists get to work with a wide variety of people, including premature infants, pediatric patients, sports injury patients, back and neck injuries, amputees, geriatric patients, patients with arthritis, and many more.

Continuing Education

Continual growth is important for physical therapists. A PT will need to maintain certain professional and technical knowledge by keeping up with the latest changes in the field.  These may be from reading professional publications, working with professional networks, seminars, educational workshops, and professional societies.

Working Conditions

Physical therapists work in a variety of environments. Like many doctors, they are typically seen in hospitals, clinics, and even in private offices that are specially equipped to handle their needs. In some cases, physical therapists also need to go to people’s homes or even schools to help their patients.

The job can be physically demanding at times. A physical therapist needs to be able to crouch, lift, and stand for long periods of time.

Sometimes a physical therapist must be able to perform strenuous physical activity in order to help their patients. This, along with strong communication and excellent problem-solving skills can help the therapist assistant patients.

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Sonia Considers a New Career

After a delicious lunch with her friend Jill, Sonia went home with lots of information to consider. She wanted to know more about Physical Therapists and what they really did for a living. She knew Jill had decided to make the jump to this new career, but Sonia wanted to learn more before making a decision.

Sonia had two kids, and she knew she wanted to be able to work with children at least part of the time. She also liked the idea of being able to help her boys if they ever got an injury and needed rehabilitation.

Since a PT’s job is to help restore full mobility after an injury or surgery, she figured that she would work with doctors to help people heal faster.

This was intriguing for Sonia, and in the end was one of the reasons she decided a career as a PT was the right choice for her as well.



Physical therapists often work a 40-hour week, but some also work weekends and evenings to accommodate their patients’ busy schedules. Around 20% of physical therapists work part-time, according to the bureau of labor statistics.

PTs have a varied salary range depending on where they are working. A traveling PT <link to travel PT> has the opportunity to earn more money. A physical therapist’s salary is typically $60,000 to $88,000. [1] They usually make more as they gain more experience or pick up more responsibilities.

Is Physical Therapist the right profession for you? Maybe it’s time for a career change. Perhaps you just want a profession that is growing during a recession. Either way, PT may be a rewarding career choice. Read on to learn more about Sonia and her friends and they begin careers in physical therapy.


1. Top 100 Health-Care Careers, Dr. Saul Wischnitzer and Edith Wischnitzer

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