Ultimately, starting your career as a PTA can work out as long as you do enough advance planning and choose the right schools and programs. When the time comes to pursue a career as a PT, you may even be able to complete most of your additional education online. And your time spent as a PTA will probably give you a greater depth of understanding about the field and make it easier to learn everything else you'll need to know.
That said, becoming a physical therapist assistant is generally seen as its own path, separate and apart from becoming a physical therapist. It isn't necessarily seen as a stepping stone. In fact, only about one in 10 PTAs ever choose to pursue additional education for future careers as PTs. Even if you haven't started attending a college or university yet as an undergraduate, it's a good idea to look ahead at what you'll need for entry into a Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate program. That way, you can make a streamlined plan that incorporates all of the necessary course prerequisites and minimizes any extra time in school that you may otherwise have to complete.
DPT programs vary in their requirements, but applicants typically need to have completed courses in areas such as:. Colleges and universities all over the country offer DPT programs, so you can probably find options in your region. Otherwise, you may run into trouble later on when it's time to get your PT license. Whenever possible, it's also smart to find people who've recently graduated from a particular program—as well as local employers who've hired them—and request their opinions about its strong and weak points. Some DPT programs are open to students at the college freshman level; they incorporate both an undergraduate and graduate post-secondary education and they typically take just six years to complete.
However, most DPT programs are designed for people who have already completed an undergraduate education by earning a bachelor's degree. So that might be where you need to start. Here's the good thing: As long as you take the courses that are required for entry into your future DPT program, you can major in anything you want. Even if your major seems totally unrelated to physical therapy, you can still probably take the required courses as electives.
How to Become a Physical Therapist: 12 Steps to Make It Happen
Just make sure you get good grades in them. Here are the most common college majors of students who have been accepted into DPT programs that require a bachelor's degree: 5. As part of their prerequisites, a lot of DPT programs require applicants to have a certain amount of verified clinical experience under the supervision of one or more licensed physical therapists. That experience can be paid or voluntary, but it needs to include many hours of direct observation in a physical therapy setting.
In many cases, the requirement is more than total hours of job shadowing, verified by supervising PTs. Throughout your undergraduate education and job shadowing experiences, always keep in mind that you'll need to provide great references when you apply to DPT programs.
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Seek to establish good relationships with your professors, academic advisors, supervising physical therapists, club leaders, and any other people of stature who may be able to describe your best qualities. Some physical therapy schools require as many as four letters of recommendation. They want to know that important people think highly of you, especially when it comes to qualities like compassion, reliability, leadership, commitment, critical-thinking skills, social intelligence, maturity, attention to detail, and communication abilities.
The GRE is a common standardized test that's used to measure a student's ability to succeed in a graduate-level degree program. Many physical therapy schools have minimum GRE scores that applicants must achieve before applying. Depending on your scores, you may need to retake it. The GRE is offered as a paper test or computer-based test.
If you take the computerized version, you're allowed to go back and forth between different questions and change your answers as necessary. The test includes three main sections:. When students receive their GRE scores, they get to see the percentage of test takers who scored lower than they did in each area. In addition to your GRE scores and letters of recommendation, you'll need to gather your official transcripts from each post-secondary school you've attended or request that they be sent directly to PTCAS or the physical therapy schools you're applying to.
It also allows them to track each aspect of their application in real time. Each physical therapy school has its own admissions process, but it's usually better to apply as soon as possible rather than wait until closer to the deadline date. In order to be competitive with other applicants, you'll probably need an undergraduate GPA above 3.
Schools often want to make sure that you'll be able to meet your state's licensing requirements after graduation. Having a criminal record won't necessarily cause your application to be rejected.
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It really just depends on the specific types of offenses and how long ago they took place. But if you fail to disclose any previous convictions, you may be kicked out of a program after you enroll. Here's where you'll really start learning what it takes to be a physical therapist.
Your Doctor of Physical Therapy program will probably provide plenty of interesting and exciting challenges along the way.
In addition to coursework which may include laboratory study , you'll have a clinical internship. Staying organized and following great study habits will be critical to your success. During your clinical internship, you'll be supervised by a licensed PT as you start applying what you've learned in a real physical therapy setting.
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On average, the clinical component of a DPT program lasts around six months. The exam usually consists of about multiple-choice questions that test your entry-level knowledge of physical therapy evaluations and interventions in relation to various systems of the human body, therapeutic devices and techniques, evidence-based practice, professional duties, and safety. You're allowed to take the NPTE up to three times within a one-year period.
But every year since , more than 80 percent of all first-time takers of the exam have passed it. And when you narrow it down to just those who were graduates of accredited physical therapy programs in the U. Every state in the U. So you'll need to obtain a license from the appropriate licensing authority in your state. Aside from passing the NPTE, many states have additional requirements such as:. Once you've received your license to practice, you can officially call yourself a physical therapist. Keep in mind that you might have to renew your license every so often, which may require completing a small amount of continuing education before each renewal.
Many PTs decide to become specialists in one or more areas of physical therapy practice. The first step in that process is usually to complete a one-year residency in a specialized area of clinical practice. If they have a lot of experience, then they are most likely going to get a higher salary. Many do not know, but there are a lot of different kinds of physical therapists that specialize in one specific area.
For example an individual could just be a foot physical therapist and just take patients that need help regaining physical ability in their foot. Also there are physical therapists that just work with a certain type of age group.
Physical Therapy Journals
And pediatric physical therapists only work with children. Another type of physical therapy is a neurologic physical therapist that specializes in the nervous system. They would help people regain health from a brain injury, spinal cord injury, or a stroke. However the most common type of physical therapy is an orthopedic physical therapist.
These types of physical therapists usually work in a hospital on patients that just get out of surgery and need help regaining that muscle back, or patients that visit a clinic on a daily or weekly basis. This type of therapy mainly focuses on the musculoskeletal system, including joints, tendons and bones. The physical therapy field has many options and opportunities for an individual looking for a specialized career Field.
get link As well as many other careers in the business world, physical therapy also has the opportunity for advancements, or promotions. A physical therapist usually starts out as a staff therapist, where they develop their clinical skills. Physical therapy assistants with a great amount of experience eventually get advancements, in a way.
An individual that works as a physical therapy assistant usually does not get a promotion to a higher title unless they increase their level of education to become a physical therapist. The career path for becoming a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant has many opportunities for advancement and promotions to eventually be able to retire from a successful career.
Also there are many benefits in the career field of physical therapy, including the work environment that an individual would be working in daily. One of the common benefits of this field is the K-retirement plan that most jobs usually offer their employees NieMiera 2. The facility that an individual would work in also offers to pay for their schooling to continue their education, or to renew their physical therapy license and certifications. The main benefit of the physical therapy field is the work environment.
In this field an individual has flexible hours, casual business dress code, and a positive atmosphere that will make an individual want to come to work. To get started in the career path of becoming a physical therapist can be extremely simple. If an individual wants to get a head start on their career while still being in high school or college but do not have the experience or requirements to qualify for an actual job, they can volunteer at their local facilities.
After completing schooling for becoming a physical therapist an individual could try and apply at the facility they have been volunteering at or apply at another facility that is more suitable for them.