Physical therapy has become a rapidly growing part of the medical and rehabilitation employment landscape, today with higher demand than ever for professionals.
With an aging general population, as well as advances in therapy, estimates are that this part of the medical industry in particular is growing at a much higher rate than others, a perfect opportunity for those interested in becoming physical therapists.
In order to do so, prospective PTs will need to complete about 7 years of general and technical study, including graduating from accredited programs. Enrollment and acceptance to these schools is usually quite competitive, so it is recommended that students prepare well in advance for their application, in order to have the best chances at acceptance.
Schooling Requirements for Physical Therapists
In order to become employed as licensed physical therapists, individuals should note the requirements involved, so they know what to expect. Educational programs can be intensive, and there are frequently many more applicants than a program can accept.
Since the application process can be extensive, as well as so competitive, understanding all requirements for acceptance into any accredited programs, and beginning to prepare years ahead of time, is for the best.
First, prospective applicants must graduate a 4-year general undergraduate program and earn a Bachelor’s degree.
While these typically are not earned at actual physical therapy schools, it is still recommended to take general classes that include English, math, science, social science and even some psychology, since this will all be helpful in more than one way.
They are classes that support the necessary education for working closely with the public, as well as the fact that having these types of courses looks very favorable on any application to any accredited program.
After graduating with an undergraduate Bachelor’s degree, students are then able to proceed on to the technical portion of their education, that being actual school.
By completing their formal and clinical education for physical therapy, they will graduate earning the degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), and be eligible to take their licensing examination and become legally employed.
Prepare Ahead for Application to Accredited Physical Therapy Programs
Students should contact the admissions department of their preferred programs and request admissions packets early to see which general education courses are required for them to take before they enroll so they are sure to fulfill those requirements.
Having completed “suggested” classes as well as required classes may add an extra bit of positive light on a particular application, so be willing to follow the recommended undergraduate curriculum for the best chances of acceptance.
Some programs even offer early acceptance of high school students who have proven earlier in their educational career to be particularly suited for the profession of physical therapy, so it is worth asking about that.
The benefit of this is that as long as they fulfill all necessary requirements in undergraduate school, students are guaranteed acceptance to their programs. Early admission spots are few and far between however.
Qualifications for acceptance into PT programs usually also include time spent in clinical observation or volunteer work, numerous letters of recommendation and a history of interest in the field, not just classes and grades, so applicants should be working well in advance for this.
After undergraduate school, those students meeting all these qualifications, and who are lucky enough to be accepted to their accredited physical therapy programs, will go on for usually three more years of education, this time specialized toward the physical therapy field.
Accreditation Matters in Physical Therapy Schools
Especially considering the fact that there are numerous online and “quick learn” programs available today for just about every major and educational field, prospective students should understand that attending accredited physical therapy programs is essential.
Accreditation is awarded by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), who ensure that programs provide the best, most necessary skills to students, promoting their success as physical therapists.
Those who have not graduated an accredited program will not be eligible to sit for their licensing examination, and may end up taking more courses to fulfill accreditation requirements.
Prospective students interested in finding out more about accredited physical therapy programs in their region should contact the APTA, or the professional organization in their country.