Step by step guide to becoming a physical therapist

People who have suffered serious injuries or illnesses often face difficulties with movement and pain management. They depend on physical therapists to help them recover. Through focused exercise plans and individual attention, these professionals help patients restore their range of motion, build strength, improve flexibility and manage pain as they recuperate.

What does a physical therapist do?

Physical therapists usually work in private offices, clinics, hospitals or nursing homes. Typically, physical therapy positions are full time, although some therapists work fewer hours or multiple part-time positions. Most physical therapists are scheduled to work during normal business hours, but it is possible to be scheduled on evening or weekend shifts, depending on the environment.

Physical therapists often work as part of a rehabilitation team to provide hands-on therapy, exercises and stretching maneuvers to patients with chronic conditions or serious injuries to ease pain and facilitate health and wellness. Other members of the health care team may include physical therapist assistants, aides, physicians and surgeons.

What kind of skills are required?

Physical therapists must master a host of different skills to perform their responsibilities effectively. Strong observational skills help them diagnose patient problems and, evaluate treatments. Because much of the job involves standing up while providing manual therapy and therapeutic exercises, dexterity and physical stamina are important as well. Finally, physical therapists spend a lot of individual time with their patients, and should be able to empathize with them. Effective communication skills will help them explain treatment programs and motivate patients to work at exercises that may be difficult and painful.

The steps to becoming a physical therapist

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s degree in a health related field
  2. Complete a doctor of physical therapy degree program
  3. Meet your state’s licensing requirements
  4. Complete a residency (optional)