How to Become a Pediatric Physical Therapy Practitioner

Three Parts:Preparing YourselfPursuing an Education in Physical TherapyGetting Licensed and Starting Your Career

A pediatric physical therapist helps children of all ages recover from injuries and illnesses that affect their mobility. They also help patients with congenital conditions improve their physical abilities. Becoming a pediatric physical therapist requires extensive education, clinical hours, and licenses. In the United States, physical therapists are regulated by physical therapy associations and state boards. In addition to fulfilling all of the educational and licensing requirements, pediatric physical therapists must also be very patient and be prepared to work with children who may not understand why they must attend physical therapy sessions.

Part 1
Preparing Yourself

  1. Image titled Become a College Professor Step 1
    Graduate from high school. In order to get into an undergraduate program, you must get your high school diploma or receive your General Education Development (GED) certificate. Taking advanced science classes will help you prepare yourself for college-level studies.
    • Work hard in high school and keep your GPA as high as possible to increase your chances of getting into your preferred undergraduate program.
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    Gain experience. Begin exploring your interest in physical therapy by looking for after school jobs or volunteer opportunities that will give you some experience in the field, even if you are just answering the phone.[1]
    • It might also be helpful to gain some experience working with children. Consider looking for opportunities at daycare facilities, after school programs, summer camps, children's hospitals, or pediatricians' offices.
  3. Image titled Use Time Management in the Workplace Step 10
    Assess your skills and interests. Working as a pediatric physical therapist presents many unique challenges, so it's best to think about the requirements as early as possible to make sure this career is a good fit for you.
    • You must have a genuine desire to help and communicate with children in pain, which requires lots of patience and compassion.
    • You must have strong communication skills. As a pediatric physical therapist, you will need to explain conditions, limitations, and treatment plans to both children and their parents. Strong communication skills are vital because communicating with children is more challenging than explaining physical therapy to adults.
    • You must be prepared for physically challenging work. Pediatric physical therapists are on their feet for much of the work day and must often physically assist their patients.[2]

Part 2
Pursuing an Education in Physical Therapy

  1. Image titled Enforce Change in Your Personal Life and Work Step 4
    Get an undergraduate degree. You have many different options, so do your research to choose the best undergraduate program for you. No matter what kind of program you choose, it is important to think about the prerequisite requirements for graduate school. Consider contacting graduate schools you are interested in applying to in the future to find out what undergraduate courses are required for admission. Common prerequisite requirements include physics, psychology, and a variety of science classes.[3]
    • One option is to major in a subject that is related to physical therapy, such as biology or physiology. There are also some programs that are specifically designed to prepare you for graduate studies in physical therapy, although you can certainly be admitted to a graduate program without this specific type of major.
    • Some schools offer programs that combine undergraduate and graduate studies, allowing you to earn a bachelor's degree and a doctorate degree in physical therapy from one institution without having to reapply.[4]
    • If you would like to start working in the physical therapy field as soon as possible, you may consider pursuing an associate's degree to Become a Physical Therapy Assistant.[5] This is a great option if you want some more experience in the field before you commit to further education, or if you want to work as a physical therapy assistant while pursuing your more advanced degrees.
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    Apply for physical therapy internships. Many physical therapy clinics hire aspiring physical therapists to work in the office or assist with the practice. This clinical experience will give you a chance to experience what it is really like to work in a physical therapy practice, and it will add to your resume.
  3. Image titled Study the Medical Condition of Nephrotic Syndrome Step 3
    Attend a physical therapy graduate program. You will need to choose a doctoral program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). These Doctoral of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs generally take about three years to complete and provide you with in-depth knowledge on subjects such as anatomy and pharmacology. You will also have the opportunity to focus your studies on pediatric physical therapy.[6]
    • Prepare for graduate school by taking the GRE while you are an undergraduate. These programs are competitive, so strong grades and test scores are important.
    • Master's degree programs are no longer available for new students wishing to become physical therapists, although they were an option in the recent past.[7]
    • You may be required to do an internship program as part of your DPT.[8]
  4. Image titled Use Physical Therapy to Recover From a Stroke Step 6
    Complete a residency program. You will be required to complete approximately 1,500 hours' worth of clinical practice in the specialization of your choice. Residencies are usually completed at university medical centers, and will give you the opportunity to practice physical therapy under the supervision of a certified physical therapist.[9]

Part 3
Getting Licensed and Starting Your Career

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    Get licensed in your state. You will need to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), which assesses your knowledge and abilities in the field of physical therapy. Each state has its own requirements for issuing licenses to physical therapists, so check with your state to find out if there are additional exams you need to take. [10]
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    Apply for certification with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). This board requires that you complete 2,000 clinical practice hours in your specialty or an approved residency program. They also administer a test for certification that includes questions related to your specialty. Upon completion of this test, you will be certified as a specialist in pediatric physical therapy.[11]
  3. Image titled Choose Therapy for Menopause Step 3
    Start looking for your first job. Apply for jobs with hospitals, clinics, or physical therapy practices. Few pediatric physical therapists can start their own practice right away because they have a smaller pool of patients to draw from. A pediatric hospital or organization may be a great place to look for your first position.
    • You can also choose to begin working as a physical therapist after you receive your license, but before you obtain certification from the ABPTS.
  4. Image titled Get Your Driver's License Step 9
    Take continuing education credits. In order to keep your certification and license, you will have to complete continuing education credits every few years. Requirements vary by state, so be sure to check the requirements in your area.[12]

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