How to Become a Physical Therapist

Three Methods:Obtaining LicensureSucceeding in Your CareerHaving the Qualities of a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists are medical professionals who specialize in helping patients both recover from and manage immobilities that result from injuries, illnesses, or surgeries. Physical therapy can be a very rewarding career, as it involves improving the overall quality of life for patients, as well as an average pay of $76,000 a year in the U.S.[1]The demand for physical therapists is expected to increase by 39% from 2010 to 2020, making it one of the 30 fastest-growing careers in the United States.[2] If you want to follow this rewarding career path, just follow these steps. After reviewing this article, search Amazon or Google for e-books and paperback books that have even more tips, steps and suggestions to put you in the best position to get accepted into P.T. school.

Method 1
Obtaining Licensure

  1. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 1
    Make sure you have what it takes to be a physical therapist. Before you jump into the educational program that is required for you to be a physical therapist, you should have a clear sense of what this career entails. If you want to obtain licensure and enjoy a career as a physical therapist, you should be prepared to do the following tasks:
    • Diagnose your patients' dysfunctional movements by watching them move around and listening to their complaints and concerns.
    • Devise an individualized plan for each patient, understanding the patients' goals.
    • Use hands-on therapy, stretches, and exercises to help ease the pain of your patients and improve their mobility.
    • Evaluate the progress of your patients and modify their treatment plans as needed.
    • Tell your patients and their families about what they should expect as they recover from their injuries.
    • Provide emotional support to your patients as you help them deal with their injuries.
  2. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 2
    Get a bachelor's degree from a four-year university with a focus in science-based courses.[3] While you don't necessarily have to obtain a BS (Bachelor of Science), the post-graduate program you apply to may have prerequisites in biology, chemistry, anatomy, or physiology.[4] If you are currently an undergraduate and plan on becoming a physical therapist, talk to a counselor at your school to determine which courses you should be taking and whether you have chosen the right major.
    • Common undergraduate majors for physical therapists include biology, psychology, and exercise science.[5]
    • You don't have to major in a science-based field, but you will have to take several courses that meet the prerequisite standards of your chosen post-graduate program. This means that you could major in Art History, Spanish, or another unrelated field, while taking the required courses to become a physical therapist.[6]
    • The average GPA for students accepted to physical therapy programs in 2011-2012 was 3.52, so be prepared to study rigorously during your time as an undergraduate.
    • If you'd like to be a physical therapists' assistant, then you can earn an associates degree instead.[7]
    • There are a few physical therapy programs that allow students to enter directly after they graduate from high school. If you're interested in one of these freshman entry programs, you should look into them while you're still in high school.[8]
  3. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 3
    Obtain a post-graduate professional degree.[9] Some post-graduate physical therapy programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, while others offer a Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree, though the DPT is far more common. Doctoral programs typically last for 3 years, while Master's programs last 2-3 years.[10] The coursework covered includes anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and neuroscience. Check out this link to find PT programs in your area.[11]
    • The program you choose may also involve completing a clinical rotation, during which you will gain hands-on experience working in the field.[12]
    • You may need to complete the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to be accepted to the institute of your choice.[13]
    • The application process for post-graduate programs in physical therapy is competitive. To help your chances of acceptance, you should gain experience as a volunteer or a worker in a physical-therapy setting.[14]
    • You will need to provide 1-4 letters of reference when you apply to physical therapy programs, so make sure to build meaningful connections with your teachers and mentors before you apply.
    • Make sure you choose the right PT program. Compare the programs based on their locations, areas of specialty, licensure passing rate, and financial aid packages.
  4. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 4
    Obtain a license to practice physical therapy. Specific license requirements vary between states, but most states require that prospective candidates pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).[15] Determine your state's requirements for physical therapy licenses.

Method 2
Succeeding in Your Career

  1. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 5
    Consider applying to a clinical residency program. After you graduate from your program, you may consider applying to a residency program to gain additional training and as well as experience in specialized area of care. This will help improve your job prospects as well as give you more advancement in your field.[16]
  2. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 6
    Consider applying for a clinical fellowship. A clinical fellowship will allow you to further your education in a specialized field and will offer a focused curriculum with advanced clinical and didactic instruction that can help you gain a better understanding of a subspecialty area of practice. You will have a mentor and will gain additional clinical experience and will work with enough patients to build your skills.[17]
  3. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 7
    Find a job as a physical therapist. There are a variety of potential job settings for a physical therapist, including hospitals, clinics, outpatient facilities, homes, schools, and fitness centers.[18] Check your local job listings to find availabilities in your area. Send your resume, cover letter, and whatever other information that your potential employer requests.
    • Though not required, you will benefit from completing an internship or job working as a physical therapist's assistant (PAT) prior to becoming a physical therapist yourself. While working in this position, you will perform physical therapy on patients under the supervision of a certified professional.[19]
  4. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 8
    Get a board certification in a clinical specialty after you gain some work experience. Getting a board certification in a clinical specialty can help you gain expertise in a chosen field and will make you a more desirable job candidate and physical therapist. There are a variety of certifications that you can get, and you are not limited to choosing just one. Though physical therapists aren't required to get a board certification in a clinical specialty, this is a useful way to improve your education and skill set. Here are some common physical therapy certifications that may appeal to you:
    • Cardiovascular and pulmonary therapy
    • Clinical electrophysiology
    • Geriatrics
    • Neurology
    • Orthopedics
    • Pediatrics
    • Sports
    • Women's health

Method 3
Having the Qualities of a Physical Therapist

  1. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 9
    Be compassionate.[20] It is important that physical therapists be warm, friendly individuals with strong communication skills, as the job requires constantly dealing with sick or injured patients. As a physical therapist, you will work with many people who suffer emotionally as well as physically because of their pain, and you will need to have a lot of empathy to help them heal and understand their injuries.
    • It is important to also be patient, as many patients do not see immediate results and may require years of therapy.
  2. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 10
    Have dexterity. Since physical therapy requires working with your hands, it is important to have strong manual dexterity.[21] Physical therapists should also have strong enough arms to apply resistance to patients' limbs and help lift them up if necessary. You will need to be comfortable using your hands to help your patients do physical exercises as well as giving them manual therapy.[22]
    • Manual dexterity can be improved by activities like writing, sewing, knitting, and using a stress ball to strengthen hand muscles.
  3. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 11
    Be prepared to spend most of your time on your feet. Most physical therapists spent much of their time on their feet, not sitting in a chair. As a physical therapist, you'll need to move around to work with your patients and help them complete a variety of exercises. Therefore, you shouldn't be the type of person who sits down every chance he gets and should actually enjoy physical activity.
    • You should also be physically fit not only to be able to work with your patients more easily, but also to inspire confidence in your patients. Your patients will want to work with someone who cares about his own physical fitness, too.
  4. Image titled Become a Physical Therapist Step 12
    Have strong people skills. You should not only know how to be compassionate toward your patients, but you should be "a people person," and should be comfortable interacting with your patients, making them laugh, and keeping up a good rapport as you work together. You should also be able to speak openly to your patients about their treatment programs and listen to their concerns about the therapy.


  • Physical therapists should be in good physical condition, as they spend much of their days on their feet working with patients.
  • After reviewing this article, search Amazon or Google for e-books and text books that have even more tips,steps and suggestions to put you in the best position to get accepted into school and show you how to get into P.T. school and eventually become a physical therapist. These books exist and are very helpful!

Article Info

Categories: Health Care