What are Physical Therapists?
"Physical therapists (PTs) are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need for long-term use of prescription medications and their side effects.
PTs examine each individual and develop a plan, using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PTs work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles.
Physical therapists provide care for people in a variety of settings, including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health agencies, schools, sports and fitness facilities, work settings, and nursing homes. State licensure is required in each state in which a physical therapist practices.
All PTs must receive a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapist program before taking the national licensure examination that allows them to practice. The majority of programs offer the doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree." (APTA)
Through 2014, employment of PTs is expected to grow faster than the average, as the number of middle-aged and elderly individuals increases the demand for therapeutic services. PTs held about 185,000 jobs in 2009 and about 60% were employed in hospitals or private offices. The median annual earnings of PTs was $72,790 in 2008.
There are 212 accredited PT schools in the US, with 10 of these in Florida (FAMU, Florida Gulf Coast, FIU, Nova-SE, UCF, UF, UM, UNF, USF and the Univ. of St. Augustine). The majority of PT schools in the US offer a doctoral degree, but some only have master's programs. Master's programs involve courses and clinical work and take about 2 years to complete, while doctoral programs usually take about 4 years. The prerequisite courses and clinical experience requirement for the two types of programs are similar. However, it would be beneficial to have research experience if applying to a doctoral program since a dissertation is required for the doctoral degree.
Although specific programs designate their own requirements, most include a year of General Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Human Anatomy and Physiology with labs. Typically, English, Developmental Psychology and Statistics courses are also required. Most programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a GRE score of 1000 for all applicants. Experience, either by observing or working with a PT, is also usually required for admission to a graduate program.
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