Physical therapists, also known as PTs, help people recovery from setbacks dealing with arthritis, heart disease, fractures, low-back pain, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.
Physical therapists are health professionals who use a unique set of techniques, called modalities, to repair function, upgrade mobility, soothe pain and either prevent or reduce life-long physical disabilities in their patients.
Also, physical therapists manage physical therapist assistants and aides. Together, they are members of a team, which also includes surgeons and doctors, who PTs will often consult with.
Physical therapists usually work in offices of other health professionals or in hospitals. Home health care facilities, along with residential care and nursing agencies also employ PTs. Others work as self-employed professionals.
While job duties can vary, on a normal day, a physical therapist will:
1. Study patients’ medical records.
2. Test and chart patients’ range of motion, balance, strength, posture, coordination, muscle performance, motor function and respiration.
3. Decide if a patient can be independent and function well in the community or their job after illness or injury.
4. Create treatment options outlining a treatment strategy; it’s goal and projected outcome.
Based on information from 2011, PTs earned an average of $78,270. A median hourly rate for a physical therapist, based on the 2011 information, was about $37.63.
Not only do PTs have the opportunity to make a quality salary, but the job outlook for their field is very promising. Their field is expected to rise in job growth through 2020; on average higher than most occupations that require at least a master’s degree, according to information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2010, physical therapists held nearly 200,000 positions in the U.S. While the majority of them filled full-time positions, more than 25 percent also worked in part-time roles.
Physical therapists must either earn a master’s or doctoral degree or graduate from a physical therapist educational program.
PTs often study biology, chemistry and physics. Along with those core classes, coursework will also feature specialized classes like human growth and development, biomechanics, neuroanatomy, examination techniques, manifestations of disease and therapeutic procedures.
Physical therapists must be licensed to practice in the U.S. In order to become licensed, those pursuing a job as a PT must take the National Physical Therapy Exam, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).
Also, licensed physical therapists must continue their education through workshops to maintain their license. However, licensing requirements vary by state, so it’s wise to check in with individual state licensing authorities.
Besides earning a degree and becoming licensed, those who are interested in physical therapy must possess traits for them to be successful. For instance, superb dexterity is a good asset to have for manual therapy. Also, physical stamina will help because PTs are often on their feet several hours a day and are required to move around frequently.
Having compassion and good interpersonal skills are also useful when dealing with patients who are in pain. Lastly, having sharp analytical and observational skills will be helpful in diagnosing patients’ ailments and determining the usefulness of the treatment.