What Can You Do With A Physical Therapy Degree?

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Physical therapy is an alternate way of treating injuries that does not involve the use of medicine or surgical procedures when treating patients with physical ailments. It is an area of study that focuses on different physical treatment methods to help people with certain illnesses or conditions that prevent them from accurately and efficiently performing day-to-day activities. People who major in physical therapy can make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. This article explores areas of study within physical therapy, some schools that offer noteworthy physical therapy degree programs, and a sample of career paths you can choose from once you earn a degree in physical therapy.

Physical Therapy

There are various methods of treatments that fall under the category of physical therapy. These methods of physical therapy are meant to help treat patients suffering from diseases, illnesses, or injuries. Some of these methods are listed here.

Massage therapy – manipulation of bodily muscles and soft tissues in efforts to reduce stress and improve circulation

Thermotherapy – application of heat (i.e., heating pads) to the body in efforts to relieve pain

Hydrotherapy – exercises performed in a swimming pool in efforts to help treat issues like partial paralysis and arthritis; usually done with other forms of physical therapy to treat one condition

Electrical stimulation – application of electrical currents to muscles and nerves in efforts to improve strength; often performed after surgery

Physical Therapy Concentrations

Possessing a physical therapy degree may allow you to find work in multiple industries. Many schools provide choices of areas in which you can specialize while earning a physical therapy degree. Choosing a specialization can help shape your education to fit the career path that interests you the most. Just a few examples of specializations or concentrations are listed here to provide you with some ideas of industries you can work in with a physical therapy degree.

Pediatric

Geriatric

Neurological

Orthopedic

Sports

Physical Therapy Degree Programs

If physical therapy sounds like something you’d like to study further, consult your guidance counselor for ways you can best prepare for a further education in physical therapy before you graduate from high school. He or she can provide advice on what courses may be particularly beneficial for your future as well as how to go about choosing the right physical therapy degree program for you at a college or university. Or, if you have already graduated from high school and your schedule is rather tight but you’re still interested in physical therapy, consider earning a physical therapy degree online.

Nova Southeastern University provides students the opportunity to enter a dual degree program in which they earn a Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Physical Therapy. This particular program takes approximately of seven years to complete, earning a Bachelor of Science in Biology within the first four years and then training for an additional three years at the university’s College of Health Care Sciences. This particular program’s requirements include but are not limited to courses in mathematics and English and writing, as well, in order to ensure that students possess the skills necessary to communicate with others in the profession and to accurately provide treatment to patients. Other physical therapy programs at Nova Southeastern University can be found here.

The University of Washington offers two degree programs for students looking to enter physical therapy: the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and the Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program. In the DPT program, students take courses in subjects like neurophysiology, pathophysiology, exercise physiology, kinesiology, pharmacology, and more in an effort to best prepare students to reach for the careers of their dreams. The program also requires each student to take a clinical clerkship in order to gain experience before jumping into such a highly competitive field. The Neurologic Physical Therapy Residency Program is designed for licensed physical therapists to gain a year’s worth of experience dealing with people who have been diagnosed with neurologic pathology at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Springfield College of Springfield, Massachusetts provides undergraduate students the opportunity to enroll in a dual degree program in which they can earn a Bachelor of Science and Doctor of Physical Therapy in just six years. The first three years of the bachelors degree study includes courses in anatomy, physiology, mathematics, chemistry, and physics in addition to the general education courses required of all students attending Springfield College. Choosing a minor is also a requirement for this particular program. In this program, students choose an area of specialization in anything from sports physical therapy to orthopedic physical therapy in order to narrow their studies and prepare for advanced courses to earn their Doctor of Physical Therapy.

Careers in Physical Therapy

Whether you’re earning a bachelors degree, masters degree, or doctorate in physical therapy, you should research the various career paths available to people with a physical therapy degree before you graduate. Finding a career path that most intrigues you will help you form your studies to fit that specific career in order to ensure your success after you graduate with a physical therapy degree. This section provides just a handful of examples of the types of career paths available to individuals with degrees in physical therapy.

Entry Level Careers in Physical Therapy

Once you complete your bachelors degree program in physical therapy, you will most likely qualify for many entry level positions in the field of physical therapy. Taking advantage of an internships and/or research program will help boost your chances in attaining an entry level or mid-level career.

Physical Therapist Aide

A physical therapist aide helps in the preparation of the treatment area by ensuring it is clean and necessary equipment is ready for use. He or she may also assist in moving a patient to or from the treatment area. It is also not uncommon for physical therapist aides to perform secretarial jobs including but not limited to receiving calls and scheduling appointments for patients. Many companies require physical therapist aides to possess at least a high school diploma and to be highly personable. A position as a physical therapist aide is good preparation for further education for a person interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy.

Physical therapist aides may earn anywhere from $15,000 to over $34,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.

types of physical therapy
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Massage Therapist

A massage therapist uses various patterns and methods of applying pressure to relieve muscle and joint pain and stress in patients. Massages are often performed in order to reduce tension caused by various forms of stress or to improve muscle strength and health. A massage therapist is typically very personable with a calm demeanor to help relax patients before and during massages. Massage therapists are required to complete a licensing program in order to legally practice. The specifications for practicing may vary from state to state.

Massage therapists may earn over $25,000 a year, depending on education and experience levels.

Physical Therapist Assistant

A physical therapist assistant, also commonly referred to as a PTA, helps a physical therapist by keeping track of a patient’s progress throughout his or her treatment. A physical therapist assistant may also inform the patient of what sorts of actions to take after the completion of his or her physical therapy session, including what types of exercises can be performed at home to help the patient remain in good health. Physical therapist assistants often possess associate degrees from accredited physical therapist assistant degree programs at trade schools and community colleges. They have great communication skills for working with physical therapists and their patients, and they are able to follow instructions efficiently and in a timely fashion.

Physical therapist assistants may earn an annual salary of over $35,000, based on their education and experience levels. With enough education and experience, physical therapist assistants are capable of earning over $68,000 a year.

Advanced Careers in Physical Therapy

After earning your masters degree or doctorate degree in physical therapy, many more career opportunities will become available to you. Years of experience after earning your bachelors degree may also help you qualify for one or more of the positions described in this section.

Neurologic Physical Therapist

Neurologic physical therapists specialize in treating conditions affecting the nervous system. They often treat patients who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral palsy, strokes, and other issues that cause neurological malfunctions. Physical therapists specializing in neurology usually have various levels of doctoral degrees and experience in physical therapy. Like orthopedic physical therapists, neurologic physical therapists also gain experience through internships and residency programs.

Neurologic physical therapists may earn anywhere from $56,000 to over $100,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.

Orthopedic Physical Therapist

Orthopedic physical therapists specialize in treating conditions affecting the bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons of the human body. They may develop and lead various exercise treatment plans for patients facing these conditions in order to boost recovery. Physical therapists who specialize in orthopedics typically possess doctoral degrees in physical therapy and a few years of experience gained from internships or residency programs offered through the universities at which they earned their degrees.

Orthopedic physical therapists may earn around $80,000 annually, based on the location of their practice in addition to education and experience levels.

*Note: Most positions require licenses to practice.

Companies that Hire People with Physical Therapy Degrees

Companies around the world are looking for people with physical therapy degrees in order to better their businesses. Below is a brief list of examples of places that hire people with experience and/or degrees in physical therapy.

Nebraska Orthopaedic Hospital – located in Omaha, NE; hires positions for orthopedic physical therapists and more

Northeast Spine and Sports Medicine – three NJ locations; hires positions for various types of physical therapists

Intermountain Healthcare – various locations in UT; hires positions for patient service representatives, behavioral health specialists, dietitians, neurologic physical therapists, etc.

Good Samaritan Health System – multiple locations; hires positions for various types of physical therapists

Physical therapy is a highly useful field. It is incredibly beneficial to workers and patients alike. If you have a passion for helping to heal others without the use of surgery or medicine, then perhaps earning a physical therapy degree is the start to your bright, successful future.

Author: Rose Boettinger

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  • Jeremy Brady

    With all due respect, much of what is written above reads like it’s 10-15 years old as far as my field is concerned. Other parts of the article are simply factually incorrect. It really needs to be re-written by someone with knowledge of the field.

    Physical Therapy itself has been a very rewarding career. There are few other places I could imagine where someone walks in my door with debilitating pain and in many cases I can get them out within the hour walking better with much reduced or abolished pain/symptoms, and have them back to good function within weeks while also educating them on the underlying cause of their issues rather than simply treating the symptoms.

    It takes a lot of work and dedication. Current minimal entry requirements are completion of a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (there are no bachelor or masters degrees anymore) and passing the national board exam. If you’re looking for a job look somewhere else. If you’re looking for a career then physical therapy may be of interest.

    Respectfully,
    Jeremy Brady, Doctor of Physical Therapy

    • withmydegree

      Hi Jeremy! Thank you so much for reading… and for your feedback. Feel free to send us an article that would make this better, and we’ll talk about putting it here. Looking forward to seeing it!

    • I can see why Jeremy feels the article may read a bit dated, but I think the article is meant more as an introduction to the field. I don’t think it is meant to be the most up to date cutting edge current info on physical therapy. It seems more of a high level overview that simply introduces someone who may know nothing or very little about the medical field.

      Here is a more in depth article with videos from leading professionals in physical therapy that goes over some of the many different types of jobs you can work in with a physical therapy degree. Physical Therapy Jobs: Descriptions & Video Overviews From Leading PTs

      Thanks for putting this together, I think it is a good starting point to introduce prospective students to a physical therapy degree if they hadn’t considered one yet.

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