What Do You Need to Do to Be a Physical Therapist?


Quick Answer

All physical therapy students must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and obtain a state license to work with clients. State licensing requirements vary, but all states require applicants to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. State requirements may include criminal background checks and passing a state law exam.

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Full Answer

Before enrolling in a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, students must earn a bachelor's degree in biology, pre-med, physics, chemistry or a related field. Students should enroll in a DPT program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education to qualify for a state license. The coursework required to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree includes anatomy, physics, biology, chemistry, physiology, pharmacology, neuroscience and bio-mechanics. Most degree programs take up to three years to complete and require students to participate in an internship or multiple hospital rotations to gain hands-on experience. Continued education is necessary to maintain a physical therapy license in most states.

Students who want to become board-certified specialists must also complete a residency program or up to 2,000 hours of clinical work in one of eight specialty areas focusing on different age groups, medical issues and specific areas of the body. Students must also pass a state certification exam.

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