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Who Are They?


APTA Background Sheet 2008

Attention Consumers: Need a PT? Utilize these services: Choosing a PT | Find a PT

The Physical Therapist

Physical therapists (PTs) are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.

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.

WHAT DO PHYSICAL THERAPISTS EARN?

More than 170,000 physical therapists are licensed in the U.S. today. The median salary for a physical therapist is $75,000 depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location, and practice setting.

WHERE DO PHYSICAL THERAPISTS PRACTICE?

Although many physical therapists practice in hospitals, over 80 percent practice in:

  • Outpatient clinics or offices
  • Inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • Skilled nursing, extended care, or subacute facilities
  • Homes
  • Education or research centers
  • Schools
  • Hospices
  • Industrial, workplace, or other occupational environments
  • Fitness centers and sports training facilities

WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A PT?

The minimum educational requirement is a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited education program. While some programs offer a master's degree, a growing majority of programs offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Currently, 199 colleges and universities nationwide offer professional physical therapist education programs; 85.7% offer the DPT and the remaining programs are planning to convert.

WHAT ARE THE LICENSURE REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A PT? After graduation, candidates must pass a state-administered national exam. Other requirements for physical therapy practice vary from state to state according to physical therapy practice acts or state regulations governing physical therapy.

WHAT IS THE EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK FOR PHYSICAL THERAPY?

With just a 0.2 percent unemployment rate, physical therapists are now experiencing the best employment conditions since enactment of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

For more information on a career in physical therapy, click here, or contact APTA Public Relations, 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-1488, telephone: 703/706-3248, fax: 703/706-8578.

[Last updated: 01/17/08 | Contact: public-relations@apta.org]

 
1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-1488
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