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Physical Therapy Schools and Programs

Job growth for physical therapists, assistants, and aides should be strong over the decade. Enroll in a college or medical trade school degree program to qualify for this exciting career.

How to Become a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists, assistants, and aides work with a diverse patient community in efforts to relieve short-term or chronic pain, disabilities, and injuries. Under the direction of a physician, physical therapists and assistants help diagnose physical impairment, create a treatment plan for restoring movement and health, and direct ongoing care plans that may include corrective or preventative exercises. Their work is often hands-on manipulations of bone and muscle, as well as an educational component where physical therapists, assistants, and aides teach patients ways to improve coordination, strength, flexibility, and mobility.

Physical Therapy Schools, Degrees, and Certifications

Physical therapists are the most highly trained, experienced, and best-paid professionals in the career group. To qualify for practice, they complete master's degree programs in physical therapy from an accredited school or college, and some go on to earn a doctoral degree. A doctorate in physical therapy may take between two and three years to complete. Physical therapist assistants work under the direct supervision of physical therapists to administer treatment, including ultrasound, heat and ice, and massage. To qualify for the career, assistants typically complete an associate's degree along with on-the-job instruction. Physical therapist aides may only need a high school diploma to find employment. All states require physical therapists to pass a state or national licensing exam. Certification requirements for assistants and aides vary by state.

Physical Therapy Employment and Wages

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for physical therapists is predicted to rise by 27 percent during the 2006-2106 decade. The median 2008 annual wage was $72,790 for physical therapists. Jobs for assistants and aides are predicted to rise by 29 percent, 2006-2016. The median 2008 wage for assistants was $46,140, with $23,760 for aides.