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Physical Therapy School: Physical Therapy Jobs, Physical Therapy Assistant, Aide

Physical therapists are responsible for helping patients with restoring mobility, overcoming disabling conditions, and preventing permanent disabilities. Many individuals involved in accidents and injuries turn to a physical therapist for services. Physical therapy schools can provide the necessary training and experience for a long-term career in physical therapy. Common treatments provided by physical therapists include restoring joint function, improving mobility, reducing back pain, and promoting overall health and fitness. Physical therapy assistants and physical therapy aides can also be a part of the team of physical therapists at a given clinic, moving into a physical therapist role later in their career.

Physical Therapy Jobs: Descriptions and Responsibilities

Physical therapy school graduates can pursue various career opportunities and roles. Common roles include a career as a physical therapist, physical therapy assistant, or a physical therapy aide. Physical therapy jobs can be flexible, and lead to management and supervisor roles with training and experience. Each of these roles require the candidate to:

  • Review patient medical history
  • Develop treatment plans based on a careful treatment strategy
  • Test and measure the patient's strength, range of motion, posture, and balance
  • Determine if the next steps at each stage of treatment
  • Provide recommendations on alternative therapies and available procedures
  • Create a schedule of ongoing treatment to reach the anticipated outcome
  • Educate patients about their physical therapy treatments
  • Display strong interpersonal and communication skills

Physical therapy jobs include physical assistants and physical therapy aides. These positions are responsible for a variety of physical therapy procedures and tasks, as assigned by the supervising physical therapist. They may assist with providing services to relieve pain, prevent injury, and help patients with disabling conditions. Physical therapy assistants or the physical therapy aide is often involved with tasks such as:

  • Massage

  • Electrical stimulation

  • Administering hot and cold packs

  • Ultrasound therapy

  • Paraffin baths

  • Moving patients from room to room

  • Clerical and general office administrative tasks

Career Options and Physical Therapy Jobs for Physical Therapy School Graduates

Students of physical therapy schools can choose to work in a variety of industries and pursue physical therapy jobs in: 

  • Hospitals

  • Group practices

  • Ambulatory health care service

  • Medical laboratories

  • Outpatient care centers

  • State and local government health care agencies

  • Nursing care facilities

  • Offices of health care practitioners

  • Independent clinics

  • Physician offices

  • Chiropractor's offices

Physical Therapy Schools Degree Programs, Courses, & Licensing

Physical therapy students must first graduate from a physical therapist educational program to obtain a master's or doctoral degree. A physical therapy school is the first step. State licensure is also required, and the process can be lengthy. The American Physical Therapy Association reports that 94 accredited master's degree programs and 111 doctoral degree programs are available in the United States.

Licensed physical therapists are required to take continuing education classes and attend workshops and seminars. This is required to retain their license, and is an ongoing form of study.

Physical therapy programs balance both science and health courses in beginning courses. Biology, physics, chemistry, and human anatomy are standard topics. Specialized studies then move into biomechanics, neuroanatomy, manifestation of disease, examination techniques, and human growth and development. The most useful courses before entering a professional physical therapy education program include mathematics, social science, anatomy, biology, and chemistry. Many education programs also require hands-on experience in the field of study; this can be accomplished as a volunteer in the physical therapy department of a clinic or hospital.

For students who choose not to obtain a license, or are in the process of completing their necessary coursework, working as a physical therapist assistant or physical therapy aide can provide valuable hands-on experience. Physical therapist aides are trained on the job, and typically will earn an Associate degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program.

Physical Therapy Schools Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education is the accrediting institution for all physical therapy degree programs and provides accreditation for all physical therapy schools.

Physical Therapy School Graduates Earning Potential and Employment Prospects

Average earnings for physical therapy assistants were $37,890, and $60,180 for physical therapists in 2004. The demand for physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and physical therapy aides is growing as the need for specialized therapy services continues to rise. As more people require help with disabilities, chronic pain management, and treatment from accidents, occupations in this field are expected to grow faster than average. Related occupations include:

  • Medical assistants

  • Social and human service assistants

  • Pharmacy technicians

  • Dental assistants

  • Occupational therapists



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