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Physical Therapist Job Description

What does a physical therapist do? Physical therapists are trained medical professionals who assist with the rehabilitation of patients who are suffering from various injuries or other conditions that impede their ability to move. The therapy that physical therapists provide patients with helps them regain mobility and offers a way of managing their pain. Physical therapists treat patients with a variety of techniques including exercise and stretching, equipment, and applying heat and cold to affected areas of the body. The patients that physical therapists work with are all ages and suffer from such conditions such as cerebral palsy and arthritis and those who are recovering from strokes.
The majority of physical therapists work in hospitals and in doctors’ offices. Less frequently, physical therapists are employed in nursing homes and in private homes. They typically work full time as part of a medical team and oversee physical therapy assistants. Much of a physical therapist’s work is performed during regular business hours, but depending on the needs of the client or the facility where one is employed, evening or weekend hours may be required.
Physical therapists are on their feet for many hours of the day, so it is important that those wanting to enter the field are good health and physically capable of standing for long hours. In addition, physical therapists must have problem solving skills since they will be evaluating patients and devising a treatment plan based on their needs.

Physical Therapist Duties

On a daily basis, a physical therapist might perform the following duties:

  • Meet with patients and review their medical history
  • Develop a plan for patients that includes the creation of goals
  • Alter existing treatment plans based on patient progress

How To Become A Physical Therapist

Physical therapists need many years of schooling before they can actually work in the field. One must start with a bachelor’s degree, take a required number of prerequisite courses, and then complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. After all education requirements have been met, graduates can opt to complete a residency program in order to specialize. Physical therapists must also pass a state licensing exam before they can begin practicing.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Physical Therapist?

Prospective physical therapists can expect to spend about 6-7 years in school. Before applying to a physical therapy school, candidates must complete at least 3 years of undergraduate coursework. However, many students opt to earn a bachelor’s degree which will take 4 years. After gaining entrance into a physical therapy program, it will take another 3 years of studying before students will graduate with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree.

Education Requirements

In order to become a physical therapist, a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is necessary. The first step in the process is earning a bachelor’s degree. Although some programs only require 3 years of related undergraduate credit, many schools want prospective students to have a bachelor’s degree before entering a Doctor of Physical Therapy program. While an undergraduate, individuals should take prerequisites in classes such as biology, anatomy and physiology, and chemistry. Students will also need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) before applying to a physical therapy program.
Getting accepted into a physical therapy program is competitive, so GRE scores, undergraduate grades, and letters of recommendation are important. Schools also like to see that applicants have experience in the field.
Once enrolled in a program, students can expect to take courses in subjects such as anatomy, neuroscience, and movement science. There is also a lengthy clinical portion of the program where students have the opportunity to gain hands on experience in a medical setting learning about patient care in preparation for entering the profession. After graduating and accumulating work experience, physical therapists can complete further training so that they may specialize in a particular area of physical therapy.


There are different certifications that physical therapists can attain by specializing in a certain area of physical therapy. After graduating from school, they can choose to enter a residency program where they will spend additional time acquiring skills in that particular area. In order to become certified, physical therapists must pass an exam and complete a required number of clinical hours in the specialized area.


Licensing is required for physical therapists in all 50 states. In every state, graduates from physical therapy programs must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. They might also be required to pass a background check. The rules and regulations vary depending on the state, so prospective physical therapists will need to check the licensing guidelines in their states.

Job Outlook

The future job outlook for physical therapists is excellent. Between 2012 and 2022, the field is expected togrow by 36 percent.
Various factors will contribute to the increased demand for physical therapists. The need for rehabilitative services will expand in the coming years due to more outpatient surgeries, more people will survive different injuries and conditions than in the past, and there are growing number of individuals who suffer from chronic conditions. Many of these people will require physical therapy. The older portion of the population is growing, and they will also need access to physical therapy due to illnesses and injuries that occur as a result of aging.

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