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The Path to a Physical Therapy Career

Posted on: October 03, 2019

Pt Path Intext

Education

All of the entry-level physical therapy programs in the United States are at the doctorate level, the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Prerequisites for DPT programs include a bachelor’s degree with coursework in one of the following: human anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry, social science, medical terminology, and physics.

Many programs require the GRE, a GPA greater than 3.0, letters of reference from a licensed physical therapist, and 80+ volunteer or observation hours in a physical therapy setting, as well as background checks.  

According the 2018-2019 Fact Sheet of Physical Therapist Education by the CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education), the average GPA for acceptance to DPT program in 2018 was 3.6 with a graduation rate of 93.66%. The cost of DPT program for private institutions range widely from $49,300 to $174,551, while in-state public institutions range from $27,350 to $119,142. 

Boards + Licensure

After successfully completing the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, the candidate must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). The candidate then applies for licensure in the state in which they practice. Licensing requirements are set by individual states. Depending on the state, license renewal may require the completion of continuing education credits. Other licensing requirements may include a criminal background check.  

Residency + Fellowships

Many physical therapists further their education by completing clinical residency programs for additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. These programs typically last one to two years.

Some participate in fellowships programs in an advanced clinical area, for example, a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy, while others become a board-certified specialist in one of eight clinical specialty areas offered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

In order to become board-certified, physical therapists must complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical work or an APTA-accredited residency program in the specialty area, and pass an exam.

Time to Get to Work!

Then, once all that is done, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics in 2018, the average salary of a physical therapist was $87,930, with the highs and lows ranging from $60,390 to $123,520 (depending on years of experience, industry, and amount of hours worked per week).

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Allison Stringer, MS, PT, FAAOMPT, CHA
About Allison Stringer, MS, PT, FAAOMPT, CHA

Allison Stringer, Physical Therapist, is the Clinic Director for Professional Physical Therapy in Salem, MA. Allison received her Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from Simmons College in 1993. In 2000, she achieved the status of a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists after completed the Institute of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy. Allison continues to treat patients and specializes in manual Physical Therapy for patients with orthopedic injuries to the spine and extremities, sports medicine, and wide range of Women’s Health issues including incontinence.