Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Studying in the field
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "employment in physical therapy is expected to increase faster than the average, as rapid growth in the number of middle-aged and elderly individuals increases the demand for therapeutic services." Physical therapists (PTs) play an integral role in the health care field, alleviating human physical discomfort through physical means as opposed to drug therapy.
Physical therapists specialize in evaluating and treating physical human body disorders, resulting from injury, disease, and any other bodily or mental condition. The primary human systems with which physical therapy is concerned are: integumentary (skin), musculoskeletal, neuromusculoskeletal, and cardiopulmonary. By focusing on these human systems, physical therapists can provide appropriate therapeutic intervention. Patients include: accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy. Working in conjunction with other health care professionals, in addition to patients and their families, physical therapists are responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of physical therapy programs.
Graduate level physical therapy programs are offered at both the Masters Level (MS in Rehabilitation) and doctoral level, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). Major course components include: basic and clinical sciences, physical therapy-specific arts and sciences, health care administration, research, and education. Fostering a holistic approach to physical therapy's rehabilitation services, specific courses are offered in conjunction with occupational therapy and speech language pathology. Clinical practicums are an integral part of physical therapy programs, enhancing a student's hands on problem-solving and assessment abilities. All US states require licensure for practice. Upon acceptance and enrollment in a physical therapy program, students are eligible for membership in the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).
Job opportunities in the field
The field of physical therapy is bursting with career opportunities in diverse settings: hospitals, home health agencies, nursing homes, adult daycare programs, and schools. PT professionals may also establish their own practice or become part of a consulting group. In addition, physical therapists may teach in academic institutions or obtain employment with research organizations. Those considering the physical therapy field should keep in mind that this is a physically demanding job. Physical therapists are often required to stoop, kneel, crouch, lift, and stand for long periods while lifting and maneuvering both patients and equipment. We recommend you visit the programs you are interested in for more specific information and to learn about their particular areas of focus.