What Should You Major in to Become a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists generally major in biology or another foundational science as an undergraduate, and they undergo specialized training in physical therapy (PT) at the graduate level. All states require physical therapists to obtain licensure and at least a master's degree in order to practice.

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Degree Options for Physical Therapists

Undergraduate preparation for physical therapists may include majoring in one of the sciences, such as biology or physiology, though the specific major isn't necessarily important. No matter which major is chosen, aspiring physical therapists need to complete specific undergraduate prerequisites in order to gain admission to a graduate PT program. These courses often include statistics, psychology, biology, chemistry and physics, among others. It's often smart for undergraduates to gain volunteer or internship experience with a physical therapy provider as well, since observation hours are a common requirement for entry to PT graduate programs.

At the graduate level, students study the methods and practices of the physical therapy profession. Graduate courses teach body movement and therapeutic techniques, as well as how to work with pediatric, adult and geriatric patients. Students must typically participate in supervised clinical internships during the program.

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Licensure Requirements for Physical Therapists

Physical therapists in the United States are required to be licensed, though each state has different licensing criteria. In general, physical therapists must have graduated from an accredited program and passed national and state examinations. Continuing education requirements must usually be fulfilled in order to maintain licensure.

Salary and Employment Information for Physical Therapists

As of 2014, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median salary of $82,390 for physical therapists. According to the BLS, 27% of all physical therapists worked in hospitals in 2014. The remainder practiced in nursing facilities, physicians' offices, home healthcare and the offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists. The BLS predicts an increase in job openings of 34% from 2014-2024, especially in rural areas and locations with a larger elderly population.

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