Pediatric Physical Therapist: Job Description and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pediatric physical therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Pediatric physical therapists specialize in the treatment of children and young adults. They need a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree and licensure in order to achieve this job title. They may also need to fulfill requirements for continuing education once they start working in their field.

Essential Information

Pediatric physical therapists treat and examine children from birth to age 18 who have problems moving and performing other physical activities. Pediatric physical therapists help treat problems like injuries, pre-existing conditions and problems caused by illnesses or diseases. This career requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited program. Physical therapists must also be licensed to practice in all states.

Required Education DPT
Licensure Required in all states
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 22% for all physical therapists
Median Salary (2018)* $87,930 for all physical therapists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pediatric Physical Therapist Job Description

Pediatric physical therapists are physical therapists that specialize in treating and caring for patients who are toddlers, babies, children, teenagers and young adults. They treat conditions related to genetic, neurological and orthopedic disorders. Techniques like functional training and exercise are used alongside medication and diet changes. Additionally, pediatric physical therapists use specialized medical equipment that is designed to help treat and alleviate pain from conditions that hinder mobility.

Pediatric physical therapists work a typical 40-hour week with some evenings and weekends required. Remaining emotionally strong and handling stress well is crucial for this career due to the frustrations patients can experience with their conditions. Possessing excellent communication skills helps when speaking to family members and patients about the treatment options and health conditions. Typical employers for this career include private practice, hospitals and other medical settings.

Requirements for Pediatric Physical Therapist

A pediatric physical therapist needs a Doctor of Physical Therapy, which typically takes three years to earn. Educational programs need to be accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association.

Specializations and minors are available that are specifically geared for pediatric physical therapy. Students need to pursue these programs in order to acquire the proper education to work with children. Common courses in pediatric physical therapy programs include anatomy, exercise physiology, biology, pharmacology, radiology, behavioral science and pathology. While enrolled in these educational programs, a pediatric physical therapist typically has to complete some supervised work through an internship or assistantship.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapy is regulated in every state. The exact requirements for a state license can vary, but generally they require the completion of the National Physical Therapy Examination and a degree from an accredited educational school. In many cases, a pediatric physical therapist needs to fulfill continuing education requirements every few years to renew their license.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2018, the BLS reported that physical therapists in the 90th percentile or higher earned $123,350 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $60,390 or less per year. Employment opportunities in the field are expected to grow much faster than the national average from 2018-2028.

The life of a pediatric physical therapist can be stressful, so candidates should consider whether or not they're well-adjusted to stress and family communication before pursuing this career path. Those who want to specialize in the pediatric branch of physical therapy should pursue the appropriate minors and specialization programs during their education.

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