How to Become a Physical Therapist Online

Dec 06, 2019

Physical therapists develop rehabilitation programs to help clients overcome injury or illness. Read on to find out how to become a physical therapist through a combination of in-person and online steps.

Physical Therapist Career Overview

As one of the health professions, physical therapists interact with clients to help them manage pain and increase mobility after injury or disease by diagnosing and creating a personalized treatment plan. Physical therapists typically have a graduate degree in physical therapy when they enter the profession, which can partially be obtained online, but much of the training and licensing process for this career must be completed in person. Career paths with a Doctor in Physical Therapy generally lead to opening a practice, joining a health center, working at a hospital, or engaging in research or teaching.

Required Skills Compassion, attention to detail, dexterity, interpersonal skills, physical stamina, resourcefulness, time management skills
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 22%
Median Salary (2018)* $87,930 per year

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Become a Physical Therapist Online

The training required to become a physical therapist involves working hands-on with clients in clinical settings. However, undergraduate training for this career can be completed online, and some colleges and universities offer entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy hybrid programs, where theoretical content can be studied online.

Step 1. Obtain a Bachelor's Degree Online

Before being admitted into a Doctor of Physical Therapy program, you generally need to earn a bachelor's degree that includes the necessary prerequisite science courses. Many Bachelor of Science degrees can be obtained online, but make sure they include the required courses that you need for admission into the doctorate, such as biology, anatomy, chemistry, physics, physiology, psychology, and statistics. Suitable online options could include bachelor's degrees in biology or health sciences. A bachelor's degree program generally takes four years to complete.

Step 2. Gain Practical Experience in Physical Therapy

In addition to a bachelor's degree, admission to an online graduate degree program in physical therapy often requires practical experience in the field of physical therapy. This experience can be achieved through volunteer or practicum experience in a physical therapy setting. Here you can learn some of the techniques to improve motor functions, such as exercise, and equipment that can be used to facilitate improvement.

Step 3. Continue with a Graduate Degree in Physical Therapy Online

In most states, you need a Doctor of Physical Therapy to begin practicing. The graduate program follows the bachelor's degree and practical experience. It typically takes three years to complete and consists of online courses in addition to immersion experiences on campus and hands-on clinical experiences that can be fulfilled at different sites across the country. Areas that are covered in the online coursework include anatomy, neuroscience, motor control, and musculoskeletal problems in addition to diagnosis and health promotion. The program may culminate in a full-time clerkship or practicum experience.

Step 4. Obtain Licensure to Practice as a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists must be licensed by the state in which they want to practice. The basic requirements for licensure include holding a graduate degree, which is typically a Doctor of Physical Therapy. In addition, most states require you to take the National Physical Therapy Examination. The exam is proctored at testing centers, but practice tests and test-prep programs can be found online.

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