What is a physical therapist?
The definition of a physical therapist (PT) was adopted by the American Physical Therapy Association and was updated in 2007:
"PTs are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the very oldest, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives.
PTs examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability."
Working alongside PTs are physical therapist assistants (PTAs) who provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of a PT.
According to the APTA , "Care provided by a PTA may include teaching patients/clients exercise for mobility, strength and coordination, training for activities such as walking with crutches, canes, or walkers, massage, and the use of physical agents and electrotherapy such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation."
Where do PTs and PTAs work?
Physical therapists can practice in hospitals, clinics and private offices that have specially equipped facilities. They can also treat patients in hospital rooms, homes and schools.
PTAs can work in an assortment of settings including hospitals, private practices, outpatient clinics, home health, nursing homes, sports facilities, etc.
How much to PTs and PTAs make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for physical therapists was $60,180 and $37,890 for physical therapy assistants in 2004.
ADVANCE's 2005 salary survey, with data collected that same year, revealed that when combining the job titles of PT and PTA under the overall heading of physical therapy professionals, the most common salary range was actually the highest, "More than $75,001." Results from our current salary survey will be available soon.
Where can I find schools to become a PT or PTA?
All States require physical therapists to pass a licensure exam before they can practice, after graduating from an accredited physical therapist educational program. Many schools offer a master's degree and a growing majority of programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. According to the APTA, 199 colleges and universities nationwide offer professional physical therapist education programs; 79.4 percent offer the DPT and another 20 percent are planning to convert. The APTA Web site has a full listing of schools with physical therapy accredited by CAPTE, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Where can I find more information about PT?
There are a number of professional organizations in the occupational therapy profession. We recommend starting with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). If you'd like information specific to your state, check out our state directory which features contact information for the state occupational therapy association and state occupational therapy licensing board in each state.