How to Become a Physical Therapist

If you're interested in becoming a physical therapist, talk to graduates and employers to get an idea of the profession's rewards, benefits and difficulties. If you decide to become a physical therapist, you'll need a bachelor's degree, a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapist program, and a license from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Read on to learn about how to become a licensed physical therapist.

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree. Good courses to take for your undergraduate degree include physics, biology, mathematics, statistics and anatomy.
  2. Gain experience. It's helpful to volunteer in the physical therapy department of a clinic or hospital in your community.
  3. Hone your communication and interpersonal skills. Physical therapists deal directly with people. Having good interpersonal skills will help you treat patients and explain the therapy to them and their families.
  4. Earn a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited physical therapist program. These programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) [source: APTE]. Master's degree programs are typically two to 2.5 year programs, while doctoral programs are usually three year programs [source: U.S. Dept. of Labor]. These programs include courses in anatomy, biology, exercise physiology, neuroscience, radiology, imaging and biomechanics. You'll also take behavioral science courses, such as clinical reasoning, medical screening and outcomes assessment. The programs include classroom instruction, laboratory instruction and supervised clinical experience.
  5. Pass the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE), a computer-based exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy [source: APTE]. You can only take this exam after you graduate with your master of physical therapy (MPT) or master of science in physical therapy (MSPT) degree.

You will then be a licensed, accredited physical therapist!