Physical Therapist Jobs

Physical therapists help patients suffering from injury or disease to improve mobility, restore function of body parts, and relieve pain. The goal of physical therapy is to restore general health and physical condition, and to prevent temporary injuries to become lifetime disabilities.

Job Description: A Day in the Life of a Physical Therapist

Physical therapists typically work in hospitals, as part of a team in a physical therapy office, and in rehabilitation clinics. Physical therapists work with patients on an appointment basis, treating individuals who have been affected by car accidents, arthritis, head injuries, and other disabling conditions. When first beginning treatment, physical therapists will design a treatment plan based on the patient’s medical history and performance on certain tests measuring strength, balance, coordination, posture, and basic motor functions.

Treatment programs vary depending on the ailment. Many physical therapies involve exercises to increase flexibility, range of motion, balance, and endurance. Physical therapists may also use techniques to reduce pain and swelling such as cold compresses, electrical stimulation, or deep-tissue massage. Treatment may take anywhere from a few weeks to months, or even years, depending on the severity of the patient’s ailment.

General Requirements and Training

Minimum requirements to work as a physical therapist include a four-year bachelor’s degree and graduation from an accredited two-year master’s program in physical therapy. Students may also choose to earn a three-year doctoral degree, which may improve employment and pay prospects. Physical therapy programs cover basic science courses, as well as specialized topics in biomechanics, disease, and therapeutic procedures.

Students also receive supervised hands-on clinical experience.

Physical therapists may choose to undergo additional training or internships so that they may specialize in a specific area, such as geriatrics, sports medicine, or pediatrics.

After graduating from an accredited program, students must pass the national and state physical therapy licensure exams and become licensed before they are permitted to begin practice.

Salary, Benefits, and Opportunities for Advancement

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of physical therapists is $72,790 as of May 2008. Salary.com reports the mid-50% earnings range of physical therapists to be $65, 444 to $76,183. According to Payscale.com, a physical therapist with one to four years experience earns an average of $51,937 to $63,376 annually, while one with twenty-plus years experience earns $61,638 to $80,468.

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