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Is Physical Therapy School For Me?

What do Physical Therapists do?

Physical therapists are licensed professionals who work with people that have sustained disabilities, impairments, or limitations in their overall physical function and mobility.  Physical therapists also work to patients to prevent injuries. 

Here are some ways you can find out what Physical Therapists do:

  1. Talk to physical therapy students, physical therapy faculty and physical therapy school representatives.
  2. Shadow physical therapists to see what they do. 
  3. Attend physical therapy school Information Days and Campus Tours.

In order to practice as a physical therapy students must complete a  Doctorate (Doctor of Physical Therapy, DPT), before taking the national licensure examination.   Typically DPT programs can be completed in 3 years. It is important for students to research physical therapy programs as only graduates from CAPTE-accredited programs are eligible to take the licensure exam, which is required in order to practice. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has a list of CAPTE accredited programs on their website for reference.

In order to be a competitive applicant for DPT programs:

  • Students must complete specific prerequisite undergraduate coursework, in addition to maintaining a minimum GPA
  • Have verified experience in the field through volunteer or paid opportunities working with practicing physical therapists. Physical therapy programs that require field experience are usually specific regarding the length of time and types of experiences they are looking for in applicants 
  • In order to be considered competitive most applicants complete a form verifying the minimum number of hours of relevant healthcare experience they’ve obtained and have it signed by the physical therapist they were working with
  • It is best to know the kinds of previous healthcare experience a program requires before you apply

Top 10 Tips for a Career in Physical Therapy

  1. Major in the field which interests you the most, while showing good academic ability in science.
  2. Explore the physical therapy field; field experience is a requirement for many physical therapy programs.
  3. Pursue extra-curricular activities which interest you.   Leadership and communication skills are most important.
  4. Keep your grades as high as possible.  An upward trend in grade performance will be noted, especially when you are trying to overcome a less than spectacular year.
  5. Be sure to start looking for people who can write you letters of recommendation.  Be sure to choose those individuals who know you and your work well and who you have close relationships .
  6. Develop your sociocultural skills and ability to read, write and think. Highly developed interpersonal and communication skills are key to being a competitive applicant for a physical therapy program.
  7. Pursue an academic interest in depth, e.g., research. Keep in mind that research need not be in a laboratory.
  8. Make the most of your experience at Berkeley. Make friends, do things and keep alert of opportunities.
  9. There are many paths to becoming a physical therapist.  
  10. Lastly, be sure to talk to as many as people as possible about the physical therapy profession (PTs, PT students, and PT school representatives) and keep current on physical therapy issues from researching the physical therapy profession.


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