Physical therapists who treat and rehabilitate victims of debilitating disease are in great demand, and more and more people are opting to get the relevant training. Universities across the U.S. offer graduate programs in physical therapy, among them UNC Chapel Hill, Duke University, Temple University, and the University of Connecticut.
Some schools offer an undergraduate program in physical therapy, which students can enter as freshmen or after completing two or three years of undergraduate training elsewhere. These students will receive a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy on completion of the program. For entry into a two- to three-year graduate program in physical therapy, a student must first obtain a bachelor’s degree in some other field. On completion of the graduate program, students will receive a master’s degree in physical therapy.
Entry into physical therapy programs is very competitive, and most schools prefer grade point averages of between 3.5 and 4.0. Health-related volunteer work may earn a few points in your favor. Some schools require applicants to have engaged in volunteer or paid physical therapy work at hospitals, as it helps them understand the profession and decide whether they are really cut out for it. While different schools have different admission prerequisites, nearly all require at least a year of biology, at least one semester of chemistry and physics, and courses in other science-related fields.
Students seeking admission into a physical therapy program must find out which tests are required by schools of their choice. The General Record Examination (GRE) is a prerequisite for several schools offering the master’s degree program. Others require the Allied Health Professions Aptitude Test (AHPAT) for admission. A student is advised to make early plans to complete required courses and tests.
The scope for employment for trained physical therapists is vast. They may be employed in hospitals, nursing homes, fitness centers, or rehabilitation homes, or they may provide private care. A physical therapist can specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, or sports medicine or work in related fields as occupational therapists, speech therapists, and recreational therapists, among others. Whatever field they pursue, they can be sure that their services are helping to improve someone else’s life.