Physical Therapy General

Physical therapy, or physiotherapy, is focused on helping patients recuperate following acute illness or debilitating injury. Physical therapists, or simply "PTs," are trained to help people regain their former mobility and function so they can live a normal life. U.S. News & World Report included Physical Therapy on its Top 10 Best Careers list for 2012.

The physical therapist's tools may be very simple, such as heat and ice, or very complex, involving ultrasonography or electrical stimulation of the muscles. Other interventions include joint mobilizations, strength training, bracing, taping, and the use of orthotic and prosthetic devices.

Anyone who has experienced an impairment or loss of physical function may seek help from a physical therapist. PTs apply subclinical and clinical treatments to reduce pain and swelling, minimize stiffness, maximize mobility, strengthen the body, and promote proper ergonomics. They also engage in substantive patient education.

About Physical Therapy

Physical therapists work in hospitals, inpatient and outpatient clinics, universities, pediatric centers, patients' homes, nursing homes and assisted living. Often, they go to where the injuries are. In pediatrics, for example, PTs may conduct therapy at home or in the child's day care facility. Home delivery of rehabilitation services is on the rise, mainly because it cuts costs and crowds at hospitals.

There is overlap between the fields of occupational therapy and physical therapy, which are both healthcare-oriented disciplines that provide rehabilitation services. However, occupational therapists do not usually apply direct clinical treatments, whereas a physical therapist is licensed to administer, for example, manual therapy and wound care, as well as more advanced treatments such as vestibular rehabilitation, acupuncture, and decongestant lymphatic drainage massages.

Physical therapy is increasingly seeing the integration of cutting-edge technologies unprecedented in the field. Emerging applications include the use of humanoid robots to deliver both physical and speech therapy to stroke patients, as seen in research conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst earlier this year.

Accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, or CAPTE, is the chief accrediting body for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in the U.S. There are 218 accredited physical therapy programs as of 2013, according to the organization, all of which offer degrees up to the master's level. A complete list of CAPTE-accredited programs can be found at the American Physical Therapy Association's website.

Licensing

Physical therapists must acquire a license to practice in every American state. Licensure is normally issued through each state's regulatory board. A PT's licensure must also be renewed on a regular basis through the accrual of continuing education credits, a requirement typical of skilled professions.

Many states utilize the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE), the entry-level professional PT certification test, to verify whether licensure candidates are competent to safely deliver physical therapy in the United States.

Educational Options in Physical Therapy

The American Physical Therapy Association has set up a common application platform with numerous participating PT programs, called the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service, or PTCAS. PTCAS offers prospective students the convenience of applying to multiple physical therapy schools with the same information.

Primary Certification

The primary certification exam for physical therapists is the National Physical Therapy Exam, or NPTE, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. All PT school graduates must go on to pass the NPTE in order to become a licensed physical therapist the United States. Typically, around 90 percent of graduates from accredited physical therapy programs pass the NPTE on the first try.

Although it does not issue certifications or accreditation, the American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA, is an extraordinarily helpful organization for students and practitioners in this sector. The group's website may be consulted for topics ranging from education to career development and specialization.

Post-Secondary Degrees

A bachelor's degree is a critical prerequisite for gaining entry to any kind of graduate program. Students who plan to earn a graduate PT degree should be sure their undergraduate program of choice supplies the recommended curriculum. This includes biology, chemistry, physics, and basic social science.

A master's degree is considered entry-level for the profession, and is sufficient to sit for the professional licensure exam. The Master of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (M.S.P.T.) are among the most common physical therapy degrees.

For those who decide to advance to the doctoral level, some physical therapy schools offer the Ph.D. in Physical Rehabilitation Science. There is also a truncated, entry-level doctorate called the Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.).

Secondary Certifications

Some physical therapists work as general PT practitioners; others specialize. Orthopedic physical therapy is by far the most popular specialty.

Orthopedic therapists help individuals recover from surgical procedures, sprains, amputations, arthritis, fractures, tears, herniated discs, tendinitis, whiplash, and virtually any other injury involving the musculoskeletal system.

Specialty certifications in physical therapy are issued by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). Its "Certified Specialist" credentials include:

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary (CCS)

Clinical Electrophysiology (ECS)

Geriatrics (GCS)

Neurology (NCS)

Orthopedics (OCS)

Pediatrics (PCS)

Sports (SCS)

Women's Health (WCS)

One of the best ways to keep up with the latest in specialization programming is by joining one or more "sections" hosted by the APTA for its members. Sections help participants keep up with current research, network with other professionals, and access continuing education discounts. Awards, research funding, publishing, residency and fellowship opportunities are also available.

APTA member sections include:

Acute Care

Aquatic Physical Therapy

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary

Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management

Education

Federal Physical Therapy

Geriatrics

Hand Rehabilitation

Health Policy and Administration

Home health

Neurology

Oncology

Orthopedic

Pediatrics

Private Practice

Research

Sports Physical Therapy

Women's Health

Featured Schools

Programs offered:

  • B.S. in Management / Sport Management
  • B.S. in Sport Management

Programs offered:

We found 231 schools offering physical therapy degree programs in the U.S.

>> See all 231 Physical Therapy General Colleges in the U.S.

Physical Therapy Schools Ranked By US News and World Report

1
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA  |  Total Enrollment: 29194

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
2
University of Delaware
Newark, DE  |  Total Enrollment: 19072

Degrees Offered: Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctor's
3
University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus
Pittsburgh, PA  |  Total Enrollment: 26329

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
3
Washington University in St Louis
Saint Louis, MO  |  Total Enrollment: 12118

Degrees Offered: Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Doctor's, First-professional degree
5
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA  |  Total Enrollment: 28311

Degrees Offered: Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
7
Mgh Institute of Health Professions
Boston, MA  |  Total Enrollment: 524

Degrees Offered: Master's, Post-Masters certificate
7
Emory University
Atlanta, GA  |  Total Enrollment: 11398

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Associate's, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
9
Northwestern University
Evanston, IL  |  Total Enrollment: 16952

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree
9
University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL  |  Total Enrollment: 13963

Degrees Offered: One but less than two years, Bachelor's, Postbaccalaureate certificate, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree, First-professional certificate
9
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC  |  Total Enrollment: 24892

Degrees Offered: Less than one year, One but less than two years, Two but less than 4 years, Bachelor's, Master's, Post-Masters certificate, Doctor's, First-professional degree

Browse All 231 Colleges With Physical Therapy Programs


Title City State Enrollment
University of Pittsburgh - Main Campus Pittsburgh PA 26329
University of Puget Sound Tacoma WA 2865
University of Rhode Island Kingston RI 14362
University of Scranton Scranton PA 4615
University of South Alabama Mobile AL 11673
University of South Carolina - Columbia Columbia SC 23728
University of South Dakota Vermillion SD 7487
University of Southern California Los Angeles CA 29194
University of St Augustine for Health Sciences Saint Augustine FL 419
University of the Pacific Stockton CA 5609
University of the Sciences in Philadelphia Philadelphia PA 1927
University of Toledo Toledo OH 19491
University of Utah Salt Lake City UT 24948
University of Vermont and State Agricultural Coll Burlington VT 10118
University of Washington - Seattle Campus Seattle WA 36139
University of Wisconsin - La Crosse La Crosse WI 9409
University of Wisconsin - Madison Madison WI 40658
Utica College of Syracuse University Utica NY 2188
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond VA 24066
Walsh University North Canton OH 1545
Washington University in St Louis Saint Louis MO 12118
Wayne State University Detroit MI 30408
West Virginia University Morgantown WV 21987
Western Carolina University Cullowhee NC 6699
Western University of Health Sciences Pomona CA 1471
Wheeling Jesuit University Wheeling WV 1515
Wichita State University Wichita KS 14810
Widener University - Main Campus Chester PA 5192
Winston - Salem State University Winston-salem NC 2857
Wytheville Community College Wytheville VA 2339
Youngstown State University Youngstown OH 11787
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