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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.).
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)
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:
Aquatic Physical Therapy
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management
Federal Physical Therapy
Health Policy and Administration
Sports Physical Therapy
We found 231 schools offering physical therapy degree programs in the U.S.
|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|