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Becoming a PT or PTA

Careers in Physical Therapy

Interested in a career in physical therapy?

Specialized education is needed to work as a physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA).

Physical therapists must graduate from an accredited educational program with a master's or doctoral degree. After completing your education, you will be required to pass a licensure examination before you can work as a PT. Coursework includes: anatomy, cellular biology, histology, physiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, neuroscience, pathology, pharmacology, applied psychology, applied social communication, ethics and values, management, finance, teaching and learning, law, clinical reasoning, evidence based practice, and applied statistics.

Physical therapist assistants generally graduate from a two-year program, earning an associate degree from an accredited physical therapist assistant program. PTAs also must pass a licensure examination to work as a PTA. PTAs perform a number of physical therapy treatments and procedures as determined by the supervising physical therapist. Coursework includes: biological, physical, physiological, and anatomical principles, and applied physical therapy science.

We urge to check out the APTA website for a wealth of information concerning a career in physical therapy, including:

Finding Accredited PT/PTA Programs

The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredits physical therapy programs to assure quality — ensuring that the coursework quality is high and that the schools produce people qualified to serve the public. In order to take the licensure exam, you must have graduated from a CAPTE-accredited program. CAPTE keeps a current list of CAPTE-accredited programs for both PTs and PTAs on their web site.

Why Consider a Career in Physical Therapy

"Physical therapy was the perfect career choice for me to be able to put my compassion to work in my everyday life. As physical therapists, we get to spend time with our patients and build relationships with them, all the while influencing their lives. Helping people in ways they cannot help themselves allows for a very satisfying daily life, knowing you are making a difference."

- Abby Allen, PT, Bradley University Graduate

"When asked why did you want to become a PTA? I usually explain: I love to solve puzzles. Choosing to be a SPTA allows to me to provide a functional solution to the ever changing puzzle of the human body."

- Miguel Musngi, PTA, Fox College Graduate

"I decided to enter the field of physical therapy because I wanted to share my passion for physical activity with others. I wanted to help others learn how critical physical wellness is to our everyday lives. I enjoy helping people create goals for themselves and providing them with the tools necessary to meet those goals. I also enjoy the uniqueness of every patient I encounter and the challenges that comes with that. What I love most is that with each great challenge comes even greater rewards!" 

- Kathleen Chizewski, PT, UIC Graduate


updated 05.01.2020

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