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What does a Physical Therapist do?

From world-class athletes to the elderly in nursing homes, all manner of patients have need for physical therapy. The breadth of this demand creates a strong career outlook for physical therapists.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, people in this career field typically report high levels of job satisfaction. The profession has also ranked well in surveys of the best jobs in America by publications such as US News & World Report and CNNMoney. To qualify for this profession, your first step is to get some specialized education and licensing.

Job requirements for physical therapists

To become a physical therapist, you will be required to have an advanced degree - either a master's or a doctorate in physical therapy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are just over 200 degree programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education, most of which offer doctorate degrees.

The subject matter in a physical therapy degree program covers those dealing with the human body and medical procedure. This means a mix of courses, such as biology, anatomy, physiology and neuroscience, along with courses such as medical screening, examination tests and measures, diagnostic process and practice management. As you might expect, a strong science background in high school and college should serve you well in preparation for this type of graduate education.

Besides earning a graduate degree, you will need to meet individual, state licensing requirements, which is required in all 50 states.

Career opportunities for physical therapists

The BLS projects that employment for this occupation will grow much faster than the job market as a whole, with the number of positions expected to grow by 30 percent. Given this demand, it's no surprise that "PTs" typically command above-average annual salaries.

As with any other profession, the job market varies by location. The highest concentration of physical therapists is found in New Hampshire, with Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine, also in the top five. As for the highest wages, the BLS reports that the top-paying states for this profession are Alaska, New Jersey, Texas, Delaware and Maryland.

With employment in schools, doctors offices, hospitals, nursing homes and many other environments, the scope of career opportunities is measured not just in numbers, but in variety. That scope should see continued growth in the years ahead, making this a solid choice for potential graduate students interested in a health care profession.

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