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Physical Therapy Degree: Is it the right choice for me?

By Brendan Conway updated on Thursday, March 14, 2013

Earning a physical therapy degree from a physical therapy college might be the right choice for you, if you have the right background, the right interests, and the right goals.

Then again, it's possible that you might not actually have as much of an interest in physical therapy as you might think. You don't want to spend too much time or money pursuing a physical therapy degree when ultimately it's not going to suit you.

So how do you determine for sure whether or not a physical therapy degree will be right for you, before you start pursuing it? By looking into the requirements you'll have to satisfy in order to earn your degree and take up work as a physical therapist.

If the physical therapy requirements seem too steep for you, then that's a good indicator that trying to earn a physical therapy degree isn't the right path for you.

Time requirements for earning a physical therapy degree

A physical therapy degree will require an interested student to undergo at least 3 years of graduate-level education, as most physical therapy schools at the graduate level offer 3 year PhD degree programs.

Earning a physical therapy degree will require the student to undergo intense education in subjects such as biology, anatomy, and social psychology, among others.

Earning PhD degrees will also require students to go through appropriate clinical education, to learn the necessary techniques to work as physical therapists through hands-on practice. Students will need to demonstrate their facility with all this knowledge and with these techniques in order to successfully graduate with their new physical therapy degrees.

Physical therapy requirements past graduate school

Even after earning a physical therapy degree, a hopeful physical therapist still must complete additional physical therapy requirements in order to become licensed and registered with his or her state. While some states may not require physical therapists to register with the state, many will have such requirements, and even in the case of those states which do not have such physical therapy requirements, it is still advisable to do so.

Registering with the state will likely involve taking either state-specific tests or national tests, and may even require the registering physical therapist to undertake continuing education in order to remain licensed.

Unwritten physical therapist requirements

Beyond these official physical therapy requirements, there are some other physical therapy requirements which extend beyond those attached to earning a physical therapy degree or becoming licensed. These physical therapy requirements are more personality traits, concerning the ability for interpersonal communication and socialization.

Physical therapists must be able to communicate with their patients successfully and usefully, and must, in many cases, be able to similarly communicate with their patients' families.

The physical therapist must be able to show sympathy, kindness, patience, and compassion in dealing with his or her patients, both in order to get the best results as a physical therapist and because it's important to treat patients with compassion and patience and without anger or impatience.

What does this mean for me and my pursuit of a physical therapy degree?

If any of these physical therapy requirements sound excessive or like "deal-breakers" to you, then perhaps earning a physical therapy degree just simply isn't in the cards for you. If these physical therapy requirements sound surmountable, then you should look into a physical therapy degree.

If you're still interested, but unsure about these requirements, then perhaps a physical therapy assistant degree would be a better option for you, as it would allow you to enter into a career path in which you could work in physical therapy, without needing to go through all the time and effort that a full physical therapist degree would require. (Note: Following the link will take you to the undergraduate section of Petersons.com.)

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About the Author

Brendan Conway is the Web Content Editor for Peterson's Interactive and is well-versed in the world of higher education and admissions. He is a graduate of Hamilton College, and has been working in admissions advice, test-prep advice, career planning advice, and similar fields for the majority of his career since graduation. Brendan endeavors to provide the most relevant, useful, and interesting information via Peterson's Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ feeds. Brendan enjoys lexicological oddities and voraciously reading in his free time.

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