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Grad Program: Physical Therapy

Basic Information

Physical therapists are trained specialists in movement and movement dysfunction who help patients strengthen physical abilities and relieve pain through the use of therapeutic exercise, heat, cold, and electric stimulation. Physical therapists also provide expertise in human mobility, analyzing gait patterns, prescribing treatment, and recommending devices (such as braces or crutches) to enable clients to move independently. By increasing coordination, strength and endurance, physical therapist can help their patients to recover from physical injuries and impairments.

Graduate programs in physical therapy are designed to help qualified physical therapists assume leadership roles in research, clinical practice, and education. In most programs, students are trained as generalists, learning about all aspects of physical therapy. Students are usually introduced to the profession through class work in anatomy, neurology, and physiology, followed by clinical rotations in an affiliated teaching facility. Through the course of their studies, students acquire a general foundation of knowledge in the areas of clinical practice, management, and research and learn how to prevent, evaluate, and treat a variety of injuries and disabilities.

Some schools offer specializations but most require students to target their interests through fieldwork. Some of physical therapies specialties include cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal, and neuromuscular therapy.

Degree Information

Entry-level graduate students typically earn a Master of Physical Therapy (M.P.T.) or a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) after which they sit for the national board examination and apply for state licensure. Applicants to these entry-level programs do not need previous experience in health care as long as they have completed the pre-requisites and have spent some time learning about or volunteering in the physical therapy field.

Post-professional students usually earn a Master of Science in Physical Therapy (M.S.) or a Ph.D. or Ed.D. in Physical Therapy focusing on clinical, classroom, and research activities related to the science of physical therapy. Admission to a post-professional program is for applicants who are already practicing physical therapists. The master’s degree takes roughly two years to complete. Students who pursue a traditional doctorate typically enter into academia or research.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • Where is the school located?
  • What degrees are offered? How long is the program?
  • What is the clinical component of the program?
  • What are the affiliated clinical facilities? Will you learn in a hospital, clinic, nursing home, sport center, or other facility?
  • What are the licensure pass rates for graduates of the program?
  • What is the average class size?

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