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Overview

Physical Therapy - as a major and as a profession - has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception around the end of World War I. These days, in fact, it's considered to be among the fastest growing professions in the United States. Opportunities for employment are abundant and starting salaries are relatively lucrative.

Physical therapists work with doctors and other therapists to rehabilitate people with injuries, diseases, and impairments. They prescribe exercise schedules and use heat, cold, electricity, sound, and water to relieve pain and stimulate muscles and motor functions. Though rehabilitation following injury is the primary focus of many physical therapists, Board-certified specialization is available in a number of areas including sports-related physical therapy, orthopedics, and pediatrics.

One important thing you should know about majoring in Physical Therapy is that passing an important, national standardized test is necessary before you can practice as a therapist. Also, and possibly more importantly, you will probably need a master's degree or some other advanced degree (i.e., something beyond a bachelor's degree) to practice. Consequently, you should expect to stay in college a little longer than most everyone else if you major in Physical Therapy. It takes a minimum of six years to complete a master's degree in Physical Therapy and programs are often split into two required parts. The first part is a more or less traditional undergraduate program that takes three years to complete (four if you dilly-dally). The second segment is the nuts-and-bolts, three-year Physical Therapy graduate program during which you'll receive a great deal of practical, on-the-job-type training.

SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • Abnormal Psychology

  • Chemistry

  • Clinical Instruction and Practice

  • Human Anatomy

  • Kinesiology

  • Medical Ethics

  • Musculoskeletal Evaluation

  • Neuroanatomy

  • Neurophysiology

  • Orthopedics

  • Physics

  • Physiology

  • Psychology of Disability

  • Rehabilitation

  • Statistics


HIGH SCHOOl PREPARATION

Mark our words: it's not easy to get into Physical Therapy programs. Not easy at all. To begin with, you need a very strong background in the physical sciences. Take Advanced Placement biology, chemistry, and physics courses. Take lots of math, too. It's a really good idea to try to gain some experience (by volunteering or working) with real, live physical therapists. Such experience will look great on your resume. Finally, you need to be in good physical shape yourself.

GRADUATE PROGRAMS & CAREERS