Physical Therapy Careers: Just the Facts

Where Do Physical Therapists Work? Physical therapists work in a wide variety of practice settings, including — but definitely not limited to — rehab facilities, private PT practices, schools, hospitals, fitness centers, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient clinics, and even schools and universities.

With Whom Do PTs Work? Physical therapists generally work with a wide variety of individuals with different disorders. Patients can range in age from babies younger than one month old on up to the very old — 90 years plus. PT clients tend to be those who have disorders or injuries of the neuromuscular, cardiopulmonary, integumentary, and musculoskeletal systems. Injuries and conditions of patients can include bone, muscle and ligament injuries; cerebral palsy; developmental delays; Parkinson’s disease; an injury to the spinal cord; stroke; multiple sclerosis; heart disease; and others.

What’s the Job Outlook for PTs? In two words: quite good! As the U.S. population ages, more and more people will need — and demand — PT services. An aging population will need help in regaining strength from operations and hospital stays, from injuries on the job or on the field, from heart attacks and strokes, and other debilitating, age-related conditions. In fact, as the population becomes older, PTs may find themselves working in “non-traditional” practices such as geriatric wellness, women’s health, workplace ergonomics and fitness, alternative therapies, and more.

Educational Requirements to Work as a PT: The profession is moving to the Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) as the “entry-level” degree needed to start practicing. PTs need a bachelor’s degree followed by an approximate three-year post-baccalaureate PT program leading to the DPT (and, in a dwindling number of programs, the Master of Physical Therapy, or MPT).

What Do PTs Really DO with Patients? Physical therapists first will examine and evaluate a patient before determining a diagnosis, prognosis and therapy plan. These assessments could include measuring a patient’s muscle strength, endurance, sensory status, joint mobility, neurological function, gait pattern, posture, functional skill level, and more.

A physical therapist then will develop intervention plans that will help their patients achieve what are known as “functional goals,” based on the patient’s particular needs, health and physical abilities. Some of these interventions could include neuromuscular re-education, joint mobilization, therapeutic exercise, electrical stimulation, the use of thermal agents, massage, and functional skill training.

PTs also will educate their patients on some of the life skills they’ll need to re-acquire in order to reach their goals, or will help patients learn new functional goals depending on their physical ability.

Would you like to couple your PT skills with your itch to travel by becoming a traveling physical therapist? Then contact one of our Centra Healthcare Solutions’ recruiters! We’re eager to discuss your career and travel goals as we show you the many travel assignments at hospital and rehab facilities throughout the country. We look forward to hearing from you!

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