Physical therapists work with patients who have varying types of movement dysfunction resulting from illness, injuries, surgical procedures, or other medical conditions. Physical therapists help patients regain bodily movement and function, reduce pain, and try to prevent future injuries, pain, or disabilities. They assess each patient, consult with the patient's primary physician, surgeon, or other medical professionals, and develop a treatment plan to fit the patient's specific needs. This can include helping patients walk, use their hands and arms to pick things up, learn how to use a prosthetic limb, and turn their heads.
If this sounds like a career that you might be interested in, you may want to consider pursuing a degree in physical therapy. Completing online PhD physical therapy degrees will familiarize you with the human body, and give you the skills you need to assess patients and develop exercises to improve their mobility and reduce their pain.
Classes and Assignments of a Physical Therapy Major
Physical therapists must be familiar with the human body, its normal range of motion, physical disabilities, and treatment methods and techniques. To give students a foundation of knowledge they can build on, many physical therapy programs begin with courses such as physical therapy procedures, anatomy and physiology, human growth and development, motor skills, and patient care in physical therapy. Your courses will then progress into areas such as patient assessment, evaluation of movement, exercise science, and physical therapy treatment options and techniques for various conditions.
Your assignments may include assessing and evaluating mock patients, identifying ailments and disabilities and describing methods of treatment that are appropriate for each, and completing scenarios that demonstrate your ability to determine and perform the correct treatment options. In addition to your course work, you will be required to complete a certain number of clinical hours, which are spent at a hospital or other medical facility, shadowing a physical therapist and gaining hands-on knowledge.
Degree Levels for Physical Therapy Majors
- Bachelor's. Online bachelors physical therapy degrees will cover the fundamentals of several areas that pertain to physical therapy, such as physics, anatomy, strength training and conditioning, evaluation and assessment, and medical terminology. A bachelor's degree will prepare you for a graduate-level physical therapy degree program.
- Master's. Online masters physical therapy degrees will expand on your fundamental knowledge, with courses such as orthopaedic principles, neuroanatomy, exercise physiology, prosthetics and orthotics, and geriatric, adult, and pediatric rehabilitation. Some states allow individuals with a master's degree to obtain licensure and practice physical therapy.
- Doctoral. A doctoral degree program in physical therapy will progress into highly advanced areas of study. Some courses will expand on what you have already learned, and can include physical therapy intervention, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, and spine examination and treatment. Other courses may include clinical research in physical therapy, clinical decision making, physical therapy administration and leadership, and applied research statistics. Some states require individuals to have a doctoral degree to obtain licensure and practice physical therapy.
A Future as a Physical Therapy Major
To practice physical therapy, you must earn a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapy program, pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), and become licensed by your state. Additional requirements vary by state, as well as the requirements to maintain your license.
The majority of physical therapists work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, outpatient clinics, private offices, or in patient's homes. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the average salary for a physical therapist is $77,990 a year. Keep in mind, though, that this amount varies depending on several factors, including the organization you work for, the amount of experience you have, and where in the country you are located. The BLS is expecting to see a 30% increase in employment through the year 2018, which is considerably higher than most occupations.