Have you ever asked yourself, “What degree is needed to be a physical therapist, and what do physical therapist do?” A physical therapist’s job involves aiding people who are injured, sick, or developmentally disabled to bolster their movement capabilities. So too do physical therapists help patients find effective coping mechanisms in order to deal with symptoms of pain and discomfort. Physical therapy has become so ubiquitous of late that nowadays patients who years earlier would have been treated surgically are now sent to physical therapy instead. The demand for physical therapists has driven a wage increase. Thus, many students are asking, “what degree is needed to be a physical therapist?”
Between 2010 and 2020, job opportunities for physical therapists are expected to grow by almost 40% percent. This rate of growth is significantly faster than the average for all other occupations, making physical therapy careers excellent occupational goals for young people deciding what they want to do when they grow up. But how do you become a physical therapist? What degree is needed to be a physical therapist?
There are many physical therapist education requirements that must be met in order to be eligible for physical therapist jobs. Because every state in the union mandates that physical therapists meet licensure requirements prior to engaging in professional practice, appropriate physical therapy training is an absolute necessity. Regardless of what the exact answer to the question, “what degree is needed to be a physical therapist,” is, individuals undergoing physical therapy training will take classes in physics, human anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. However, what degree is needed to be a physical therapist is a something that has changed over time and is still currently somewhat in flux.
The answer to the question, “what degree is needed to be a physical therapist?” was different before and after the 1990s. Prior to the last decade of the 20th century, if you wanted to become a physical therapist, you earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy, after which you were permitted to submit an application to take the exam. If you passed it, you were then allowed to practice as a physical therapist. However, this state of affairs changed gradually over the course of the 90s, and by the end of the decade, a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy was no longer the correct response to the inquiry, “what degree is needed to be a physical therapist?” The PT Bachelors Degree was replaced by the Masters Degree in Physical Therapy, and remains the standard PT requirement. However, there has been a recent push to further professionalize PT.
The American Physical Therapy Association, the accrediting body for all academic Physical Therapy programs in the United States, is leading the call for licensure to be predicated a Doctorate. Thus, in about 10 years, if you ask “what degree is needed to be a physical therapist,” the answer will most likely be a PhD.
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