BLOG: All Things Higher Ed

How to become a physical therapist

Pursuing a profession as a physical therapist offers a fulfilling career where you can help individuals improve their overall health and wellness. Ever wondered how to become a physical therapist? We’ve got you covered! From selecting the right college to earning a doctoral degree, we’ll outline the process and help you navigate the steps.

If you're looking for a career with job growth and lucrative salaries, you're in luck. A PT career boasts high salaries and an above-average projected growth rate. With these enticing perks, you might be asking yourself, “How do I make it happen?” Stick with us as we explain the path to becoming a physical therapist. 

Learn more about our CAPTE-accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy program and start your journey at Central Michigan University.

Steps to become a physical therapist

To pursue a career as a physical therapist, you go through four essential stages: choosing a college, obtaining a bachelor's degree, completing a doctoral program in physical therapy and passing the National Physical Therapy Examination.

1. Choose your college

Start your path by doing research on universities offering physical therapy programs. Applying to those that align best with your goals is the first crucial step. Look for colleges that provide a  Doctor of Physical Therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Proper research in the early stages can help you lay the foundation needed to achieve your goals.

2. Earn your bachelor's degree

The first step toward becoming a physical therapist is earning your bachelor’s degree. While your undergraduate major doesn’t necessarily have to be in physical therapy, it is advantageous to choose a field that aligns with the prerequisites for a DPT program.

What bachelor’s degree do you need to be a physical therapist? You can consider majors such as exercise science, athletic training, health administration, biomedical science, biology and therapeutic recreation. Early on, during your first semester, connect with an advisor from your chosen undergraduate major. It is important to have a conversation regarding both the mandatory coursework for your bachelor's degree and a strategy to include the prerequisite courses for your future Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

When selecting your bachelor’s degree, keep in mind that it sets the stage for your studies in physical therapy. Many students choose health-related subjects like biology, chemistry, or physiology to prepare for their doctorate studies. These subjects help them establish a solid foundation.

The journey toward becoming a licensed physical therapist begins with this foundational educational step. Regardless of whether you opt for the conventional path as an undergraduate or decide to explore different fields of study, every choice you make will enhance your preparedness for entering your DPT program.

3. Pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy

After completing your bachelor’s, the path leads to a doctoral program. Some programs seamlessly integrate bachelor’s and doctorate degrees, while others require them separately. Choosing the right DPT program is a pivotal decision in your academic adventure.

After meeting the requirements, apply to programs accredited by CAPTE. These three-year programs cover a range of topics, including biology, anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology and pharmacology. To find the perfect fit for you, explore CAPTE-accredited programs on the American Physical Therapy Association’s website.

It is important to mention that you need to obtain a Doctorate in Physical Therapy to be eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Examination.

4. Pass the NPTE

Now, onto the last stretch of your journey – passing the National Physical Therapy Examination. This exam is like the final level in the video game, testing how well you can apply all that physical therapy knowledge you’ve acquired. It’s not just a test, it is your ticket to officially becoming a licensed physical therapist. The NPTE is the finish line of your academic adventure.

How long does it take to become a physical therapist?

So, let’s chat about the timeline for becoming a licensed physical therapist. It is a bit of a journey, clocking in around seven years. First off, you’ve got four years dedicated to earning that bachelor’s degree. This phase allows you to dive into different subjects – maybe discovering a love for anatomy or realizing biomechanics is your thing.

After completing those initial four years, you’re not quite done yet. The next leg involves diving into a three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Keep in mind, the exact timeline might change depending on your state’s licensing requirements, the curriculum of your chosen DPT program and the clinical hours you complete.

In summary, the process unfolds as a comprehensive seven-year endeavor marked by your continuous learning, growth and exciting transformation into a licensed physical therapist. While the duration may appear substantial, it aligns with the philosophy that the most rewarding accomplishments often take time and dedication.

Physical therapist job outlook

According to the latest insights from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the professional landscape for physical therapists is shining brightly with an excellent job outlook. Projections indicate an anticipated growth rate of 15% from 2022 to 2032, surpassing the average growth seen across all occupations. 

As you contemplate stepping into the world of PT, rest assured that you’re not just choosing a career; you’re embracing a profession with a promising future, where skills will be in high demand. Get ready to be a part of a field that’s not just growing but thriving, thanks to its commitment to enhancing lives.

Physical therapist salary

The salary of a physical therapist is influenced by various factors, including education, experience, location and work setting. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for physical therapists stands at $97,720 as of May 2022. The highest-paid physical therapists are typically found in home healthcare services, followed by nursing and residential care facilities. Additionally, salary ranges differ by state, with the highest salaries being found in California, Nevada and New Jersey.

Central Michigan University physical therapy

Becoming a physical therapist is a thrilling journey that demands commitment. It involves choosing the appropriate university, earning a bachelor's degree, acquiring a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and successfully passing the National Physical Therapy Examination.

Ready to make your PT journey the best? The Central Michigan University Doctor of Physical Therapy program can give you just that! 

What makes Central Michigan Universities DPT program stand out?

  • CAPTE accreditation: Join a program that is accredited by CAPTE, ensuring high-quality education and training.
  • Clinical excellence: Engage in a unique model with integrated experiences, a full year of clinical exposure and dedicated support.
  • Cutting edge facilities: Access to top-notch labs and centers for hands-on learning.
  • Diverse Clinical Affiliations: Gain experience in 300+ clinical agencies nationwide.
  • Global Exposure: Travel internationally to observe global physical therapy practices.
  • Comprehensive Curriculum: Develop expertise across diverse patient populations.

Your path to becoming an exceptional physical therapist begins here at CMU, where excellence and hands-on learning is not just a goal; it’s the standard. 

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.