Careers in Physical Therapy

By Joe Stein

 
A rapidly growing area of healthcare is the world of physical therapy. For example, the employment in this field is expected to be above the national occupation average for the next several years. The growth is due to a number of reasons including our increasingly aged population and other health factors such as heart attack and stroke requiring the expertise of a Physical Therapist. 
 
If you are thinking of making the career choice of physical therapy, the information below is designed to provide a brief overview of your field of interest.
 
Job Description:
 
Physical Therapists assist individuals in their quest to restore or improve their functionality or mobility due to some limiting condition. The focus is on the strength and muscle performance of the patient and this is done by evaluating plus working on such areas as balance, coordination, posture, and respiration. Therapists may specialize in a particular aspect such as pediatrics (children), geriatrics (seniors), or sports medicine. The job can be physically demanding as a Physical Therapist will spend their work day kneeling, bending, standing, and often lifting patients or equipment. The work schedule may be a traditional weekday day shift, but the trend is for more Physical Therapists to try to meet the schedule demands of their patients by being available nights and weekends.

Physical Therapists are not to be confused with the related but different field of occupational therapy. An Occupational Therapist is different as he or she will work with mentally, physically, or developmentally disabled people to improve their skills in order to allow them to live more independently.
 
Education:
In order to meet the education requirement for a position in Physical Therapy, you will need to attend an accredited program. Accreditation being defined as when the program meets the intent of the evaluative criteria of a defining party. Programs actually have to submit reports for review and pay fees in order to maintain their accredited status. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) based in Alexandria, Virginia is the nationally recognized accrediting agency for the field.
 
The easiest way to meet the professional education requirement is by attending a NYS Registered or APTA accredited Physical Therapy program with a bachelor’s degree or higher in physical therapy. You can also meet the requirement by receiving a graduate level certificate following the completion of a bachelor’s degree from an acceptable university. A growing trend in the field is for Physical Therapists to obtain their master’s degree in the field to provide additional knowledge and a career edge over the competition.
 
For those interested in being a Physical Therapist Assistant, the best method to meet the professional education requirement is to complete a two-year college program at a NYS Registered Physical Therapist Assistant program or APTA Accredited Physical Therapist Assistant program.
 
Examination:
After you have met the education requirement, you can then take your examination in your path towards licensure. 
For Physical Therapist there is the “National Physical Therapy Examination” and for Assistants there is the required “National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination”.
           
NY Licensure:
To be considered a Physical Therapist or Physical Therapist Assistant, you will be required to have a NY State license.   After you have completed the education and examination requirements, you can then apply for your fee-based license. Licensing is done by the NYS Education Department and the Division of Professional Licensing Services in Albany. Licenses are checked by organizations through the Office of the Professions and their online verification search functionality, so not being licensed is not only ethically wrong but also not possible in the long-term.
 
Organization:
The New York Physical Therapy Association is the organization devoted to the profession in the state. The Association serves over 5,000 professionals in the field. Membership is not only worthwhile for continuing education but also great for job seeking networks.
 
 
The field of physical therapy has a number of positive aspects going for it. Among the positive aspects are rewarding work, very competitive pay/benefits, job security, and a growing demand. The work, however, can be very physically demanding and the hours trying. When considering your career choices, evaluate all the positive aspects along with the challenges before deciding to move forward.
 
 
As always, best of luck in your job search.