Physical therapists are experts in movement and function of the body and provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent disabilities associated with injury or disease. Physical Therapists may assess a patient’s muscle function, strength, joint flexibility, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, respiration, skin integrity, motor function, quality of life, and activities of daily living. Once an examination is complete and a diagnosis determined, a plan of care is determined which can include exercise, traction, ultrasound or electrotherapy, vestibular training, motor learning and development, patient and family education, and mobilization/manual therapy. Students seeking entry into a P.T. program should be interested in providing services to patients of all ages throughout the continuum of care as provision of services may range from patients with acutely ill conditions, through rehabilitation, and management of chronic conditions. Physical therapy is one of the fastest growing occupations.
About two-thirds of physical therapists are employed in private outpatient offices or group practices, hospital-based outpatient facility, hospitals, or academic institutions. Other settings include home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation centers, school systems, sports medicine facilities, industrial settings.
There are 210 accredited physical therapist programs, of which 170 award the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) and 39 award the masters degree. Almost all physical therapist programs have reported an intent to award the DPT by 2010, which is in accordance with the vision established by the governing body for the profession that physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy by the year 2020.
The entry-level DPT Program is designed for individuals just entering the field of physical therapy and is a three-year program for students holding a bachelor’s degree in a field other than physical therapy. The “advanced clinical science” DPT is an option for physical therapists who want to advance their knowledge, behaviors and clinical skills, usually in a specific specialty area. These program may include specialization, certification or clinical residencies (DPTSc, DHSc, ScD).