What Education is needed to Become a Physical Therapist

By Parvez Miah Jan 23, 2024
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A career in physical therapy offers one a path towards helping people recover from injuries, chronic conditions and also to continue with their physical fitness levels. This article explores the study requirements of this fulfilling career.

Educational Background

A good pace towards physical therapy is having a sound background study. In most cases, a prospective physical therapist will opt to obtain a bachelor’s degree in either biology, kinesiology, exercise science or some related field. Though there is no specific requirement for a major, course study in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, psychology, and physics may lay a good foundation for the advanced principles that he will be exposed to eventually in his physical therapy programs.

Prerequisite Courses

Most of the physical therapy programs require some prerequisite courses that an applicant has to take prior to admission. Such kind of courses are supposed to ensure that students have a background in such basic scientific and health principles. Typical prerequisites are biology, chemistry, anatomy, physics and physiology. In addition, some programs could make it mandatory for the student to undertake coursework in psychology and statistics, both aimed at arming the student with a psychological and research view of physical therapy.


After completing all the necessary prerequisite courses one has to earn a baccalaureate from an accredited university. This degree gives the students a wider base of education and normally takes around four years. Students may have a chance to gain practical experience throughout study by engaging in internships or conducting volunteer work at healthcare service scenarios. This exposure gives them a clear idea as to what it really means to take up physical therapy as one’s career.

Graduation Degree

The further qualification required in becoming a physical therapist is the graduation degree in physical therapy. As of my knowledge cut-off taken up to January 2022, minimum degree requirement for entry into the field is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. DPT programs normally span for three years on a full-time basis and comprise components of classroom instruction, practical lab experiences, as well as clinical rotations.

DPT Curriculum

The curriculum followed under DPT program is normally quite exhaustive, entailing a wide range of subjects that have some link to physical therapy practice. The coursework may include musculoskeletal rehabilitation, neurological rehabilitation, biomechanics, pharmacology, and evidence-based practice. The students also get a chance to explore the clinical reasoning domains as well as communication with the patients and the ethics that touch on provision of healthcare. During the final year, a student may be given an opportunity to embark on full-time clinical internships, with those individuals taking up the internships getting an opportunity of measuring their knowledge in actual situations through practical work within physical therapist practices.

Clinical Experience

Clinical experience is sometimes offered as part of the learning experiences towards acquiring a physical therapy education. During the DPT program, students also serve in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, and rehabilitation centers in supervised clinical rotations. They also enable the student to have a direct interaction with patients, apply the classroom learning in real-life situations, and involve the student in acquiring various clinical skills. Dealing with varied categories of populations assists them in being able to make customized adjustments.


When a DPT program is completed, an aspiring physical therapist still needs to become licensed to work. Though let out by every state in a bit of a different way, licensure will typically include passing one version or another of the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). One or more jurisprudence exam or background check may additionally be demanded by some states. A would-be physical therapist must acquaint himself with the exact licensure requirements in the state where he or she intends to practice.

Continuing Education

Becoming a physical therapist is not necessarily the end of the process. Physical therapy is a dynamic field, it always grows as the newest developments in research, technology and advanced methods of treatment continue to be developed. For this reason, legislators have given physical therapists the mandate to continually learn since they must advance their knowledge and skills through continuing professional education. This continuing education may be in the form of attending workshops to gaining specialty certifications, or even acquiring advanced degrees in the specialized areas of physical therapy.

Specialization and Board Certification

While this is not a mandatory requirement, they can also specialize in any particular area of practice. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) offers a lot of specialty areas like orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, and sports physical therapy. Getting this board certification signifies expertise at a certain level and can open other doors for one’s career.


Becoming a physical therapist requires a comprehensive educational journey that spans several years. From a strong grounding in a relevant baccalaureate to the completion process of a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, the training that aspiring physical therapists go through is riddled with the acquisition of knowledge and skills materialized. A competent and compassionate physical therapist is also developed through clinical experience, licensure, as well as postprofessional development. Indeed, in a changing healthcare landscape, physical therapists will have to ensure that the art of improving optimal health and ensuring that people recover and stay healthy continues to thrive.

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