How do I Choose the Best Physical Therapy Programs?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2018
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There are five items to consider when choosing physical therapy programs: education level, internships, admissions requirements, accreditation, and faculty. This type of program can be organized within a larger community college or university. Physical therapy is the use of specific series of exercise to strength muscles and increase flexibility. Exercises are typically prescribed following an injury or surgery.

There are two levels of physical therapy programs: university or college. A university program provides a combination of theoretical and practical training. The focus is to build the fundamental skills necessary to design new exercises, provide advice, and understand the core concepts so that processes can be changed to meet new needs. In addition, only a university graduate can complete physical therapy programs at the graduate and doctoral levels.

A college level program is much more focused on practical training. The courses cover human anatomy, but are focused on the known exercises and practices of this field. The training is intended to produce a graduate who is able to follow direction from a physical therapist and contribute to the patient’s progress by ensuring the exercises are completed properly.


The best physical therapy program should have a wide range of internship and cooperative job placement opportunities. Gaining work experience in this field is the most important part of this program. The types of work experiences that you have and how you apply your knowledge in the field are critical. Look for programs that allow you to work with a variety of clients, ranging from athletes to seniors.

In order to qualify for admission to physical therapy programs, you must have high school courses in biology and English. At the university level, courses in physics and math may also be required. The interest in this field has grown substantially over the past five years, but employment opportunities have not grown at the same pace. As a result, admissions are typically restricted to a portion of applicants. Some schools have added a personal essay or interview requirement to help with this process.

When looking for physical therapy programs, always check the accreditation status of the school. An accredited school has been reviewed by an independent third party. Courses from an accredited school can be transferred to other post-secondary institutions. This is very important, as many people change careers and the ability to use credits earned in the physical therapy program toward other certificates reduces the time and cost of career changes.

Most physical therapy programs provide the biographies of their faculty or instructors on their website. The information listed typically includes the academic credentials, work experience, special training, and any awards they have received. Talk with your admissions counselor about these instructors and think about the different experiences they have had, and how it can help you.

People who report the greatest satisfaction from physical therapy programs have a clear career plan in mind. Students who are motivated, focused, disciplined, and enjoy working with people have the greatest chance of success. Repetition and correction of technique is a core part of the physical therapist's day. Make sure that you understand this before registering for this program. People who do not like to repeat themselves may find this career frustrating.



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