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What are the Different Physical Therapist Jobs?

By Britt Archer
Updated May 17, 2024
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One of the most versatile positions in the healthcare world is that of a physical therapist. Physical therapy, or PT, is a hands-on occupation that helps patients recover and refine movement, strength and flexibility to different parts of the body. Physical therapist jobs are present in many settings, some of which might not be immediately apparent.

Physical therapy's main goal is to improve an individual's overall performance in all areas of life, including at home and at work. Physical therapist jobs are often physically demanding since one of the main forms of treatment a physical therapist might administer is exercise, which may require the physical therapist to aid the patient in basic movements. Physical therapy may also include additional treatment with electrical stimulation to improve muscle function, hot and cold therapy to help reduce pain or swelling and deep tissue massage to help with flexibility.

Hospital jobs are common for physical therapists, as hospitals often have several different areas in which a physical therapist can practice, including geriatric care, pediatric care and orthopedics. Physical therapist jobs in a hospital setting may include working with patients after surgery, or the rehabilitation of a patient after treatment for a long-term illness, such as cancer. The average salary for physical therapist jobs in a general hospital setting was around $66,000 US Dollars (USD) as of May 2006.

A physical therapist may also choose to operate a private practice or work with patients in their home. These locations each provide their own advantages and disadvantages, as certain equipment may not be as readily available as it would be in a hospital setting. As of May 2006, the average income of physical therapist jobs in this category was anywhere from $65,000 USD to $70,000 USD yearly. Other physical therapists may choose to work in other types of facilities, including schools, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. The duties and income of these positions vary widely, depending on location.

Physical therapist jobs are not restricted to just physical therapists. Another career path that many people choose is that of a physical therapist assistant. A physical therapist assistant aids a physical therapist with his duties. The educational and licensing requirements for physical therapist assistants varies depending on location and job site, but they generally need an associate's degree. Certain locations may require additional qualifications.

Physical therapist careers in the United States require a good deal of training, including a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited university. Before obtaining these graduate degrees, a student must first take undergraduate courses, the most common of which are biology, chemistry and some social sciences. In addition to a qualified degree, physical therapists must pass state and national license tests. The exact requirements for physical therapist jobs varies depending on location, so it is advised that any individual seeking a career in physical therapy contact their local board of licensing.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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