What Are the Different Types of Physical Therapist Degree Requirements?

Mallory Hall

Physical therapists work with patients to improve mobility, relieve pain and help individuals who are recovering or suffering from injuries, surgeries, diseases or physical disabilities. While physical therapists must have a medical mindset, proper people-skills and compassion toward their patients, they must also obtain education from an accredited institution. Physical therapist degree requirements include undergraduate preparation, a graduate education and licensure. Some physical therapists also decide to — or are required to — continue their education through workshops, seminars and other educational programs.

Most physical therapists need a graduate degree and a license to practice.
Most physical therapists need a graduate degree and a license to practice.

The physical therapist degree requirements begin at the undergraduate level. Students in high school may benefit from taking high-level science classes during their senior years if such classes are available. Students in college should generally focus on science courses as well, and work toward bachelor's degrees in physics, biology or chemistry. To fulfill degree requirements, students can also consider taking classes in health sciences, anatomy and mathematics. Candidates must have both a formal education and work experience to qualify for some physical therapy programs, so students may want to look for volunteer opportunities in a physical therapy unit of a clinic or hospital.

Physical therapy degree programs often educate students in both general knowledge and physical therapy courses.
Physical therapy degree programs often educate students in both general knowledge and physical therapy courses.

To practice physical therapy in most places, including the United States, physical therapists must obtain a graduate-level education from an accredited program or school. This education typically focuses on specialty classes, including neuroanatomy and biomechanics, as well as human growth and development. Physical therapists can gain employment with either a master's degree or a doctoral degree. With either degree, students receive supervised clinical experience as well as instruction in the laboratory and classroom.

Physical therapists can gain employment with either a master's degree or doctoral degree.
Physical therapists can gain employment with either a master's degree or doctoral degree.

Physical therapist degree requirements also usually mandate that a therapist be licensed in order to practice in his jurisdiction. After an accredited physical therapy program is completed successfully, a physical therapist is usually eligible to receive his license. While eligibility requirements for a physical therapy license vary depending on the jurisdiction, candidates usually are required to successfully pass an exam or a series of exams.

Some areas require therapists to extend their physical therapist degree requirements after licensure and to further their educations by completing workshops, seminars and other courses. By participating in additional education classes, physical therapists not only comply with the law in regions where continued education is mandated, but they also have a chance for advancement in their careers and the opportunity to earn a higher salary in many cases. Continuing education may also include self-study programs or online distance seminars in which the physical therapist listens to an audio file, reads a course manual and passes the required exam.

Physical therapists must obtain education from an accredited institution.
Physical therapists must obtain education from an accredited institution.

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