Getting a physical therapy degree takes time, hard work and dedication. It requires 7 to 8 years of college education and clinical experience learning for those wishing to become degreed, licensed professionals who are eligible for employment as a physical therapist.
Physical therapy programs or `PT Programs` are a demanding course of study, but the good news is it is also one of the professions that provide the highest amounts of personal satisfaction to those in the field.
Not only do PTs enjoy the benefits of ease of finding employment due to an increasing demand, as well as a highly competitive salary, these professionals report the highest levels of satisfaction and self worth in that they have made a difference in other people’s lives, a feeling that is invaluable.
Educational Requirements for a Physical Therapy Degree
Students interested in becoming a PT must first complete four years of undergraduate learning at an accredited college or university.
It is recommended to know ahead of time which PT program the student will likely apply to, and understand their prerequisite requirements in order to make the most efficient use of undergraduate time, enrolling in the courses that will help the student gain acceptance into their program of choice.
In most cases, prerequisite classes include English classes, maths and sciences, providing the essential base education on which the more specialized sciences and other classes in their physical therapy major will build on.
In order to receive a PT degree, students must first earn their Bachelor’s degree, and then graduate a physical therapy postgraduate program to receive their degree of DPT, Doctor of Physical Therapy.
Postgradute learning is largely done in the clinical setting, although there are some classroom courses as well. Working externships are a required part of obtaining their degree as well. Then, once graduated, students can take their licensing examination in order to be eligible for employment as a licensed physical therapist.
Transitional Physical Therapy Degree
Recently, there have been some changes made to the degree earned by physical therapists, requiring some professionals to update their degree from what has been termed a “transitional” DPT degree to the now accepted professional DPT degree.
In the past, there were two degrees offered depending on the physical therapy school, either the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), or the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT).
With how the profession has grown in the past 10 years or so, and the desire to standardize educational and professional requirements to obtain degrees, most countries now recognize the DPT as the main degree, and most schools have updated their curriculum’s so that they now offer this degree as well.
These changes, and this necessity to update degrees, stems from the public perception of the degree of “doctor” as opposed to “master”, and the need to continually update the education of those practitioners who have been in the field for a while, as therapies have gone through great change in recent years.
Updates On MSPT Degrees
It has been stated by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) that by the year 2020, all clinicians graduating from physical therapy programs will earn the degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the MPT or MSPT degrees will no longer be recognized. Physical therapy schools are required to offer only a DPT degree by 2015.
Those PTs holding a degree of MPT or MSTP, or even DPT degrees which for some reason do not carry the same educational and clinical experience requirements as most others, are being encouraged to take the necessary transitional courses to receive their upgraded, professional DPT degree.
As the main governing professional organizations like the APTA in the US and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) in the UK begin to finalize the standardization of degree requirements, it is likely any PTs holding an MPT, MSPT or a t-DPT (transitional DPT, for graduates of programs currently being changed to fit created standards) will be required to take continuing education courses to elevate their transitional degrees to the new, accepted professional DPT.
PT School Recommendations
Recommendations for those interested in enrolling in school to become a PT is to find a program that is accredited by their country’s professional accreditation organization, ensure that the degree offered is the professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), and then find out which courses should be taken during undergraduate education to increase the chance of acceptance into the program of choice.
Most PT degree programs do not have open enrollment, meaning they accept only the best students who are prepared for the demanding clinical work ahead in order to earn their degree.
With the right preparation, and making sure to apply to the right schools, a student will have the best chance of success in gaining the best education and then getting the best position as a qualified physical therapist.