Physical therapy began as a way of treating polio before the invention of the polio vaccine. The profession has developed into a thriving area of health care that restores people to their past physical performance and minimizes disabilities.
Physical Therapy is a Satisfying Career
On April 17, 2007, the Chicago Tribune reported that physical therapy was number two in the National Opinion Research Center survey in job satisfaction. The clergy was the only occupation ahead of physical therapy in existence. It was also the only health care profession on the list.
Practitioners report high job satisfaction due to the closeness felt with their patients and the ability to see their patients’ progress to their greatest potential. Patients will frequently return month after physical therapy just to thank their physical therapist for the work that they had done. Some of those patients rolled in on wheelchairs and walked out on their own two feet.
What is Physical Therapy?
The Occupational Outlook Handbook describes some of the patients that are treated in PT as having disabling conditions such as low back pain, cerebral palsy, neurological and spinal injuries, and orthopedic injuries. Physical therapists restore function, reduce pain, and decrease the severity of disabilities for their patients.
The three primary positions in physical therapy are physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapist aides. Physical therapists act as supervisors to assistants and aids and distribute the workload.
Physical therapists assistants carry out many of the responsibilities that physical therapists also do, but with some limitations. Assistants don’t perform evaluations and reevaluations of patients. That is the primary job of physical therapists. After the physical therapist performs the evaluation of the patient, the case will usually be passed on to the physical therapist assistant.
Physical Therapy Education
Careers in physical therapy include physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapist aides. Varying degrees of education are required.
Physical therapists complete a bachelor’s degree in a major of their choice, with some prerequisites to enter into a doctorate program that lasts three years.
Physical therapist assistants complete a two-year associate’s degree. Some go on to become physical therapists.
Physical therapist aides need a high school diploma and volunteer or paid training at a PT facility. Competition for these positions is high.
Physical Therapy is in Demand
All populations of people benefit from physical therapy. But the retiring baby boomers are the primary clients of the physical therapy profession. As this segment of the population grows, the need for physical therapists and assistants will grow.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the physical therapy profession is expected to grow faster than average. Twenty-seven percent growth is expected through 2016.
Physical therapists also work with professional and semi-professional athletes to prevent and recover from injuries. Some of the areas that physical therapists work in are pediatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurological injuries, and aqua therapy.
Choosing physical therapy as a career is a wise choice for both the population and the future practitioner. Professionals can expect job stability, high job satisfaction, and long-term growth of the profession.