While it is possible to qualify for a physical therapy license with a degree from an accredited MSPT (Master of Science in Physical Therapy) program, the great majority of graduate programs with CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education) accreditation are doctorate level programs, also known as DPT degrees.... Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degrees are becoming the new standard in physical therapist preparation. By the end of 2015, CAPTE will require all PT programs to offer the DPT degree.
Typical DPT programs may take three years to complete (assuming you study full-time). Programs usually consist of a demanding mix of coursework, supervised clinical practice, and research. Your coursework is likely to include specialized science classes, such as gross anatomy, biomechanics, and applied kinesiology; classes in practice management, including law and policy, medical ethics, and organizational management; classes in patient management; and courses in medical science. Clinical experience is another important part of your doctoral education. Through supervised clinical practice, you'll gain hands-on experience in a relevant healthcare setting.
After completing an accredited DPT program, you may be eligible to sit for physical therapy licensing exams that are necessary in order to practice in your state. Ideally, you'll also have the preparation and knowledge you need to examine patients with various disabilities, injuries, mobility problems, or health concerns. Your experience may also prepare you to identify proper treatments for different patients' needs; develop programs and policies that promote health and wellness; educate other physical therapy professionals; utilize industry research; manage a physical therapy office or practice; and communicate effectively with other health professionals and patients.
To be accepted to a doctoral program, you need to hold a bachelor degree. Schools often will accept qualified applicants with a variety of undergraduate degrees, as long as they have completed specific prerequisites — for example, two semesters of biology, chemistry, and physics; one semester of human anatomy; one semester of human physiology; one semester of statistics; and three semesters of psychology. Different colleges maintain different admissions requirements, which may also include a minimum undergraduate grade point average and/or minimum score requirements on the GRE exam.
In addition to allowing you to meet the requirements to practice as a physical therapist in a healthcare facility or private practice, your doctoral degree may qualify you to become a supervisor, educator, or researcher. You may enjoy the satisfaction of helping individual patients, while shaping the future of the profession and ongoing research related to the field.
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