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2 Online Masters Degree Programs Available in Physical & Occupational Therapy

Online Masters Degree in Physical Therapy

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities are excellent for licensed physical therapists (PTs) looking to work in a variety of settings — including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, and private practice offices.* The demand for professional PTs is being driven by an aging Baby Boomer population and... a national focus on holistic medicine rather than just acute care. More elderly patients receive therapy to help them recover from injuries or surgery. More physical therapy services are being offered to disabled students within their schools. Finally, the overall population is more aware of the benefits that physical therapy can provide.

To start a career as a physical therapist, you will need to meet some fairly rigorous requirements. Future PTs are required to hold a Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) or higher from an accredited college program. They also need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination, pass any exams required by their states, and meet any other state-specific conditions. Once you complete all these requirements and assuming you earn your physical therapy license, you may need to fulfill continuing education credits, every two years or so, to maintain your credentials.

As an aspiring physical therapist, one of your first challenges will be getting accepted to a Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) or a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program. There are far fewer MSPT program options accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) than there are doctoral programs. In either case, you would need to demonstrate that your undergraduate studies included coursework in health science-related areas like anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and/or statistics. Some graduate programs may require you to have work experience in a physical therapy office or other relevant setting.

At the master degree level, physical therapy coursework usually involves core science topics and learning to apply that knowledge to real-world situations. Common credit requirements include biology, anatomy, physiology, cellular histology, exercise physiology, neuroscience, biomechanics, pharmacology, pathology, radiology/imaging, and behavioral science classes. Your physical therapy training may include topics in medical screening, examination tests and measures, diagnostic processes, therapeutic interventions, outcomes assessment, and practice management. Many physical therapy programs also require students to complete a significant number of clinical internship hours before graduation.

In addition to completing an accredited degree program and all licensing requirements, physical therapists may need to demonstrate certain occupational abilities to help them become successful. A fair amount of physical strength is usually needed, since you will be massaging and maneuvering patients of all sizes. Physical therapists also need excellent communication skills so that they can discuss treatments with patients, answer their questions, and work with other health professionals to provide the best overall care.

As a practicing physical therapist, you may have opportunities to work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation and nursing centers, schools, or sports organizations. Some experienced PTs decide to leave clinical practice, and transition into research roles or corporate employment with companies that market physical therapy equipment, sporting goods, or therapeutic products. With the appropriate credentials, some qualified PTs may also work as instructors in colleges or universities.

* The preceding information was obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) online resource, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition," available at: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos080.htm

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