As the 2012 school year is coming to a close, many high school and college seniors may be thinking, “What am I going to do now?” If you love working with people, want to help people improve their quality of life, enjoy science and creativity, physical therapy (PT) may be a great choice!
Here are the top 5 reasons I feel PT is a GREAT career choice:
1. Physical therapists are more respected now then ever.
Physical Therapy now requires a Doctorate degree (6-7 years of school). In addition, Residency and Fellowship programs have been developed to specialize in a particular area. Over the years, people have realized that PTs really do listen to your concerns and are very knowledgeable when it comes to movement, pain and injuries. Educational programs focus on differential diagnosis, pharmacology, functional training and manual therapy. Our extensive knowledge allows us to diagnosis as well as treat musculoskeletal injuries. This has allowed PTs in most states to be able to see patients without a prescription from a MD. A 2005 study found that PTs are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to musculoskeletal injuries finishing just slightly behind orthopedic surgeons.1
2. There are a variety of areas in which to focus physical therapy.
As our education process continues to improve, our national organization (the American Physical Therapy Association or APTA) has helped to establish specialties in physical therapy. Although there are truly endless settings for PTs to work, the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) has established 8 specialty areas. They include Cardiovascular & Pulmonary, Clinical Electrophysiology, Geriatrics, Neurology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Sports and Women’s Health. In order to obtain a specialty certification, a PT has to spend a specific amount of time practicing in their area and then needs to pass extensive testing to be recognized as a Board Certified Specialist in their area.2 There are also many other branches of PT including but not limited to wound care and equine (for horses).
3. Physical therapists are now autonomous (can practice on their own)
In 2006, a law was established in New York State, stating that individuals no longer need a prescription to attend Physical Therapy.3 This means PTs can be the first stop in the health care world. When this law was established, the PT profession could not have been more excited. In my experiences as both a physical therapist and an athletic training I find that the earlier you seek care, the quicker you get better. When I see people that are into PT the day or week they are injured and I feel improvements are seen much quicker then if they would have waited a 1 month or even longer!
4. Jobs are readily available! – the demand for physical therapists is much higher than the supply.
The APTA predicts that from now until 2020 supply and demand for physical therapist will greatly increase.4 The demand will continue to outweigh the supply based on their predictions. It is predicted that in 2016 there will be a demand of 207,000 PTs; however the supply will only be at 182,000. 4 Also, the APTA has shown that throughout the Middle Atlantic region (Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania) the median salary has increased by 13% from 2004-2010. 5 In some other areas such as the Pacific cost, salary increases are as high as 25% from 2004-2010.5
5. Physical therapy is an active approach and can limit the medications you need to take.
In a day and age where medications are the first line of defense for pain and illness, many people are trying to limit how many they take. The approach of physical therapy is to assist with restoring normal movement and function and thus decrease pain. It is an active approach and helps to motivate people and educate them on how to take engage in an active lifestyle. Many people are scared to exercise for fear of causing pain, however in PT our job is to be sure your body is moving the way it should and find ways to get people moving without pain!
Physical therapy is an amazing and growing profession. If you are considering going to school for physical therapy, know that at Sports PT we are more than willing to have students (or graduates) come shadow for a day and get a taste of the most up to date physical therapy in the area! Feel free to contact me for more information!
1. Childs JD, Whitman JM, Sizer PS, Pugia ML, Flynn TW, Delitto A. A description of physical therapists’ knowledge in managing musculoskeletal conditions. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2005: 6:32.
2. American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. http://www.abpts.org/home.aspx. Accessed on 2 May 2012.
3. American Physical Therapy Associate: A Model to Project the supply and demand of physical therapists 2010-2020. http://www.apta.org/WorkforceData/Accessed on 2 May 2012.
4. American Physical Therapy Association: 2010 Median Income of Physical Therapists Summary report. http://www.apta.org/WorkforceData/. Accessed on 2 May 2012.
Direct Access Physical Therapist Services. Is Yours a Direct Access State. http://www.apta.org/uploadedFiles/APTAorg/Advocacy/ State/Issues/Direct_Access/DirectAccessMap.pdf #search=%22direct access new york state%22. Accessed on 2 May 2012.