Physical Therapist Job Description

Physical therapists work with patients to increase mobility, increase strength, and decrease pain. They use exercise, heat, cold, and other therapy to restore function.

Therapist assisting with gait training. physical therapists work with patients to increase mobility, increase strength, and decrease pain. They use exercise, heat, cold, and other therapy to restore function.

Physical Therapist Job Description: Physical therapists provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease.

They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. Their patients include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low-back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, head injuries, and cerebral palsy.

Therapists examine patients’ medical histories and then test and measure the patients’ strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function. Next, physical therapists develop plans describing a treatment strategy and its anticipated outcome.

Treatment often includes exercise, especially for patients who have been immobilized or who lack flexibility, strength, or endurance. Physical therapists encourage patients to use their muscles to increase their flexibility and range of motion. More advanced exercises focus on improving strength, balance, coordination, and endurance. The goal is to improve how an individual functions at work , during recreation, and at home.

Physical therapists use electrical stimulation, hot packs or cold compresses, and ultrasound to relieve pain and reduce swelling. They may use traction or deep-tissue massage to relieve pain and improve circulation and flexibility.

Therapists teach patients to use assistive and adaptive devices, such as crutches, prostheses, and wheelchairs. They may show patients how to do exercises at home to expedite their recovery.

As treatment continues, physical therapists document the patient’s progress, conduct periodic examinations, and modify treatments when necessary.

Physical therapists often consult and practice with a variety of other professionals, such as physicians, dentists, nurses, educators, social workers, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists.

Some physical therapists treat a wide range of illness and injury; others specialize in areas such as pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine, neurology, and cardiopulmonary physical therapy.

Working Conditions

Physical therapists practice in hospitals, clinics, and private offices that have specially equipped facilities. They also treat patients in hospital rooms, homes, or schools.

These jobs can be physically demanding because therapists often have to stoop, kneel, crouch, lift, and stand for long periods. In addition, physical therapists move heavy equipment and lift patients or help them turn, stand, or walk.

Most full-time physical therapists work a 40-hour week; some work evenings and weekends to fit their patients’ schedules. About 1 in 5 physical therapists work part time.


Training and Qualifications to be a Physical Therapist

Physical Therapists are required to have a Masters degree and obtain some form of state licensing in order to practice as a physical therapist. Graduation from an accredited program of physical therapy is required to apply for licensure.

Physical therapist education programs start with basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics and then introduce specialized courses, including biomechanics, neuro-anatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures.

Besides getting classroom and laboratory instruction, students receive supervised clinical experience. The undergraduate courses that are useful when one applies to a physical therapist education program are anatomy, biology, chemistry, social science, mathematics, and physics.

Before granting admission, many programs require volunteer experience in the physical therapy department of a hospital or clinic. For high school students, volunteering with the school athletic trainer is a good way to gain experience.

Licensing and Credentialing

In all 50 states and the U.S. Territories Physical Therapists are regulated. The usual method to be a credentialed and licensed Physical Therapist is:

Possess a masters or doctorial degree in physical rehabilitation from an accredited college.

Pass national exams for physical therapists. In some states you may have to take an additional exam.

Apply for licensure in the state you wish to practice in.

Significant Points for Physical Therapist Job Description 

Employment is expected to increase much faster than average.

Job opportunities should be good, particularly in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings.

Physical therapists need a master’s degree from an accredited physical therapy program and a State license, requiring passing scores on national and State examinations.

About 6 out of 10 physical therapists work in hospitals or in offices of physical therapists.

Advancement - chances for promotion

Physical therapists are expected to continue their professional development by participating in continuing education courses and workshops. In fact, a number of States require continuing education as a condition of maintaining licensure.

Opening a private practice is one way a physical therapist can acquire more autonomy and directly influence earnings. Opportunities exist to become a manager or educator in the field of physical therapy.

Resources for Physical Therapist Job Description:

Physical Therapist Job Description Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition.

American Physical Therapy Association