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 Career Choices in Physical Therapy
TOP colleges in the USCareer Opportunities in the area of Physical Therapy in the United States of America.

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.

Treatment often includes exercise, especially for patients who have been immobilized or who lack flexibility, strength, or endurance. Physical therapists also 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 also teach patients to use assistive and adaptive devices, such as crutches, prostheses, and wheelchairs.

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.

Physical therapists must have problem-solving skills, resourcefulness, patience, manual dexterity, physical stamina and the ability to work closely with people.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, there are 200 accredited physical therapist education programs. Of the accredited programs, 11 offer masterís degrees and 189 offer doctoral degrees. Only masterís degree and doctoral degree programs are accredited, in accordance with the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. In the future, a doctoral degree might be the required entry-level degree.

Physical therapist education programs start with basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics and then introduce specialized courses, including biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures. Besides getting classroom and laboratory instruction, students receive supervised clinical experience.

Average salaries are excellent and job opportunities are available nationwide.

Career settings include:
  1. General hospitals and hospitals for special populations (burns, neurology, orthopedics, pediatrics, etc.)
  2. rehabilitation centers, hospices, extended care facilities and public health centers
  3. home health agencies
  4. public and private schools
  5. wellness programs and fitness centers
  6. high school, college and professional athletic facilities
  7. outpatient clinics and offices and private practice
  8. corporate and industrial health centers
  9. administration, research, education and consultant work
Physical therapists held about 173,000 jobs in 2006. About 60% of physical therapists were employed in hospitals or private practice.

Median annual earnings of physical therapists were $66,200 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $55,030 and $78,080. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,510, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,810. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of physical therapists in May 2006 were:

Home health care services ---- $70,920 Nursing care facilities --- 68,650 General medical and surgical hospitals --- 66,630 Offices of physicians --- 65,900 Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists --- 65,150

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the health care field is the fastest growing industry in the United States today. The demand for qualified workers in physical therapy (PT) is expected to continue to grow at a rate of 27% (which is a "much greater than average" rate) through at least 2016.

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