Physical Therapy

By: Meredith Fagan


Physical Therapists (PT's) provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent disabilities of patients with injuries or diseases. Patient's include accident victims and individuals with disabling conditions such as low back pain, fractures, head injuries, arthritis, heart disease, or cerebral palsy. Out-patients are the people who come and go to therapy, but they can live at home. In-patients are the people who have therapy, but they have to stay and sleep there until they are healthy enough to go home. To figure out how they need to be relieved, PT's take the patient's history and conduct a systems review, and they perform tests and measures such as strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function to identify potential and existing problems. Based on the examination and the PT's evaluative judgment, PT's determine a patient diagnosis, prognosis, and plan of care that describes evidence-based treatment strategies. As part of the plan care, PT's determine the patient's ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after injury or illness.

Working Conditions

PT's work in a variety of places including hospitals, out-patient clinics, private offices, home health agencies, schools and fitness facilities, or skilled nursing facilities. Most full-time work a 40-hour week, which may include some evenings and weekends. This job requires standing and other movement for long periods of time, which also requires the PT lifting the patient to help them turn, stand, walk, etc. or lifting heavy equipment.


Physical Therapists normally earn an average salary of $80,000 per year; however, the more experienced the PT is, the more they will make as time progresses.

Academic Requirements

The requirement of being in school for a physical therapy degree is 6 to 7 years. In order to practice as a physical therapist, you must earn a master's or doctoral degree from an accredited physical therapy education program, and then pass a licensing exam. Before you can apply to a physical therapy program, you must earn a bachelor's degree. Most schools accept students with bachelor's degrees in any subject; however, it is important to take courses in areas including anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, statistics, and psychology. Once you have your bachelor's degree, you can apply to a PT program. There are two types of programs: master's degree programs and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs. More students choose the DPT programs. Both of these programs usually take about 2 to 3 years to complete. After completing your program chosen, you must pass a licensing exam approved by your state. Continuing education may be required to maintain your license, which usually involves taking professional development courses and workshops. The Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) and Master of Science in Physical Therapy (MSPT) degrees are no longer offered to any new students in the U.S.

Need to Know

One of the biggest things you need to know to become a Physical Therapist is understanding the interaction of all the parts in the body. You need to know all of the muscles, etc. and the right ways that they should be functioning.

Physical Therapy Schools in Pennsylvania

The top 5 Physical therapy schools in Pennsylvania are:

1. Temple University- Philadelphia

2. University of Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh Campus

3. Drexel University- Philadelphia

4. Duquesne University- Pittsburgh

5. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania- Slippery Rock

*A school that is very good and is only 40 minutes away from Ephrata is Lebanon Valley College (#17).

Suggested High School Subjects

11 Grade: English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Law & Government, Health & Physical Education

12 Grade: English, Algebra, Calculus, Anatomy & Physiology, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics, Psychology, Health & Physical Education

Places to Work in Pennsylvania

3 places to work for Physical Therapy in Pennsylvania are Lancaster Rehab, Lancaster General Health, or Westphal Orthopedics (Lancaster).

Pros and Cons Video

Physical Therapist Career Information : Physical Therapist Pros & Cons