The High Demand for Physical Therapists

Physical therapists can deal with pain.

They fix or improve everything from back and neck aches to ankle sprains or knee problems. They can even help patients with arthritis or asthma. Name any health problem, and chances are there's a physical therapy treatment you could try.

That's partly why this is a great career choice. People demand solutions for problems that result from injuries or disease. Physical therapy offers non-surgical, drug-free treatment.

Aches and pains caused by disabilities and illnesses are a reality of an aging population. That increases the demand for these services.

"There will be an increased demand for physical therapy in geriatrics, nursing homes and home and community care as the population ages," says Signe Holstein. Holstein is the executive director of a physical therapy association.

Another reason there may be more demand for physical therapy is that technological advances allow doctors to save newborns with severe birth defects more often than in the past. "For those infants, it's important that they get treatment early on," says Statton.

"I would anticipate that the present demand will continue for about 20 years," says Diarmid McVicar. McVicar owns a physical therapy center.

Close to half of physical therapists work in hospitals. The rest work out of private offices, in community or industrial health centers, in sports facilities, nursing homes, schools or pediatric centers, rehabilitation centers or home health agencies. Others work in research institutions or teach in colleges and universities.

It's good if you gain experience in specialty areas where the demand is high. In some areas, for example, physical therapists with experience in neurology and pediatrics are in short supply.

Physical therapists spend some time stooping, crouching, bending, kneeling and even lifting. They stand for long periods of time. Sometimes they move heavy equipment and physically move patients by lifting or turning them, or assisting them to stand or walk.

"Many retire early in this profession because it tends to be a physically demanding job," says Statton.

A huge part of the job is educating patients about their treatments. You need to have interpersonal skills and a desire to help people.

Physical therapists typically work 40 hours per week, sometimes evenings and weekends. Many work part time.

You'll need a four-year degree from an accredited program. Another option is to get a four-year degree in another field and then complete physical therapy training at the master's or doctoral level.

Physical therapist graduates must also pass a national exam before they can work. To practice, physical therapists must be registered with state regulatory boards.

The prospects for work in this field are strong. The pain of getting into physical therapy as a career could definitely be worth the gain!


American Physical Therapy Association
An excellent comprehensive site

Injury Evaluation and Treatment
For those interested in athletic injuries

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