Physical Therapist

Physical Therapist helping woman stretch her arms.

A career as a physical therapist (PT) allows you to work directly with patients to improve their movement and manage their pain. Physical therapists are often an important part of the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Physical therapists work with individuals of all ages, from newborns to older adults, who are limited by their abilities to move and perform essential activities in their daily lives. PT's examine each patient and then develop treatment plans using techniques designed to promote ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. In addition, PT's work with individuals to prevent the loss of mobility before it occurs by developing fitness- and wellness-oriented programs for healthier and more active lifestyles. They also play important roles in promoting health, wellness, and fitness to the public, as well as developing standards for physical therapy practice and ensuring therapy is available and accessible.

  • Percent Change in Employment, Projected 2018 - 2028 22%Physical Therapists

  • 13% Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

  • 5% Total, all occupations

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Outlook and demand

Demand for physical therapy is projected to grow due to the aging baby boomers generation, who are not only staying active later in life, but are susceptible to health conditions, such as strokes, that may require physical therapy. Physical therapists also treat people with mobility issues stemming from diabetes or obesity. Employers look for professionals who can:

  • Develop medical treatment plans
  • Analyze patient data to determine patient needs or treatment goals
  • Have close physical proximity and face-to-face interaction with others

Paths that can lead to this career

A Doctor in Physical Therapy degree is required for physical therapists entering into the profession, and all states require physical therapists to be licensed. Please note, this program is highly competitive and requires a national application and an interview process for admission. 

  • High School

    If you're currently in high school and interested in becoming a Physical Therapist you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

  • Undergraduate

    If you're currently an undergraduate and interested in becoming a Physical Therapist you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

    • Complete any bachelor degree from an accredited university, however it is recommended you take practical reasoning or logic courses, biomechanics or kinesiology and upper level biology (physiology).
    • Find opportunities to job shadow licensed Physical Therapists.
    • Study and schedule a time to take the GRE exam. UAB's code for the GRE is 7801.
    • Attend a PT information session hosted by the admissions committee and consult the admissions website for additional specific requirements
  • Graduate

    If you already have a bachelor's degree, did you take these types of courses?

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • English Composition
    • Psychology
    • Human/Mammalian Physiology

    If you're interested in advancing the field of rehabilitation in academia, government and policy sectors, or continue to practice in the industry with an advance knowledge of rehab research check out our Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Sciences program.

Job titles and employers

Did you know?

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program isranked 13thin 2020 U.S. News & World Report “Best Grad Schools.”

Physical Therapist

Top local employers/where our grads work:

  • Clinics
  • Private Practices
  • Hospitals
  • Home Health
  • Rehabilitation Facilities

To find out detailed salary information and more information on this career, you can explore the Department of Labor's O*Net database.

Organizations to check out for this career:

Next steps


Find out more information about the Doctor of Physical Therapy program.

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