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Career Services

Physical Therapy


What Can You Do With A Major In Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy is an art and science, which contributes to the promotion of health and prevention of disease through understanding of body movement. It has often been called "the cornerstone of rehabilitation," because the long trip back from injury or disease begins with physical therapy. Physical therapy is the prevention, correction and alleviation of the effects of disease and injury.

Typical Career Paths

  • Clinical Practice:
    • Acute care
    • Rehab/Subacute Rehab
    • Extended Care
    • Wellness and Prevention
    • Sports and Fitness
  • Management
  • Education
  • Research
  • Consultation
  • Specialties Include:
    • Pediatrics
    • Geriatrics
    • Sports Medicine
    • Orthopedics
    • Neurology
    • Cardio Vascular and Pulminary
    • Women's Health
    • Clinical Electrophysiology

Related Job Titles Include

(To research these titles and more go to: Occupational Outlook Handbook and see the related print resources in the Career Services Library.

  • Services Library
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Speech Language Pathologist
  • Audiologist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Teaching
  • Student Supervision
  • Physical Therapist Administrator

Typical Employers/Work Settings

  • Medical Center
  • Nursing Homes
  • Rehab Hospitals
  • Private Practice
  • Hospitals
  • Outpatient Clinics/Private Practice
  • Home Healthcare Agencies
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities
  • Sports and Fitness Facilities
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Physician Offices, Particularly Orthopedic
  • Hospices
  • Schools
  • Universities and colleges
  • Federal and State Government:
    • Department of Defense
    • Public Health Service
    • Veterans Health Administration
    • Indian Health Services

To Match This Major to Careers: Visit the What Can I Do With This Major Webpage

Skills Needed For This Career

  • have a strong science and math background
  • be motivated and have good work ethics
  • have good written and verbal communication skills
  • have the knowledge to administer treatments to improve patient's lifestyles
  • understand the needs and goals of patients
  • must be able to discern and comprehend dimensional and spatial relationships of structures
  • understand the basis and content of ethical physical therapy practice.
  • compassion, empathy, altruism, integrity, responsibility, and tolerance.
  • emotional stability to function effectively under stress
  • adapt to an environment which may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways.
  • process and communicate information on the patient's status with accuracy in a timely manner to physical therapist colleagues and other members of the health care team.
  • communicate effectively with patients and family, physicians and other members of the health care team.
  • capable of responsive, empathetic listening to establish rapport in a way that promotes openness on issues of concern and sensitivity to potential cultural differences.
  • assessment and management of movement disorders.
  • safely assist a patient in moving, for example, from a chair to a bed, or from a wheelchair to a commode.
  • ability to move him- or herself and the patient in three-dimensional space in order to perform motor function tests and treatments.
  • able to ensure the physical safety of a patient at all times.
  • ability to discern skin, subcutaneous masses, muscles, bones, joints, lymph nodes, and intra-abdominal organs (for example, liver and spleen). The student must be able to perceive the presence of abnormalities which are not within the musculoskeletal system, such as masses in the abdomen.
  • ability to take, and document in a patient's record, an appropriate history, and perform a physical examination. Such tasks require the ability to communicate with the patient and family. The student must also be capable of perceiving the signs of disease, especially neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction, as manifested through the physical examination. Such information is derived from observation and palpation of the body surfaces, palpable changes in various organs and tissues, and auditory information (such as patient voice and heart tones).
  • able to develop reasoning and decision making skills appropriate to the practice of physical therapy.

Beginning Salary Range:

From the Spring 2008 NACE Salary Survey (National Association of Colleges and Employers) Entry Level with a Master's Degree $66,000

Links to Professional Associations

American Physical Therapy Association

Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy "The Web Space"

American Occupational Therapy Association

American Health Information Management Association

American Medical Technologists

Society of Nuclear Medicine

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs

Holland Codes

Physical Therapy - Social; Investigative; Enterprising (SIE)

Career Action Plan

  • Conduct and informational interview or shadow a professional in this field
  • Gain experience through internships in a healthcare setting
  • Join student clubs associated with health
  • Get involved in volunteer work or community service to gain experience
  • Join a Professional Association
  • Develop leadership skills on-campus (RA, Peer Advisor, Presidential Envoy, Student Government, etc. )
  • Gain research experience by working with a professor or faculty member on their research