Physical therapy aims to enhance the quality of life of patients through the assessment, evaluation and rehabilitation of a variety of anatomical and neuromuscular functions. Licensed physical therapists  commonly provide services in a variety of settings, including but not limited to hospitals, private clinics, school systems, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and community health centers. 

Physical Therapist (PT)

PTs are health care professionals who diagnose and treat individuals of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, who have medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. PTs examine each individual and develop a plan using treatment techniques to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. PTs may direct a team of Physical Therapy Assistants (PTAs) and aids or technicians to provide physical therapy services. 

PTs must complete an accredited Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) program by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and pass a state licensure exam. The length of a D.P.T. program is typically 2.5 - 3 years, and most D.P.T. programs require applicants to earn a bachelor's degree prior to admission into the program; therefore, students need to complete their bachelor's degree prior to beginning a D.P.T. program. Please note, JMU does not have a D.P.T. program; JMU's Pre-PT program does support students' preparation to become a competitive applicant to D.P.T. programs. You can learn more about PT education from:

Similar Occupations

Before confirming that you want to pursue becoming a PT, explore similar healthcare occupations. Below are some similar Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral-level healthcare occupations to explore.

Athletic Trainers (AT) ( | Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Audiologists ( | Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Chiropractors ( | Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Exercise Physiologists ( | Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Occupational Therapists (OT) ( | Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) ( | Occupational Outlook Handbook)

Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA)

PTAs work as part of a team to provide physical therapy services under the direction and supervision of the physical therapist. PTAs implement selected components of patient/client interventions (treatment), obtain data related to the interventions provided, and make modifications in selected interventions (either to progress the patient/client as directed by the PT or to ensure patient/client safety and comfort). You can learn more about a PTA career from:

PTAs complete a CAPTE-accredited two-year associate degree program that prepares graduates for taking the national licensure examination and entering the field of physical therapy with the required knowledge, skills, and behaviors of a PTA. Therefore, PTAs do not need to complete a bachelors degree; students can directly enter an accredited PTA associate degree program. You can learn more about a PTA education from APTA: PTA Education and find CAPTE-accredited programs on CAPTE's Directory of Accredited PTA Programs. You may also be interested in CAPTE's Directory of Developing PTA Programs. Please note, JMU does not have a PTA program, nor does the Pre-PT program support students' preparation to become competitive applicants to PTA programs.

After completing a PTA program, there are accredited bridge programs from PTAs to become a Physical Therapist (D.P.T.). However, PTA programs are not considered to be a stepping-stone to a professional D.P.T. program. The APTA reports that less than two percent of enrolled students were PTAs prior to enrolling in a PT education program.

Physical Therapy Technician or Aide

Physical Therapy Technician or Aide is not the same as a PTA. Aides and technicians are on-the-job trained and are not eligible to provide physical therapy by many payers, including Medicare.

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