How to Become a Physical Therapist: A Career Guide


Are you thinking about becoming a physical therapist?

You’ll be able to make a difference in the world, while also earning a comfortable living.
But if you want to make it in a competitive job market, you’ll need to outline your career path from day one. To help you out, we’ve created this short guide all about becoming a physical therapist.

This article will walk you through the best steps to take; starting from high school all the way to job placement. What’s the best way to learn how to become a physical therapist? Read on to find out.

Starting in High School

In high school, take courses that will support your future career. For instance, biology, anatomy, mathematics, and physiology are all good choices.

High school biology will allow you to study basic concepts about cell functions and human body systems. Anatomy will take a deeper dive into the human body. Physiology takes a close look at bodily functions such as metabolism.

The more you can prepare yourself in high school, the better off you’ll be! If you’re just starting out after high school, no worries. You can learn how to become a physical therapist at almost any age, as long as you’re willing to go to college.

Get Your Bachelor’s Degree

You’re going to need a bachelor’s degree to become a physical therapist. It’s uncommon to find a college that offers a degree solely focusing on physical therapy. Instead, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree as a prerequisite to get into an advanced physical therapy program.

Not sure what to study? You’ll be happy to know that your bachelor’s degree doesn’t have to be directly related to physical therapy. All you need is a bachelor’s degree that’s in a health-related field or a subject that’s applicable.

Here’s a shortlist of the type of bachelor’s degrees you should consider pursuing:

  • Metabolic sciences
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Endocrine sciences
  • Anatomy

In addition to the list above, kinesiology and neuroscience are also great options to prepare for physical therapy jobs. Other softer skills, such as cultural competence or management skills, can also help pave the road to your success.

You can even look into courses such as clinical reasoning, evidence-based practice, and ethics. To make sure you’re staying on the right path, talk to a school advisor. There are also success groups like, who help individuals specialize in physical therapy.

Let them know that your long-term goal is to become a physical therapist and determine if your current classes align with that goal. Explore whatever relevant programs the school offers, and find out if there are any sister school programs you might qualify for as well.

Shadowing Physical Therapy Jobs

Did you know that shoulder manipulation techniques date back as far as 3,000 years? It’s amazing how far surgery techniques have come. However, patients’ recovery success still depends on a well-thought-out physical therapy routine.

Reading about helping patients is good, but it’s not enough to become skilled at it. You need the opportunity to observe or shadow a licensed physical therapist.

Is shadowing mandatory? Not all physical therapy programs will require you to shadow someone. However, whenever you can find the opportunity to shadow, take advantage of it.

You’ll be able to learn behind-the-scenes information that textbooks simply can’t provide. Not to mention shadowing an expert means that you’ll be able to build your credibility much faster. During your observation hours, you’ll be able to learn soft and technical skills.

As you watch a licensed physical therapist interact with other patients, you’ll get a chance to take on a few of the responsibilities yourself. It’s normal to help with patient movement or preparation during the shadowing hours.

Patient movement includes things like helping them get out of the bed or into a vehicle. You also get hands-on experience working with a variety of medical conditions as you encounter each new patient.

Find Your Calling

We find that some of the best observation opportunities take place in fitness centers or hospitals. Next, there’s acute care, home health, pediatrics, and geriatrics, orthopedics, sports, cardiovascular and pulmonary, and even neurology.

Sign up for observation hours in various departments. By exposing yourself to various areas, it’ll be easier to narrow down your preferred career choice. Depending on where you wind up completing your observation hours, you could wind up finding your calling in life!

Perhaps you work really well with children or women, or maybe geriatrics is where you shine. You won’t know if you don’t put yourself out there, so don’t be afraid to switch it up. Be patient with the process, and soak in whatever you can learn from each patient encounter.

Let the licensed physical therapist you’re shadowing know that you’re willing to be as hands-on as possible. Observing is great, but getting first-hand experience will help you build your confidence.

Salaried Physical Physical Therapy Careers

Where do you see yourself working as a physical therapist? When choosing a career path, if you don’t see yourself working in a healthcare clinic, consider taking up one of the many non-clinical jobs available.

You could become a research associate and help perform experiments for different projects. If you have a passion for teaching, you could become a professor.

If you like competition, consider becoming a medical device sales representative. Of course, if your focus is more on the service side of things, consider becoming a wellness manager.

As a wellness manager, it’ll be your job to curate programs for organizations. The programs would emphasize fitness and health objectives.

Know-How To Become a Physical Therapist

Now that you know how to become a physical therapist, decide what the first step is for you. Do you need to enroll in school to get a bachelor’s degree? Do you already have a degree and need to sign up for observation hours?

Take the first step towards your dream job today, and watch as a bright future unfolds.
If you’d like more tips for building a bright future, we’re here to help. Go ahead and see what the rest of our website can do for you.