Interested in exploring the field of physical therapy?  Do you want to learn more about different physical therapy occupations, salaries,  education requirements and the schools available to prepare for them?  Do you want to find out the difference between physical therapist aides, physical therapist assistants and physical therapists?

The following provides a brief overview to help you learn more and search for physical therapy schools in your area or online.

Physical Therapy Occupational Descriptions

Physical therapy  professionals are a vital part of the health care team. They work alongside other members of health care teams to help injured or ill patients improve their movement and manage their pain. Physical therapy involves using physical methods such as  manipulation, traction or exercise  to assess, diagnose and treat injury, disability or disease.

Physical therapists examine and evaluate the patient, determine a diagnosis, prognosis, and plan of care.  Physical therapist assistants work under the supervision of the physical therapist and perform components of physical therapy procedures involved in the direct care of the patient.  This includes observation, helping patients with exercises, stretching or other therapies and educating the patient about after-treatment care. Physical therapist aides perform tasks indirectly related to patient care, such as cleaning and setting up the treatment area, moving patients, and performing clerical duties.

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Physical Therapy Occupational Outlook

The physical therapy occupational outlook is good in that it is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist employment is expected to grow 34 percent from 2014 to 2024.  Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 41 percent from 2014 to 2024. Similarly, employment of physical therapist aides is projected to grow 39 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Physical Therapy Salaries

The median annual physical therapist salary was about $84,020 in May 2015.  The median annual physical therapist assistant salary was about $55,170 in May 2015.  The median annual physical therapist aide salary was about $25,120 in May 2015.

Physical Therapy Schools

Physical therapist schools include programs offered at colleges and universities. Physical therapist assistant schools include programs offered at technical, community colleges, and colleges. Online physical therapist assistant schools also offer courses to satisfy some of the non-clinical requirements.  Physical therapist aide schools that offer physical therapist aide certificates or physical therapy aide diplomas include community colleges, technical schools and for-profit online physical therapy aide schools. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education offers accreditation.

Physical Therapy Education

Physical therapist education requires earning an accredited 3 year Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, passing a national licensing exam and meeting state licensing requirements. Physical therapist programs can include courses in biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. Typically at least 30 weeks of clinical work is required.

Physical therapist assistant education generally requires earning an accredited 2 year associate's degree,  passing a national exam and also meeting state requirements. Physical therapist assistant courses may include algebra, English, anatomy, physiology, and psychology. Assistants also gain hands-on experience during supervised clinical work and may earn certifications in CPR and other first-aid skills.

Physical therapist aide education may be done on the job, through employers clinical on-the-job training, through physical therapy aide certificate programs and online courses.  Applicants with computer skills are valued.

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