Inside Physical Therapist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Helping People Is Hard...
I was surprised to find that it is a difficult job. I must instill an effort in some people to want to improve themselves, not as easy as it sounds." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Indiana, male
School: Studied Physical Therapy at Indiana-Purdue University in Indiana; completed Bachelor degree in 2007

"Specialty Allows Greater Focus...
I was surprised how diverse physical therapy could be. I would highly recommend specializing such as pediatrics, post-op ortho, acute care, neurological, or sports rehab." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Texas, female
School: Studied Physical Therapy at Texas Tech University in Texas in 2011

"I was surprised to learn how few people actually realize what an Athletic trainer does. Most people confuse this profession with a personal trainer at the gym." (Athletic Trainer; 2013)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, female
School: Studied Athletic Training at Upper Iowa University in Iowa; completed Bachelor degree in 2001

"I was surprised that there were so many young people I got to work with. I assume I'd be mostly working with the elderly. However kids and young adults get hurt too." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Pennsylvania, female
School: Studied Physical Therapy at Penn State in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"The Way That Machines Have Changed To Help The Children To Do Different Activities...
The things that bother me the most is the unconcern that a lot of parents have. They tend to drop their kids off and not even ask how well they have done for the day." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

Career: , female
School: Studied Occupational Therapy at University Of Phoenix in Arizona; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Nutrition And Bodybuilding As A Physical Therapist...
I was surprised to find that as a Physical Therapist, I would be spending so much time on developing new techniques and programs helping patients recover from accidents. Good understanding of bodybuilding and nutrition is a major skill in this career." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, male
School: Studied Master Of Occupational Therapy at University Of Washington; completed Master degree in 2012

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Physical Therapist: "The best part of the job has been the variety of settings I can work in, the flexibility of many jobs, and the many wonderful people I have met. The worst job has been dealing with the ever changing rules and regulations for health care reimbursement and the tremendous amount of paperwork required that takes away from patient care." (2011)

Physical Therapist: "The best part of my career is seeing patients return to full function and be successful after injuries. Many of my patients are younger and involved in the middle of a sports season. These folks are usually anxious to get back to playing. It makes me very happy to see these patients return to the field and help contribute to their team. One of the worst parts of the job is seeing patients who do not make a full recovery, which is very heartbreaking. I also do not enjoy the extensive documentation that comes with the job as I would rather spend time with patients." (2011)

Physical Therapist: "I especially enjoy working with people in their homes because they are more relaxed and their personalities come out. I get to meet their families and pets and watch someone who is frightened and weak and sick become strong and confident and independent again. They tell me stories about their younger days which are often very interesting. I am often the difference between whether someone can stay in their home or have to be put in a nursing home" (2011)

Physical Therapist: "The best part of my job is getting to work with the patients one-on-one. I am able to find out what things are important to them so that we can tailor their physical therapy to meet these goals. I love seeing their progress each day. The patients become my friends and it is rewarding to see them succeed. The worst part of the job is trying to see the patients in between their tests or their appointments with other healthcare workers. It is also hard to see them fail medically, which affects their therapy. Sometimes, patients are really resistant to therapy and it is hard to always stay positive to motivate them when they'd rather lay in bed all day." (2010)

Physical Therapist: "The best part about the jobs is that you're helping people. They come to physical therapy because they're in pain or because they're unable to do things they used to. When you are able to help them increase their function or decrease their pain, it is very rewarding. They worst part about the job is the amount of paperwork that's required." (2010)

Physical Therapist Assistant: "The best part of my job is working with the children and coming up with fun and new activities to achieve the goals we have set for them. I also enjoy being a part of a "team" which has the same goals of helping the children thrive and achieve their greatest potential. The worst part of my job is the paper work. There is a lot of state and federal paperwork for publicly funded programs. It's inescapable and very time-consuming." (2010)

Physical Therapist: "It can be a lot of fun working with patients and it is definitely very rewarding to see them getting better. Patients are almost always very grateful when you help to relieve their symptoms and guide them back to a normal lifestyle. By far the worst part of the job is the paperwork we have to do to document our work. Insurance companies are difficult to work with and try to deny authorization for patients' treatments. For the most part, any job in health care is stressful because the stakes are high when someone's health is in question and the demand for consistently high quality work is unceasing." (2010)

Physical Therapist: "The best part of the job is helping people help regain their independence. If a patient is admitted with a fracture, I receive a great deal of satisfaction from providing him with the tools he needs to get up and walk. I also enjoy the daily interactions with the doctors. The worst part of the job is the restrictions insurance companies place on health care. Every recommendation for safe discharge can only be carried out if the insurance company agrees to pay for it." (2009)

Physical Therapist: "The best part of my job is having a patient enter our clinic in pain and discouraged and leaves with less pain and a new and optimistic outlook. I also like meeting people and making new friends. The worst part of my job is the legalities I have to be aware of: the constantly changing rules and insurance regulations. Also, it is not good when a patient has a bad attitude and doesn't want to cooperate with me or perform the home exercises." (2009)

Career Background

Physical Therapist

  Job Tasks
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  How to Prepare for the Job
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Career Video

Career Tips

"Be Prepared For Tough People...
Be prepared to be faced with some tough folks and stay up for the challenge because you'll both be better people in the end." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

"Do's And Don'ts...
Please work on being compassionate and not overly compassionate. This will cause problems when trying to deal with the children." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

"Most Satisfying Career...
Being a physical therapist is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying jobs. It's a delight watching patients improve and achieve milestones. All of that hard work from school will pay off in an excellent profession." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

"Building The Right Program For Patients...
Make sure you know how to develop an effective diet program for a wide variety of patients. Also much sure, you understand the differences between muscle building, strength training and crossfit. As you will run into many patients who have no idea what the differences are and how they can potentially transform your body and health in a positive way." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

"Intern Early...
Do an internship early on. This will help you decide whether the career really is good for you." (Physical Therapist; 2013)

"Maximize Hands-On Training...
Get as much hands-on experience as you can in school. The more injures you exam and rehab will make you much more marketable." (Athletic Trainer; 2013)

"Check Out Various PT Environments...
Volunteer in various settings (rehab, outpatient PT depts, schools) to see all the avenues a PT can work in. Spend time with athletic trainers to observe a "healthy" athlete and learn valuable splinting/taping techniques. Take CPR. The more medical information you can have going into a program the easier it will be for you to work with people." (Physical Therapist; 2011)

"Spend A Day In A PT Office...
Tip 1: Be very well rounded in high school to make sure you are able to get into a physical therapy program. Taking difficult high school science classes will be beneficial to you when you enter college. Tip 2: Observe a day in a physical therapy clinic. This is very easy to arrange and it will give you an idea of what a therapist does. This will help you decide if the career is a good fit for you. Tip 3: After entering the physical therapy program, make sure that you are actually learning the material and not just memorizing it. The information you learn is very important and your patients will benefit most if you truly take the time to study in school." (Physical Therapist; 2011)

"What It Takes To Become A PT...
Physical Therapy is a very competitive field and it is necessary to get good grades all through high school and college. It would be helpful to take many science classes and colleges look for involvement in extracurricular activities. At present, a master's degree is required to become a Physical Therapist and a Doctorate is now being encouraged. It would help to do volunteer work at hospitals or nursing homes to see if you enjoy being around and working with people who are sick and handicapped." (Physical Therapist; 2011)

"Be Devoted To Patients...
Make sure that you are committed to devoting yourself to caring for people who are hurting and who don't feel well. Most people in the hospital are at their worst because of pain or illness, and you need to have a thick skin when they hurl insults at you or are completely unmotivated. Study the nerves, muscles, and bones well. Know how disease impacts the body. Be clear on how physical therapy can improve them." (Physical Therapist; 2010)

"Intern In A Variety Of Settings...
Volunteer in a hospital if you are considering physical therapy as a career. It will allow you to see if you like the hospital setting. It will also give you some patient contact experience which will be helpful during many of the courses you take. Choose a variety of settings to do your internships; hospitals, rehab hospitals, nursing homes, schools, out-patient sports clinics, and home care are just a few that you can choose from. Once you begin internships or a new job, don't be afraid to ask questions. This is a job where experience brings knowledge. Take advantage of experienced co-workers and you will become a better therapist for it. Lastly, practice empathy. Choosing to work in healthcare is a commitment to service. Patients need to be cared for, mind and body. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that patients are people in the midst of all the demands of your fast paced schedule. Always remember that patients are patients because they need your help to get them better." (Physical Therapist; 2010)

"Shadow A PT...
I would recommend shadowing a physical therapist or assistant for a day to see if this is a vocation you would like to pursue. There are so many different types of settings that PTs can work in, including hospitals, home care agencies, out-patient clinics and schools. If you have an interest in rehabilitation and therapy, look into schools in the area that have an accredited PT course. The programs are very competitive and rigorous and getting in is hard. A very strong biology and general science background is recommended for the best chance of entering the program of your choice." (Physical Therapist Assistant; 2010)

"Shadow In Multiple Practices...
Definitely try to observe in multiple offices. There is a wide variety of experiences from in-patient in hospitals to out-patient to nursing homes, pediatrics, and even home care. Each is unique, and most therapists are very willing to let students observe and teach about what we do. You need a strong background in biology and physics, and if an anatomy and physiology class is available it would give you a good head start." (Physical Therapist; 2010)

"Advice For PTs...
First, you need to take as many science courses as you can. Biology, chemistry, and physics are especially helpful and a psychology course wouldn't hurt. Next, you need to perform volunteer work in a hospital or private clinic. Try to observe different sites (inpatient, outpatient, schools, health clubs). Also, it is important that you be flexible. No two days are ever the same and you need to be able to adjust and make quick decisions. Therapists need to be personable and possess good clinical reasoning and communication skills." (Physical Therapist; 2009)

"Get Practical Experience...
1. You have to love people to do this job, greeting people with a smile on your face and encouraging them at every opportunity. You need to see yourself as a patient advocate. 2. In school, you just have to jump through the hoops in order to have the career you want. That doesn't mean you have to love every class; just get through them. Get a tutor if necessary to get A's. 3. Amass experience by volunteering and taking tech jobs. The more you are around physical therapy, the more natural it will feel." (Physical Therapist; 2009)