Becoming a Physical Therapist in Pennsylvania – PA

Physical therapists are important members of the health care community offering rehabilitative services to those individuals suffering with a specific injury or disease. These professionals work in a variety of settings so you must adapt well to changing situations if you wish to pursue a career in this field. The minimum requirement currently to practice as a physical therapist across the country is a Master's degree, but it is expected that a doctoral program will likely be the entry-level requirement in the future. Following are the steps one should take to become a physical therapist in Pennsylvania.

How to Become a Physical Therapist in Pennsylvania

To become a physical therapist in Pennsylvania, first, earning your high school education is crucial, as is the case for nearly all practicing medical professionals. High school also grants you the opportunity to volunteer with the athletic trainers in your school and learn more about what roles a physical therapist can play. Your grades in high school are important as well, since they will determine your entrance into the college or university of your choice.

In college you should have take an extensive load of courses in human anatomy, biology, health, chemistry, psychology and statistics. Majoring in a health related field would be most advisable as you will have many foundational courses that will be pertinent to your further education. College grades, much like high school, are a major factor in determining where you are accepted into a Master's program in physical therapy.

While you are in college it is very important to spend time as a volunteer. One of the best ways to do this is to serve as a physical therapy assistant for an athletic club or some other organization that could use your help. The time you spend as a volunteer will be beneficial to you as you learn about the different pathways your chosen career could take. On top of that the admissions officers reviewing your application into a Physical Therapy Master' or Doctoral program will favor you as a result of that experience. 

Once you have completed an undergraduate degree you can then pursue a Master's or a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. Currently a Master's degree is the minimum requirement for anyone wishing to pursue a physical therapy license. The American Physical Therapy Association's (APTA) website states that the organization hopes to see all entry level physical therapists gaining doctoral level degrees by the year 2020. Either way you choose to pursue your education toward a degree in Physical Therapy it is important to realize that this career path is not for the faint of heart. No matter where you seek your training, the education and clinical experiences necessary are rigorous.

During your post baccalaureate educational time span, clinical experience is also required. Different programs requirements for the clinical portion vary slightly but you can expect to spend no less than 40 weeks working as an intern/extern towards completion of your education.

After completion of your education and clinical practice you should then be prepared to take the examination to become licensed as a Physical Therapist in Pennsylvania. You will first take the National Physical Therapy Examination. Application for that examination is available through the Pennsylvania State Board of Physical Therapy.

Finally you must take an examination through the Federation of the State Boards of Physical Therapy  (FSBPT), which will grant you a Certificate of Authorization. Basically this certificate is the ongoing proof that you remain a competent, practicing physical therapist as you advance through your career.

Your license will expire each even numbered year in Pennsylvania and you must present proof of continuing education to be granted a renewal certificate of authorization.


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