Occupational, respiratory, and physical therapists are an integral part of recovery from many types of injury, working to increase movement and decrease pain. They also assist those recovering or living with from stroke, cerebral palsy, amputation, arthritis, or neurological disorders. Finally, they work with many people injured through sports or exercise.
There are a few online DPT programs where most of the coursework can be completed from the convenience of your home. As a physical therapist (PT) with a doctoral degree, you will find yourself in high demand with an aging baby boomer population. This career field offers job security and lucrative pay, plus the chance to interact with patients and help accelerate their healing process. The market for PTs is expected to explode, with employment opportunities growing 34% through 2024, much faster than average. Pay is also quite acceptable, with median pay around $85,400.
THE CAREER PATH
To become a physical therapist, you must earn an advanced degree—the doctor of physical therapy degree (DPT). As such, there is no formal undergraduate degree in physical therapy. However, you can pursue a pre-physical therapy—or pre-PT—degree. This course of study is designed to prepare you for advanced learning in this field. Online pre-PT degrees usually emphasize biology, kinesiology, rehabilitation and anatomy. The next step is to earn a DPT from an accredited school. DPT programs take about three years to complete. Some schools offer a six or seven year program that allows students to graduate with both a bachelor's and a DPT.
You'll then be able to take the National Physical Therapy Examination to pursue licensing to work as a physical therapist. After passing, you can work as a PT or enter a residency program for more training. As a licensed physical therapist, you can practice in hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation facilities and in private homes. You may work with specific populations or the general public. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 40% of physical therapists work for a health practitioner. This degree also offers flexibility in hours, with part-time work definitely being an option.
Online physical therapy assistant (PTA) programs are also available in a blended format and are usually offered by online community colleges. PTA programs are generally associate degrees and take two years to complete. PTA salary is almost as handsome as a physical therapist at $56,610.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Compassion, attention to detail, and the ability to work almost exclusively with their hands are necessary traits or any physical therapist or physical therapy assistant. The ability to stand for many hours is also important. Finally, be prepared to work with all types of peope coming from all types of injury or illess.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Advanced physical therapy degree programs are highly technical in nature. You'll study musculoskeletal disorders, medical therapeutics and biomechanics. Expect classes in neuroscience and assessment procedures. Classes will also cover rehabilitation methods for a variety of ages. Extensive internships will be a major part of this program.
Programmatic accreditation is available and required in order to sit for licensing. Enroll only in an online physical therapy program accredited through the Comission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) if you intend to become a licensed physical therapist. Due to the hands on nature of physical thereapy there are no 100% online CAPTE accredited programs but there are blended options available. These programs require certain aspects of the education to be completed in person but the majority of courses will be completed in a distance learning format.
Online DPT programs can cost upwards of $100,000. Online PTA programs are more affordable (due to the shorter length and complexity of education) and cost between $15,000 and $50,000.