What does a Physical Therapist do?

Physical therapists plan and execute rehabilitation programs to help patients return to a higher level of physical function after an accident or surgery. They will often also help to manage or lessen the pain experienced by someone stricken with a degenerative condition or terminal disease. Physical therapists help patients through a combination of physical activity, reflexology, massage and muscular and skeletal manipulation.

With an aging population the job outlook for physical therapists looks strong. So how do you become a physical therapist? Most have pursued a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree and all have obtained a state issued license to practice. Like many other professional licenses, a license to practice physical therapy usually requires continued education in the field to maintain certification.

  • Perform initial and ongoing physical therapy evaluations according to APTA standards of practice as well as state standards.
  • Develop Plan of Treatment for each patient based on initial and ongoing
  • evaluations including short and long term goals, collaboration demands of other staff members, and required patient and caregiver involvement.
  • Implement Plan of Treatment on a consistent schedule and adjust this schedule and plan according to patient progress.
  • Document patient progress according to approved medical documentation and facility documentation procedures.
  • Evaluate mobility, strength and current level of patient function, while setting goals to improve in these areas that are scaled to patient abilities and realistically attainable.
  • Report patient progress to patient, patient caregivers and loved ones, facility staff and healthcare professionals involved in ongoing treatment/care of patients.
  • Develop a plan for patients following completion of their Plan of Treatment with appropriate in-home care services.
  • Maintain professional and technical knowledge through attending educational workshops; reviewing professional publications, etc.
  • Assist other facility staff members as needed to provide care and create a clean, orderly and effective environment for rehabilitation and physical therapy.
  • Proven record of matching patient needs to treatment plans and proven record of implementing these plans safely and effectively.
  • Strong experience administering a wide range of physical therapy techniques not limited to: giving massages; applying physical agents; initiating traction; utilizing hydrotherapy tanks and whirlpool baths, ultraviolet / infrared lamps, and ultrasound machines.
  • Experience assisting and directing treatments given by aides, technicians, and assistants.
  • Knowledge of responsible use of facility equipment, best practices for equipment use and preventative maintenance procedures.
  • Experience with recommending assistive equipment to patients and outpatient or home health follow-up programs.
  • Experience with a wide range of patient age groups and injuries.
  • Knowledge of Occupational Therapy and an understanding of when these techniques can benefit patients.
  • A strong sense of empathy, a compassionate outlook on PT and the ability to motivate patients into pushing their limits in a responsible, safe way.
  • We are looking for someone with at least 2 years of experience providing physical therapy to patients in a fully equipped PT facility and who has the following qualifications:
    • BS or Master’s Degree in Physical Therapy from a physical therapy program approved by the American Physical Therapy Association
    • Current Physical Therapy license for state of operation.
    • Current Basic Life Support (BLS) certification (with AED).
EducationBachelor's Degree
Work/Life Balance
3.5 ★
Salary Range--
Career Opportunity
3.5 ★
Avg. Experience8+ years

Physical Therapist Salaries

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Physical Therapist Career Path

Learn how to become a Physical Therapist, what skills and education you need to succeed, and what level of pay to expect at each step on your career path.

Physical Therapist
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Physical Therapist Insights

Read what Physical Therapist professionals have to say about their job experiences and view top companies for this career.
CORA Physical TherapyCORA Physical Therapy
Physical Therapist
20 Nov 2020

“CORA talks about caring for everyone and I believe they truly try to do this.”

Lewisham and Greenwich NHS TrustLewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust
15 Jul 2020

“Management have cared about my development and have worked hard to keep me and I feel valued.”

Cayuga Medical CenterCayuga Medical Center
Student Physical Therapist
23 Nov 2020

“I felt well supported by the rehab team and I was given many opportunities to learn.”

University HospitalsUniversity Hospitals
Physical Therapist
8 May 2021

“The facility is newer (built within the last 5 years) so that's nice.”

Marathon Physical Therapy and Sports MedicineMarathon Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine
Physical Therapist
24 Feb 2021

“Marathon is a great place to start your career or continue as a clinician following previous experiences.”

Kaiser PermanenteKaiser Permanente
Physical Therapist
28 Nov 2020

“Great pay and resources for time spent”

Spectrum Healthcare ResourcesSpectrum Healthcare Resources
Physical Therapist
24 Mar 2021

“The best part of working here is being able to work with military members and their families”

Breathing Center of HoustonBreathing Center of Houston
Physical Therapist Assistant
5 Feb 2021

“Great team work and flexible when working with your schedule when needed.”

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Physical Therapist Interviews

Related Careers

Physical Therapy Aide
25% skills overlap
25% skills overlap
Occupational Therapist
63% skills overlap
Behavior Therapist
13% skills overlap

Physical Therapist jobs

Frequently asked questions about the role and responsibilities of a physical therapist

When working as a physical therapist, the most common skills you will need to perform your job and for career success are CPR, Excellent Communication, Computer Literacy, Written Communication and Critical Thinking.

The most similar professions to physical therapist are:
  • Physical Therapy Aide
  • Therapist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Behavior Therapist

The most common qualifications to become a physical therapist is a minimum of a Bachelor's Degree and an average of 0 - 1 of experience not including years spent in education and/or training.