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Physical Therapist

Career Overview: Physical Therapist

Physical therapists work with patients to help restore physical function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and generally improve disabilities. They work with stroke victims, with people who have suffered back injuries or injuries to the limbs, with patients who have chronic pain problems and with those who have been debilitated by diseases such as cerebral palsy.

A physical therapist works up a patient history by measuring strength, degree of mobility, range of motion, muscle performance, posture and respiratory response to physical endeavor. Based on the evaluation, the therapist devises a treatment program that may include supervised exercise, ultrasound or electrical stimulus, use of equipment that isolated muscle groups and hot or cold compresses. Physical therapists also work with patients who have newly acquired prosthetic devices.

Required Education

A physical therapist must have a masters degree from an accredited program and must pass both a state exam for licensure. The masters program generally takes two years and involves extensive clinical training. Some programs require volunteer experience in a physical therapy clinic before they will consider admission.


There were approximately 175,000 physical therapists working in 2007. Sixty percent worked in hospitals or in physical therapy offices. The balance worked in home health care environments, outpatient facilities and doctors' offices.

Job Outlook

Job growth for the physical therapy profession will be much faster than average overall job growth. The increasing elderly population will drive much of this growth, providing increased need for both cardiac and physical rehabilitation.

Salary Range

Lowest 10%  $23.33  $48,530
Median Salary  $33.54  $69,760
Highest 10%  $48.12  $100,080

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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