What does a physical therapist do?

Physical therapists evaluate, plan, and administer physical therapy programs to restore function, relieve pain, and prevent disability following disease, injury, or loss of a body part. Physical therapist assistants help administer tests and treatment programs under the direction of physical therapists. Physical therapy aides perform routine tasks to assist the physical therapy team.

What might a physical therapist do in a workday?

  • develop individualized physical therapy programs for patients based on referrals from physicians, a review of medical records, examination, and evaluation of the patient.
  • administer therapeutic exercises to improve or maintain muscle function.
  • instruct and motivate patients.
  • administer treatments involving light, heat, water, and electricity.
  • evaluate the effect and duration of interventions and make any needed adjustments.
  • perform soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization.
  • administer traction to relieve neck and back pain.
  • instruct patients and families in physical therapy procedures to be used at home.
  • train patients to use prosthetic and orthotic devices and recommend modifications.
  • interact and practice in collaboration with a variety of professionals, including physicians, social workers, nurses, psychologists, and other therapists.
  • work with employers to prevent on-the-job injury and to facilitate the return to work of injured employees.
  • facilitate functional recovery in patients after suffering a stroke.
  • facilitate motor development in children in the school system.
  • help heart patients regain full quality of life.

How much does a physical therapist earn?

  • $55,000 - $75,000 (therapist)
  • $30,000 - $50,000 (assistants)
  • $15,000 - $25,000 (aides)

How do I become an occupational therapist?

Students interested in becoming physical therapists should take challenging high school courses in science, math and English.

To be a licensed physical therapist, a student must have a Bachelor of Science Degree with associated prerequisites or either a master’s or doctoral degree from an accredited school. Licensed physical therapist assistants must graduate from an approved two-year college program for physical therapy assistants and pass an examination. Physical therapist aides require a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training from their employers.

Where else can I learn about becoming a physical therapist?

Virginia Physical Therapy Association
1111 N. Fairfax Street / Alexandria, VA 22314
tel:  (800) 999-2782, ext. 3235 / web:  www.vpta.org

American Physical Therapy Association
1111 N. Fairfax Street / Alexandria, VA 22314-1488
tel:  (703) 684-2782 or (800) 999-2782 / web:  www.apta.org

State Licensure Requirements for Physical Therapists:

A license is required to practice as a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant in the state of Virginia. For more information on licensure, applications, and forms, visit www.dhp.virginia.gov/physicaltherapy.

Virginia Board of Physical Therapy
Perimeter Center
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300 / Henrico, VA 23233
Phone: (804) 367-4674 / Email: ptboard@dhp.virginia.gov

Educational Institutions in Virginia for Physical Therapists: