5 Different Career Paths

November 20th, 2017

Thinking about career options when it comes to physical therapy? A degree in physical therapy can lead to job opportunities in various work environments. From outpatient clinics to private practices, hospitals and hospice care, there are many options when it comes to pursuing your career as a physical therapist.

Furthermore, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist careers are projected to grow 25% from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Because of the aging baby boomers, physical therapists will be in high demand in the years to come.

Below are five different types of physical therapist career paths you can take.

1. Traditional (Orthopedic)

In this field, physical therapists treat a patient’s musculoskeletal system. Physical therapists in this career often treat patients suffering from sports injuries, arthritis, fractures, sprains, or those recovering from orthopedic surgery—basically, any injuries or disorders to the musculoskeletal system.

In addition to diagnosing a patient, physical therapists will also create treatment/exercise plans for the patient to complete. Treatment methods in orthopedic physical therapy include stretching, endurance exercises, electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, hot and cold packs—to name a few. Typically, those in this career field work in an outpatient setting.

2. Geriatric

Physical therapists in this field treat the aging population and the health issues they face. They often treat patients suffering from balance disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. As such, physical therapists create treatment plans to help patients maintain balance and mobility, reduce pain, and increase their overall fitness. Those that work in geriatric field may work in an outpatient, hospital or hospice setting.

3. Pediatric

Treating infants, children and adolescents, physical therapists in the pediatric field diagnose and create treatment plans for conditions that affect the bones, muscles and joints. Physical therapists create treatment plans to help patients build their gross and fine motor skills, endurance, and improve balance.

In addition, physical therapists may also treat children with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida and those with developmental delays. Pediatric physical therapists can work in a variety of job settings.

4. Cardiopulmonary

In this field, physical therapists treat patients that have suffered from cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions, including heart attacks, COPD, cystic fibrosis and post-myocardial infarction. Treatment plans focus on helping increase the patient’s endurance and improve functional independence. Physical therapists may also treat those that have had cardiac or pulmonary surgery. Cardiopulmonary physical therapists can work in a variety of job settings.

5. Neurological

Physical therapists in this field focus on treating neurological impairments and conditions. They typically treat patients suffering from: Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injury. Treatment plans created by physical therapists focuses on improving balance, muscular strength, vision and improve areas a dysfunction caused by paralysis—all in order to help patients live as independently as possible. Neurological physical therapists can work in a variety of job settings.

Lastly, there are physical therapy professions—such as working for a staffing firm—that allow you to travel around and work in a variety of settings. This is a great option for physical therapists who want to work with all kinds of patients.

No matter what physical therapist career you choose, be sure to participate in internships and gain clinical hours in job settings you would like to work in down the road.

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