Four Helpful Steps When Preparing for a Physical Therapy Job

October 17th, 2017

As you are embark on your journey through physical therapy (PT) school and beyond, it’s important that you’ve set long term goals in relation to your career. Remember that this is an important time in your life where preparation is key in order to land your dream physical therapy job. You may find yourself asking the question, what should I be doing now to put me ahead of my fellow classmates and other candidates?

Read our steps below and what to consider when preparing for your ultimate goal, a physical therapy job.

1. Before PT School

Taking a step back, as an undergrad, you should be researching PT schools you’re interested in attending and prerequisites you need to complete and get good grades in. Typical prerequisites include: anatomy, biology, chemistry, statistics, algebra/trigonometry and physiology. Also consider a bachelor’s degree in health science, biology or physical education.

In addition, you’ll also need to get around 20-40 hours of observation in physical therapy settings you’re interested in (hospitals, clinics, etc.). Pick around 5-6 work environments to get observation hours. This is a great way to see what environments you like better than others.

Other things to consider when applying to PT school are preparing and taking the GRE and writing the application essays. Apply early to PT schools, talk with peers in PT school for additional advice and tour potential schools if you can.

2. While in PT School

At PT school, you’ll not only be working on your Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) but also preparing for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). It’s often helpful to prepare for the exam while you’re in “school mode” as it’s easier to apply what you’re currently learning to the exam. Plan on taking the exam after graduation.

The school/program you attend must also be CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education) certified in order to practice physical therapy down the road. Most programs take three years to complete, however some are a little less than that.

Lastly, on top of your education, be ready to again gain additional clinical experience with rotations in various physical therapy settings. Unlike you’re observational hours, you’ll get the experience and exposure and have a better understanding of what career you want to pursue after graduation and exams. Also, take the time to decide if you want additional training or are interested in completing a residency program after your graduate.

3. After PT School

After you graduate, you’ll next need to take and pass the NPTE that is administered by Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. This is how you’ll obtain your PT or PTA license. The test consists of 250 multiple-choice questions. Depending on where you take the exam, some state requirements also include a law exam and a criminal background check.

Keep in mind that in order to maintain your license you’ll need to meet the continuing education requirements every 1 or 2 years. As such, it’s vital that you stay up-to-date on current standards and care within the profession.

Before applying for a job, you may want to gain additional experience or become specialized in an area of physical therapy. You can do this through either a residency or fellowship. This typically lasts a year and can help you get all the necessary clinical hours needed to earn certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

4. Job Hunt

Once you’ve sent in applications it’s important that you research the hospitals/clinics and the departments that you would work in. Be sure to also prepare for the interview by practicing your answers and bring questions of your own to the interview. Be confident and don’t sell yourself short. Remember that all of your hard work will lead to a great career!

Again, as you go through the PT journey, make goals and don’t be afraid to change them when you discover what you are truly passionate about. And don’t forget to have fun! You’ll meet and learn from incredible people along the way and throughout your career.

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