Careers for Physical Therapists
There are many types of physical therapists, all of which are highly in demand. If you enjoy helping people and are interested in how muscles and joints work, here are some possibilities for what you might be able to become with a degree in physical therapy.
Orthopedic Physical Therapist
Orthopedic physical therapists are probably what most people think of when they think of physical therapy. Orthopedic physical therapists deal with patients’ musculoskeletal systems to help them regain mobility, strength, and range of motion after injury or surgery. Treatment is usually in the form of supervised and prescribed exercises, but can also include electricity, heat, ice, and submersion in water. Some orthopedic physical therapists specialize even further to serve particular populations, like athletes or car accident victims.
Geriatric Physical Therapist
This branch of physical therapy deals specifically with the elderly and the specific health problems they face that may limit movement. Geriatric physical therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, or in patients’ residences as home health care providers. They are trained to deal with the ailments of aging like osteoporosis and arthritis as well as helping elderly people recover from injuries and surgeries.
Pediatric Physical Therapists
Like with the elderly, it takes specialized training to provide physical therapy to children and teenagers. Children born with birth defects and health problems often rely on pediatric physical therapists to help them learn mobility.
Cardiovascular and Neurological Physical Therapists
Cardiovascular physical therapists work with patients who have heart problems or are recovering from heart surgery. Neurological physical therapists work with patients suffering from neurological problems injuries that may impact mobility, like stroke or multiple sclerosis. They also help patients who have brain and spinal cord injuries recover functions.
Occupational therapists are more involved in diagnostics than actual treatment, although there is a great deal of overlap between occupational therapy and physical therapy. Occupational therapists help people with mobility problems or injuries gain independence in their daily lives. They help them organize their spaces around what they can do and assist in life skill development. For example, an occupational therapist working with a recent amputee might assist in helping him redesign his kitchen and teach him ways to cook safely.
Physical Therapist Assistant
While many careers in physical therapy require at least a master’s degree to practice, a physical therapist assistant can begin work with as little as an associate’s degree. Physical therapist assistants usually work under the supervision of a physical therapist in a clinical or hospital setting. Earning an associate degree in physical therapy is a great way to get real-world work experience and find out if you want to further your education in the field.