Physical therapists, or PTs, work with patients to diagnose and treat medical problems. They often work with patients who have injuries or illnesses that impair mobility. Physical therapists tailor fitness and wellness programs to suit each patient's needs. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of physical therapists was projected to increase 30 percent, from 185,500 in 2008 to 241,700 by 2018. As of May 2008, the median annual wage was $72,790.
Enroll in an undergraduate program. You may choose a physical therapy program, which is designed to prepare you for your post-graduate PT education. Or you may enroll in a college that does not offer this program, in which case you may major in an area such as exercise science or biology.
Meet with your undergraduate adviser to ensure that your course load will allow you to meet the prerequisites necessary for a physical therapy post-graduate program. The requirements for these programs will vary, but expect to need courses in biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry and medical terminology.
Improve your chances of getting accepted to a physical therapy program by maintaining an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.45, as recommended by the American Physical Therapy Association. APTA also recommends volunteering as an aide in a physical therapy office. Obtain letters of recommendation by physical therapists at your volunteer position, as well as letters from your science teachers.
Contact APTA to obtain a list of graduate programs accredited by its Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Apply to your selected school by filling out the application and sending requested information, such as your letters of recommendation and transcript.
Complete your post-graduate education. Expect a master's degree program in physical therapy to take about two years to complete, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and to include courses such as diagnostic procedures, therapeutic interventions and neuroscience. Physical therapy programs combine lab and classroom instruction with clinical experience.
Obtain your license to practice physical therapy in your state. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Contact the FSBPT to arrange to take the exam. The FSBPT offers study materials on its website, including a practice exam with analysis of areas that you should review before the test.