Careers in Healthcare: Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy & Therapy Assistant

Physical Therapy treatment must be provided by either a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant. Physical Therapists are medical professionals who are trained to examine, evaluate and treat a vast array of problems in people of all ages. They provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. They restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health. Physical Therapists practice in a wide variety of settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, homes, schools, and on the job. The minimum educational requirement is a post-baccalaureate degree from an accredited education program. While many programs offer a master’s degree, a growing majority of programs offer the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. All physical therapists also are required to take a national examination and be licensed by the state in which they practice. In order to maintain their license, a physical therapist must complete continuing education courses.


The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) is a healthcare professional who assists the physical therapist in the provision of physical therapy and may perform physical therapy interventions selected by the supervising physical therapist. The physical therapy assistant works under the direction and supervision of the physical therapist. Physical therapy assistants must complete a two-year educational program to earn an associates degree. In the state of Illinois, physical therapy assistants must take an examination to become licensed to practice, and they must complete continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.

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