Physical Therapy Education

Physical Therapist Education Requirements for 2021

It’s a question we get asked around here a lot: What does it take to become a physical therapist?

And once we answer that question, we often get more questions, like: What continuing education requirements do physical therapists have to get to renew their licenses? How many CEUs do they need to get in order to renew their license? How often do licenses need to be renewed? Who offers high-quality PT CEU training?

Some of those questions are basically variations of the same question, but you get the idea. We get a lot of questions about how to become a physical therapist. So let’s get to it.

What does it take to become a physical therapist?

First, it helps if you want to help people. You are, after all, managing patients’ pain and improving their mobility. You’re helping people live lives that have less pain in them, which has to make any PT sleep well at night.

But if that somehow doesn’t appeal to you, obviously, you’ll want to find something else. It isn’t all glamorous either, of course. There’s a lot of paperwork and insurance to deal with, though even if you own your practice someday, you’ll likely have most of your staff handling all or much of that.

It’s a growing field, too, which should be encouraging to anyone thinking of going into the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 18 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for physical therapy is expected to come from aging baby boomers, who are not only staying active later in life but are susceptible to health conditions, such as strokes, that may require physical therapy. In addition, physical therapists will be needed to treat people with mobility issues stemming from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or obesity.”

To get into this exciting field, you need a bachelor’s degree, ideally in a related major such as health science or physical education.

After that, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that you’ll need to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education-accredited physical therapist education program, which usually lasts three years. Then you’ll need to pass a state licensure exam. To get that license, you’ll need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).

What if, all of that studying, I don’t pass the National Physical Therapy Examination?

Good question. First, if you’ve been really studying and applying yourself, you probably have nothing to worry about. But if you don’t pass, you simply take it again. You have six chances to pass it, though if you wind up getting a super low score twice, you wouldn’t be allowed to take it again. Apparently, the thinking is that anyone can have a bad day and do poorly on an exam. If you have two bad days, maybe you should seek out a new profession.

What are the physical therapy education requirements? In other words, what specifically is a physical therapy student studying?

We sort of glossed over that, didn’t we? Well, when you’re getting your bachelor’s and your DPT, it really depends on the university you attend, but typically you’ll take classes in human anatomy, biomechanics, pathology, cardiopulmonary studies, therapeutic exercise, patient management, and certainly the musculoskeletal system and neurological dysfunction management.

You also, as you get closer to graduating with your DPT, may take on an internship, perhaps working at a clinic and engaging with patients.

I just landed on this page, looking for information on CEUs, and I just realized that your website is Hands-On Diagnostics. What is Hands-On Diagnostics?

Well, first, welcome, and glad to have you here.

Secondly, Hands-On Diagnostics is a healthcare organization specializing in helping physical therapists. Our mission is to establish the physical therapist as the provider of choice for electrophysiological, neuro-musculoskeletal ultrasound imaging, and vestibular testing technologies.

In other words, if you’re a physical therapist with your own practice, or a PT looking to start a practice, we feel that if you invest in a Hands-On Diagnostics membership, we’ll vastly improve your practice’s ability to treat more patients — and to become more profitable, since you’ll be able to bill insurers far more money than conventional physical therapists who don’t utilize diagnostic testing.

OK, so back to CEUs. What continuing education requirements do physical therapists have to get to renew their license?

There is no one organization like, say, APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) that makes those decisions. It depends on the state you live and will work in, and the differences between them are all over the map.

But first, let’s explain a little lingo. Some states refer to the training you receive after you get your degree and when you are a physical therapist as continuing education units (CEUs), and other states call them contact hours. They’re the same thing, but contact hours are equal to 50 to 60 minutes of continuing education class.

So, as we were saying, every state is different in what they require. In Delaware, it’s required that you have 30 PT contact hours (3 CEUs) every two years, with a renewal date of January 31, in odd-numbered years.

In Idaho, you will need 16 PT contact hours every year, with a renewal date that lands on the last day of the licensee’s birth month.

Kansas requires 40 PT contact hours every two years, with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years but reported in odd-numbered years).

You get the idea, hopefully. The CEUs or contact hours you need depend on your state.

Who offers high-quality PT CEU training?

As you may have already guessed, Hands-On Diagnostics and its affiliates offer comprehensive training. Thousands of physical therapists and healthcare professionals around the globe have received certifications and CEU credits for numerous diagnostic tests.

In fact, Hands-On Diagnostics and its affiliates are the only organizations on the planet that offers a fellowship in musculoskeletal sonography and a residency in clinical electrophysiology.

We have numerous courses of all types — from virtual to live courses, online courses, and hybrid courses. In addition to the Fellowship and Residency programs, you can get your Mastery Certification in Manual Therapy, take a course in Myofascial Trigger Point & Proprioceptive Therapy, and participate in the Dry Needling Certification Program. That’s just a few of the courses we offer. If we gave you all of them here, we’d be here all day. But this link leads to all of our education services if you’re interested in checking it out.

Thanks. So how much do physical therapists make?

Of course, that’s what everyone wants to know. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2019 was $89,440.

That’s pretty good, of course, but Hands-On Diagnostics can make a physical therapist’s salary go far higher. Billing always goes up after a private physical therapy clinic becomes a Hands-On Diagnostics member. Typically, a physical therapist goes from billing $70 to $100 per patient’s session to $550 a session.

Which helps, because continuing education units — whether you get them through Hands-On Diagnostics or somewhere else — aren’t cheap. But at least when you have a Hands-On Diagnostics membership, you’re making enough of a salary that paying for additional CEUs will feel like simply the cost of doing business instead of how many physical therapists likely feel — that it’s a bit of a cruel joke, having to shell out money for continuing education when it becomes harder and harder to get insurance to pay physical therapists what they’re worth.

In any case, if you’re intrigued by the idea of becoming a Hands-0n Diagnostics member, we hope you’ll give us a call or send us an email.

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