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California State University, Long Beach
Department of Physical Therapy
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The Field of Physical Therapy

What does it mean to be a physical therapist?

Physical Therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who assist patients with mobility problems and with the prevention of mobility problems. They examine each patient, evaluating findings and developing a plan of care to promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability. Physical therapists also promote health and wellness and serve as administrators, educators and consultants.

Physical therapists examine patients using observation, effective communication and special movement tests including physical function tests. They use critical thinking skills to clinically reason and evaluate patient function in many environments, demonstrating attitudes of integrity, compassion and concern for others, as well as cultural competency during practice. The patient's plan of care designed and performed by the physical therapist includes exercise, movements, assitive devices and activities that may be challenging for the patient. The physical therapist adheres to prinicples of patient modesty and safety in all situations of care. Because of these job requirements, physical therapist must be able to perform certain Essential Functions.

Physical therapists provide care in hospitals, private practices, out-patient facilities, home health agencies, schools, work settings, skilled nursing facilities and sports and fitness facilities.

What do physical theapists earn?

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) reports that the median salary for the 184,000 physical therapists licensed in the US today is $80,000.

What are the licensure requirements of a physical therapist?

After successful completion of an entry-level physical therapist degree from an accredited program, including successful completion of all clinical education requirements, candidates must pass a state-administered national exam. The California exam covers the practice of physical therapy and the state's laws governing physical therapy.


What is the employment demand for physical therapists?


The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that need for physical therapists will grow 39% from 2010 to 2020. U.S. News & World Report considers physical therapy as one of its "Best Jobs 2012". The projected growth is driven by an increasing need for healthcare services, especially among aging baby boomers.

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the unemployment rate is 0.2%, the lowest rate since 1997.

The California Employment Development Department expects a 28.8% increase in need for PTs between 2008 and 2018. The expected increase for Los Angeles County is 35.6% (1,520 more jobs) and for Orange County 27.2% (460 more jobs).