How to Become a Therapist
Therapist Job Duties
Skills and Qualities of a Therapist
Therapist Salary
Influential Professional Therapists
Leading Organizations for Therapists
Top Cities for Therapist Jobs
Other Careers of Interest

How to become a Therapist

Therapists help people in need and are different from doctors in that they don't need a PhD in order to practice.

Most therapists work in hospitals or have their own private office. Some work in nursing homes, outpatient care centers, or in an actual physician's office if the doctor's specialty requires the skills of a therapist. Often therapists can be found teaching their trade to students in colleges and trade schools.

Therapists need a Master's degree from an accredited physical therapy program in order to practice and help patients. They also must have a state issued license which requires a passing score on the state's exam. Passing scores vary from state to state and the therapist's license is only good in the state that it was issued to them in.

Educational programs begin with basic science courses and progress into more specialized courses such as biomechanics and neuroanatomy as the program continues. Many schools demand prior volunteer experience in the therapy industry before considering admittance. Anyone interested in becoming a therapist is encouraged to get some experience either in a physical therapy department at a hospital, a nursing home, or even with a school athletic trainer.

What does a Therapist do?

Improving the way that a person can use his or her body is the main goal of therapists. They help their patients to find ways to relieve pain, restore function, and prevent further injury when healing from an accident or suffering from a disease. They look at their patient's medical history and strengths to come up with a treatment plan best tailored to their abilities and needs.

A therapist's patients usually include people who have been through an accident and those who have a painful condition like back pain, bone fractures, arthritis, and head injuries. They also may have patients that suffer from cerebral palsy and other diseases that affect motor skills and the ability to move the body.

Plans for treatment can include physical exercise, electrical stimulation, massage, balance and coordination routines, and showing patients how to use devices such as wheelchairs and crutches.

Therapists show patients who have been immobilized how to use their muscles again. They use different kinds of techniques to build flexibility, strength, and endurance in those who have lost their abilities. Their goal is to improve the quality of life for their patients and to help them enjoy their lives as much as possible.

If a therapist is employed full time, they usually work a normal 40 hour week, but some work different hours according to their patients' needs. Often the job can be physically demanding because therapists are sometimes required to work with bulky machines, stand or stoop for long periods of time, and lift objects in order to help their patients.

While most therapists work with patients who have all kinds of different problems, some have a specialized field of work. Pediatrics, geriatrics, orthopedics, and neurology are a few specialty areas a therapist may work in.

What skills or qualities do I need to become a Therapist?

If you are considering becoming a therapist it is best that you have a strong desire to help people. Compassion and understanding are a big part of the job. Many patients will not progress as quickly as others and their needs may be different. Therapists need to be comfortable talking with others, be able to explain to patients the procedures, and to share their knowledge with them.

All states in the U.S. require that therapists have a license. There is both a national test as well as an individual state test which varies from state to state. In order to work in a certain state a therapist must have licensure from that state and cannot work in another unless they take another test for that state. They must also graduate from an accredited therapist education program.

In order to keep up to date and be of the best aid to their patients, therapists must have a never ending desire to learn. Techniques are always changing, and new developments in science and ways to help their patients are being discovered every day. Therapists need to participate in continuing education programs and workshops throughout their careers in order to stay up to date on new procedures and ways to best help their patients.

How much does a Therapist make?

Therapist's earnings can vary greatly depending on where they work, how many patients they have, and the nature of their patients' needs.

In May 2006 the average salary for therapists was $66,200 per year. Most ranged in earning between $55,030 and $78,080 while the lowest brought in $46,510 per year. Some can earn up to $94,810 if they specialize in a field with high demand or have many patients.

The therapists that make the most money go directly to their patients and work with them in their homes. The remainder, the ones making mid range salaries, work in nursing homes, hospitals, or a physician's offices.

Who are some influential professionals in this field?

In 2007 Therapy Times, an online resource referenced by many top therapists in the U.S., released their list of the most influential therapists of the year. Topping the list was Noma Anderson, a PhD who became interested in therapy through studying Anne Sullivan, the woman who helped Helen Keller to overcome her disabilities. Anderson runs the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association and oversees all 127,000 of its members. Wendy Howard also topped the list with her breakthroughs in hand therapy. She works out of Honolulu and treats patients with triangular fibro cartilage complex.

What are some leading organizations in this field?

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is a national professional organization representing more than 72,000 members. If you want to be a highly esteemed and influential therapist you must be a part of this organization. Its goal is to aid in the advancements of physical therapy practices, research, and education.

Another influential group is the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association (ASHA). This group encourages the advocacy of its members to advance their professionalism and help those with communication disabilities so that they too can learn to communicate.

What are the top cities for Therapist jobs?

Jobs in the therapeutics field are expected to grow much faster than normal jobs because their skills are in high demand. Employment of physical therapists is expected to grow 27 percent from 2006 to 2016 and most of the jobs can be found where are they are most needed, in big cities. More and more jobs will develop as science and research continues to find new ways to help those with disabilities.

Therapists can find work wherever there are people in need. Since larger cities have bigger populations there are going to be the most patients. Cities like: Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Orlando are currently in the highest demand, but therapists can easily find people who need their help in any major city.

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