Physical therapy schools around the country prepare students for a successful career as a physical therapist, physical therapist assistant or physical therapy aide. Training programs typically involve both hands-on and classroom training, and many students learn practical skills on the job. Physical therapists must have at least a Master's Degree in order to enter the field, so most schools offer several types of masters or doctorate degree programs that have been accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association.

Attending Physical Therapy Colleges

Physical therapists learn how to work with patients who have been injured, and part of their job is to show patients how to work through pain and improve strength. Much of the work that they do is hands-on, as they are required to guide the patient through different exercises and movements. Physical therapy colleges prepare students for these roles with a combination of classroom and hands-on training.

Physical therapy schools around the United States offer comprehensive master's and doctorate degree program that are built upon several core courses, including biology, physics, anatomy, physiology, chemistry and calculus. Once a student enters the Master's degree program, they will need to complete an internship where they can work directly with patients and get feedback about their process from an instructor. The one-year internship is mandatory for all Master's degree students, and students are typically not allowed to work at another job while completing this portion of their training.

Attending Physical Therapy Assistant School

For many people, the first step towards becoming a physical therapist is to complete training at a physical therapy assistant school and then proceed to complete a Master's in Physical therapy. If you decide to attend a physical therapy assistant school instead of a four-year college, you will be granted an Associate's Degree in Physical Therapy upon graduation. The assistant is responsible for working with patients who are suffering from various types of injuries and conditions, but the assistant performs his or her work under the direct supervision of a licensed health care worker and licensed physical therapist.

The typical school teaches students the following:

  • Implementing treatment programs under the direction of a physical therapist
  • Communicating information about the patient to healthcare team members and patients
  • Participating in patient education under the direction of the physical therapist
  • Performing appropriate data collection skills
  • Learning about different types and categories of injuries, including brain injuries, developmental delays, cardiac pathology and sports injuries

Programs at Physical Therapist Schools

Programs range from associate in science degree programs to doctorate degree programs. If you are interested in serving as an assistant before furthering your educational career, you can complete a two-year associate's degree program and then apply for a four-year bachelor's degree at an accredited college. After you have completed a bachelor's degree, you can apply for a two-year Master's Degree program and complete at least one year of your training in the form of an internship.

Some schools offer both a direct entry and a transitional master's degree program in physical therapy. A direct-entry degree is designed for students who have completed a bachelor's degree in the field and want to start their career as a physical therapist. The transitional master's degree program is designed for those who have a physical therapy bachelor's degree but want to advance in their education and work towards a doctorate degree.

Doctorate degree programs are designed for those want to pursue research or advanced positions in the field. This program takes about three years to complete.