Students interested in physical therapy can approach the field in a number of ways. Undergraduates will typically enroll in a pre-physical therapy Bachelor's program in kinesiology, rehabilitation, and occupational therapy, physiology or sports science. After college you can pursue several career paths as a physical therapist, working in like hospitals, nursing homes, private practices and academic environments institutions.
Professional Physical Therapy Organizations
The following organizations are excellent resources for students who wish to apply for academic funding and professionals seeking new career opportunities. Some of these associations are nearly a century old, and they have built impressive social networks across national academic and professional communities. These groups can also be excellent resources for continuing education after you graduate from college.
- American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) - This professional society was founded in 1921, and it has grown to a membership of over 88,000 physical therapists and students. Educators can nominate students and peers for honorary academic membership. Students can also apply for merit-based funding, such as the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award and the Minority Scholarship Award. APTA members gain access to an exclusive database of job listings, career development events, patient care research and payment reform articles.
- Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) - The FSBPT is a national licensing agency that administers physical therapy exams and issues professional credentials on a state-by-state basis. Students can log on to this website to apply for a state physical therapy license, review study materials and handbooks and request practice exams. Current professionals can apply for membership to gain access to continuing education materials, networking events and the official FSBPT magazine.
- Pi Theta Epsilon - This pre-medical honors society is dedicated to recognizing academic achievements within the fields of physical therapy, medicine, pharmacy and dentistry. Like the APTA, this society was also founded in the early twentieth century, established in 1926 by Dr. Sidney Mitchell. Students can apply to scholarship opportunities such as the Virgil Tweedie award for $5,000, the Jackson Scholarship for $2,500 and the AED Recognition scholarship for $1,000.
- Alpha Eta Society (AES) - This is another academic honors society that recognizes academic achievements in the allied health fields. As of 2014, AES has grown to encompass 79 chapters with over 25,172 members. This honors society hosts national meetings once a year to present undergraduate and graduate students with awards celebrating their academic achievements.
Open Physical Therapy Courseware
The following courses are a sampling of undergraduate and graduate level courses pertaining to physical therapy. Some of these courses emphasize anatomical knowledge, while others guide you through movement exercises and rehabilitation techniques.
- Deep Tendon Reflex Examination and Evaluation - This class is provided by Wayne State University's Department of Health Care Sciences. It will help prepare students for lab work and patient care, specifically with reflex intensity and how it affects physical performance. This online course includes 21 videos of sample physical exams, anatomy diagrams and a quiz section.
- Introduction to Clinical Pain Problems - This is a graduate course provided by Tufts University, which is based in Somerville, Massachusetts. The instructor team includes faculty members like Jane Ballentyne, Wilfred Hynes and Daniel Carr. Students will learn about how pain is managed in today's medical community, and how professionals can better understand the characteristics of pain to resolve them. The lecture notes can be downloaded as text documents or in presentation slide format.
- Physical Intelligence - This is an undergraduate course taught by Noah Riskin and hosted by MIT. Enrolled students are asked to participate in physical exercises and activities, so that they can observe kinesthetic learning tendencies and how people develop strength, endurance and balance. These observations can then be applied to future work with patients.
Open Access Physical Therapy Journals
These academic and professional journals can give students insight into the various specialties within physical therapy studies. Research articles and book reviews can help you gain further clarity before you pursue a graduate degree or career.
- Journal of Physical Therapy (JPT) - This is a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal that caters to an international audience. The first issue of JPT appeared in 2010, and the editorial board includes professors from India, Canada, Australia, the United States and China. This periodical welcomes research articles and reviews that pertain to rehabilitation and physical therapy. The JPT website also includes a calendar listing upcoming international physical therapy events such as the International Association for the Study of Pain convention.
- Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation (PTR) - The PTR journal accepts research submissions about several physiotherapy topics such as clinical rehabilitation, electromyography, kinesiology and geriatric physical therapy. Authors may submit their work free of charge. The editorial board is composed of faculty members from the Institute of Care and Research in Italy, George Mason University in the United States and the Federal University of Minas in Brazil.
- Physical Therapy Journal - This is the official journal of the APTA, a professional organization mentioned earlier in the first section. Readers can access PDF format archives of this periodical dating back to 1980. The print edition of this journal is circulated to over 80,000 readers. This highly respected journal earned 4th place among all rehabilitation publications due to its level of influence.
- Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy (JNPT) - Readers can access JNPT's archives and view all of the issues printed from 1992 onward. Before 2003, this periodical was called the "Neurology Report." The editorial board accepts academic research submissions that pertain directly to neurologic physical therapy topics, including comparative trials, case studies, special interest papers and systematic reviews. The special interest papers can pertain to new technology and transitional research that affect the neurologic physical therapy profession and academic community.
Physical Therapy Books
Many of these books serve as technique guides to help identify pain sources and mobility challenges within patients. Make sure to consider the types of patients you'll be working with before you invest in these books, as some of them are written specifically for the treatment of athletes or geriatric patients.
- Pathology and Intervention in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation - This well-known textbook for aspiring physical therapists covers anatomy from head to toe, common types of pain, nonsurgical intervention techniques, pathology diagnosis and muscle diseases. This textbook is great for visual learners, since it is packed with over 700 illustrations, photos, CT scans and MRIs that present examples of introduced concepts.
- Kinesiology for the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation - This 725 page volume, by Donald Neumann, is an in-depth resource for students exploring kinesiology, physical therapy and rehabilitation. The text covers subjects such as biomechanical principles, mastication, upper extremities and the axial skeleton. This is the perfect book for students and professionals who must diagnose and help patients recover from movement disorders.
- Improving Functional Outcomes in Physical Rehabilitation - This is a very direct, practice-driven guide to physical rehabilitation techniques, available in both digital and print formats. Authors Susan O'Sullivan and Thomas Schmitz delve into identifying and addressing geriatric mobility issues and pain sources. Exercises and movements are depicted with color photos and illustrations. Some readers recommend this book to help prepare students for upcoming physical therapy board exams.
- Movement: Functional Movement Systems, Screening Assessment, Corrective Strategies - This book is available in both digital and print formats. Author Gray Cook is a physical therapist who specializes in Olympic coaching, movement pattern screenings, conditioning and preventing sports injuries. This is an excellent resource for physical therapist who wish to work with athletes.
Online Physical Therapy Magazines
There are several digital physical therapy magazines that showcase new technology and techniques within various specialty fields. Some of these publications enjoy a high level of readership, especially if they are released in both print and digital format. News features can provide students with research and project inspiration.
- Today in PT - This online news source is run by the mass media and communications company, Gannett. Users can find job listings and breaking news updates, and find continuing education courses with the extensive databases hosted on Today in PT. You can also sign up to get a copy of the free ezine sent to you via email. Today in PT also publishes a print magazine, with a target audience of physical therapy professionals living within the United States.
- Your Therapy Source - This monthly digital magazine is published by Your Therapy Source, a New-York based physical therapy supply retailer and educational resource. New articles are posted with the interactive "issuu" web app, which allows you to view each page in detail on your web browser.
- Pathways Magazine - This quarterly publication can be downloaded in PDF format directly from the website. Pathways was founded in 1979 in Washington D.C. and is dedicated to health, wellness, environmental justice and metaphysical features. This publication also has a print edition with a readership of 40,000, as of 2014.
Physical Therapy Blogs
Get an idea of what it's like to work full-time as a physical therapist by reading the following blogs. Students might be surprised by the variety of legal, medical and business considerations you have to make to own your own practice or work with a larger organization.
- PT and the City - Blogger Lisa Mueller writes about her personal experiences as a professional physical therapist in Milwaukee. She is one of the voices in the Advance Healthcare POV blog network, which gives students the opportunity to see what kinds of daily tasks and struggles healthcare professionals face. Mueller details her own approach to diagnosing mobility issues and working with geriatric patients.
- In Touch Physical Therapy Blog - This blog is run by Harrison Vaughan, a professional physical therapist based in Virginia. He writes about various treatment techniques for various injuries, including RTC tears, thoracic compression fractures, repetitive stress injuries and lumbar pain.
- The Fit Stop - This can be a great resource for physical therapy professionals who work directly with sports-related injuries. This blog, run by Fitness Magazine, covers home workout tutorials, conditioning how-tos and recovery tips. This blog can also help you keep tabs on fitness celebrity news and workout fads.
- WebPT Blog - This is the official blog of WebPT, an electronic medical record software that was specifically designed for physical therapy patients and health practitioners. This blog covers the business aspect of running a physical therapy practice, with features covering marketing tips, tech advancements, record organization guides and leadership techniques.
Who to Follow on Twitter
Connect directly with noteworthy physical therapy experts, tweet questions and keep an eye out for breaking industry news with the following accounts. Twitter can serve as an excellent academic resource, rife with scholarship application reminders, professional development opportunities and expert interviews.
- @mobilitywod - Mobility expert Kelly Starrett brought physical therapy and myofascial release concepts to a much broader audience when he introduced his mobility workout of the day in the popular Crossfit workout system. He regularly posts workout tips and recovery techniques for active audiences and office workers on his Twitter account.
- @mikereinold - Mike Reinold is a physical therapist dedicated to sports medicine, with a particular interest in movements used in baseball. He regularly interacts with Twitter users who have comment and questions. Reinold frequently posts news and tips on sports injuries and treatments.
- @APTASA - This is the official Twitter account for the APTA Student Assembly, a section of the APTA that is dedicated to providing current college students with learning resources, scholarships and debt management tips. They regularly post about upcoming physical therapy conferences, award opportunities and industry news.
- @PTThinkTank - This Twitter feed is continually updated with physical therapy career news, tech updates, academic research links and noteworthy interviews. PT Think Tank also has a blog that regularly posts community chat topics, podcasts and lectures about patient care and movement disorders.