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Physical Therapy

*An advanced degree is required to become a doctor of physical therapy.

physical therapy

Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants need strong interpersonal skills to successfully educate patients about their treatments. They should be compassionate and have a desire to help patients. They provide services that help restore function, improve mobility, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease.

Physical Therapists (sometimes called PTs) help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. They are often an important part of rehabilitation and treatment of patients with chronic conditions or injuries. The work of Physical Therapists varies by type of patient. For example, a patient working to recover mobility lost after a stroke needs different care from a patient who is recovering from a sports injury. Some Physical Therapists specialize in one type of care, such as orthopedics or geriatrics. Many Physical Therapists also help patients to maintain or improve mobility by developing fitness and wellness programs that encourage healthier and more active lifestyles.

Physical Therapist Assistants (sometimes called PTAs) work under the direction and supervision of Physical Therapists.

MCC’s Transferable Liberal Arts Associate of Arts Degree (AA)

Marshalltown Community College offers a 64-credit Liberal Arts Associate of Arts (AA) transfer degree. The AA degree transfers to Iowa’s Regent universities as well as the majority of private colleges and universities in the Midwest and beyond. The link under Degrees Awarded (below) specifies the program course requirements and electives.

Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State, UNI and Iowa

MCC participates in the Admissions Partnership Program with Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa to enable MCC students to transfer credits seamlessly to any of the Iowa Regent universities. Participants are dual-enrolled at MCC and the university with access to academic advising and student services at both institutions. The universities guarantee admission into the desired degree program, provided all requirements are met. Ask the MCC Admissions Office for more information!

Other MCC Advantages

  • Smaller class sizes with opportunities to know and network with professors on a personal level
  • MCC graduates have the lowest total debt on graduation of any Iowa community college
  • Generous Financial Aid and Scholarship opportunities

Physical Therapy Careers & Job Outlook

Education Requirements

Physical Therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. In addition, all states require Physical Therapists to be licensed.

In 2017, there were more than 200 programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, all offering a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. DPT programs typically last three years. Many programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission, as well as specific educational prerequisites (such as classes in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics). Some programs admit college freshmen into six- or seven-year programs that allow them to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree and a DPT. Most DPT programs require applicants to apply through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS).

Physical Therapist programs often include courses in biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. Physical Therapist students also complete at least 30 weeks of clinical work, during which they gain supervised experience in areas such as acute care and orthopedic care.

Physical Therapists may apply to and complete a clinical residency program after graduation. Residencies typically last about one year and provide additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. Physical Therapists who have completed a residency program may choose to specialize further by completing a fellowship in an advanced clinical area. The American Board of Physical Therapy Residency & Fellowship Education has directories of Physical Therapist residency and fellowship programs.

Licensure Requirements

All states require Physical Therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Several states also require a law exam and a criminal background check. Continuing education is typically required for physical therapists to keep their license. Check with your state boards for specific licensing requirements.

Career Information

Physical Therapists typically work in private offices and clinics, hospitals, patients’ homes, and nursing homes.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the 2017 median pay for Physical Therapists was $86,850 per year; the job outlook through 2026 calls for a 28% growth in employment, much faster than the average for all occupations. The 2017 median pay for Physical Therapy Assistants was $46,920 per year; the job outlook through 2026 calls for a 30% growth in employment (also much faster than average), which may provide a significant advantage to those with a college diploma.

You can find additional up-to-date information on the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook website:


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