To become a certified physical therapist you are required to obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited program. While the training in most programs is thorough and will prepare you to start working, there are a few things that you can do while you are still an undergraduate student to ensure that you will be eligible for the best physical therapy jobs. Whether you are just starting your undergraduate career or are already pursuing your undergraduate degree, make sure you do the following things if you want to get a well-paying job as a physical therapist.
Major or Minor In a Physical Science
To be accepted into a physical therapy program, you do not need to major in a science. However, most physical therapy students have completed a degree in biology, exercise science, psychology, or a similar science. These majors allow you to easily complete your required prerequisites for entrance to the program of your choice and help prepare you for more in-depth study of the physical body during your graduate studies. This early preparation can make you more competitive when it comes to internship and residency placements, which will in turn make you more competitive when applying for jobs.
Volunteer at a Physical Therapy Office
The extensiveness of your experience will affect your ability to get a job after graduation. Even in the first years of your undergraduate studies, you can volunteer at a local hospital or physical therapy center. This will give you the skills necessary to get internships before beginning your graduate studies.
Complete Several Different Internships
Once you are eligible to complete internships, you may be tempted to do so only at centers where you hope to get a job someday. However, your undergraduate years are a good time to try out several different styles of physical therapy. Not only will this help you narrow down your interests, but it will also help you show potential employers that you know what you want and you have a reason for applying for a specific position in their center.
Keep Your Grades Up
In 2011-2012, the average GPA for students accepted to physical therapy programs was 3.52. To get into a competitive program, it will be important that you have a high GPA from your undergraduate studies. Admissions will look at your GPA, test scores, as well as your current volunteer or internship experience. Getting into a competitive program puts you in the lead for the most desirable jobs each year. However, even if you cannot get into a more competitive program, there are ways to develop your skills after you complete your DPT that will allow you to apply for more competitive positions in the future. For example, you can take a continuing education course or you can specialize in a less popular area of physical therapy.
Get a Well-Rounded Education
Although being a physical therapist will require extensive knowledge of the human body, it also requires other basic skills in patient service. A physical therapist that can earn the trust of their patients and make a connection with them will often be more successful than physical therapists who only concentrate on the physical aspects of the job. To make sure you are prepared for the interpersonal aspects of physical therapy, consider taking more courses in psychology, communication, or business management during your undergraduate career.
If you are thinking about becoming a physical therapist, there are several things that you can do during your undergraduate career that will carry over into your graduate studies and, eventually, make you a more competitive candidate for physical therapist jobs.