Saint Joseph's University student assistant a person with a physical therapy exercise with a ball

How to Become a Physical Therapist

Information and resources to help you decide if a career in physical therapy is right for you.

Physical Therapy Students working on an exercise on a ball to maximize core strength and balance.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapy (PT) is focused on treatment to an injured area of the human body. A physical therapist will use various forms of movement including exercise, stretches and massages to stimulate the muscles with the goal of relieving pain, improving movement and strengthening the weakened area.

What is the Difference Between PT & OT?

Before deciding to become a physical therapist, you may be wondering what is the difference between physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT). Physical therapy aims to improve movement, strength and range of motion in the body whereas occupational therapy focuses on the ability to improve fine motor skills to allow the patient to complete daily tasks. A physical therapist focuses on one issue in the body, as opposed to an occupational therapist who helps treat the whole person, including their social, emotional, and physical well-being. Additionally, physical therapy is a form of rehabilitation to prevent further injuries or long-lasting effects to a specific part of the body. 

What is the Average Salary for a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapists make a median annual salary of $91,010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How to Become a Physical Therapist?

To become a physical therapist, you will need to earn an undergraduate and graduate degree, as well as pass the licensure exam. It can take an average of six years to become a physical therapist. 



Step #1:
Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree

If you are interested in a physical therapy career, you earn a bachelor’s degree in anatomy, exercise science, biology or health sciences or a direct-entry physical therapy program.


Step #2:
Earn a Graduate Degree

After receiving your bachelor’s degree, choose a 2-year Master of Occupational Therapy or a 3-year Doctor of Physical Therapy to complete your graduate degree.



Step #3:
Get Certified

Once you receive your undergraduate and graduate degrees, you need to pass the licensure exam in order to become a practicing PT.

Physical Therapy Students working on an exercise.

What Job Opportunities are available for a Physical Therapist

Physical therapy was ranked one of the top 10 best healthcare professions in the U.S. and was named among the top 30 best jobs overall by U.S. News & World Report. With a Doctor of Physical Therapy, you can become a movement specialist and have the option to work in patient care, academia, research, the government or health care administration. 

PTs can practice in a number of diverse environments, including:

  • Inpatient and outpatient clinics and healthcare facilities
  • Home health care
  • Sports medicine clinics
  • Fitness facilities
  • Schools
  • Research centers
  • Private practice

Want to Learn More?

If you’re looking for a top-ranking Physical Therapy program, look no further than Saint Joseph’s University. Saint Joseph's last cohort of DPT graduates boasted a 97% pass rate on the national licensure exam. Students in our PT programs will also take part in physical therapy research, which is unique among many physical therapy programs today.