If you've decided that you want to pursue a career as a physical therapist, you may have wondered how long the training program typically takes. Many students interested in this career path ask the question, how long does it take to become a physical therapist? The answer depends on the level of education you decide to complete, and whether you plan on specializing in a particular type of physical therapy. For example, someone who decides to complete general studies in physical therapy and obtain a master's degree and then become licensed will need fewer years of educational training than someone who decides to get their license after a doctorate degree in physical therapy.
All physical therapists must have completed at least a master's degree in order to sit for the licensing examination, so you will need to complete at least four years of college-level training to get your undergraduate degree before you can apply for a physical therapy degree program at the master's or doctorate degree level.
Training to Become a Physical Therapist
The training program and educational career of a physical therapist varies only slightly from state to state. Students who are interested in finding out, how long does it take to become a physical therapist may turn to their admissions advisor or academic advisor to discuss an educational track that will help them meet their goals. The length of your training will depend on whether you decide to practice immediately after getting your master's degree and license, or if you continue your education and pursue research or advanced studies in the field.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) provides the latest information about educational and training requirements for physical therapists, and also outlines continuing education and professional development opportunities for licensed physical therapists. No matter how much training you have had in the field, or what type of degree you hold, you will need to take continuing education credits to keep your license.
How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Physical Therapist?
In most cases, it takes seven years or more to become a licensed physical therapist. The first four years of training are completed at the undergraduate level in health, science or a related field. The next three years are towards a master's degree plus one year of studies in a doctorate degree program. Some students may choose to stop their education after getting a master's degree but may choose to specialize a particular field for one year, get more work experience, or take advanced courses to improve their career prospects.
Students who choose to enroll in a doctorate of physical therapy degree program may end up adding one or two additional years to their educational career. These programs typically involve at least one or two years of clinical work and give students a chance to work on larger projects and gain valuable research experience in their field.
When you're wondering how long does it take to become a physical therapist, consider what your career objectives are and whether you want to pursue research studies or specialize in a certain type of physical therapy practice. These factors will determine how long your educational track will be, and how many additional years of schooling you will need to fulfill your degree requirements.