How to Become a Physical Therapist in Pediatrics

Physical therapy is a demanding, but highly rewarding career. You are in a position to actively affect change within your community, to help others, and to provide your patients with both long term and short term care. You are empowered to literally change lives for the better.

Pediatric physical therapy is an important part of that role. And specialists in this particular branch of physical therapy work with younger patients, helping children who have suffered injury, are afflicted with chronic pain, or who have developmental issues, to deal with and move past those issues. It’s an immediately rewarding kind of work, and one whose effect can be felt in both the short term and the long term.

To become a physical therapist in pediatrics means, specifically, working with children experiencing developmental disorders, children experiencing neurological, musculoskeletal, and/or cardiopulmonary afflictions. It means dealing with everything from chronic pain to cerebral palsy. And you are able to specialize as you see fit within pediatric physical therapy.

Because pediatric physical therapists work with children, and cover so much ground in terms of the illnesses with which they work, it is advisable to acquire as much training in the other four branches of physical therapy before moving into pediatric physical therapy. However, if you intend to specialize in the pediatric equivalent of one of the other branches of physical therapy it might be advisable to study exclusively in that vein.


But, of course, in addition to academic study it is important to have clinical experience. Most Undergraduate programs require you to either have already acquired, or acquire while studying, some form of clinical experience. The easiest, and in many ways best, exposure to clinical physical therapy is as a volunteer. This will also afford you the opportunity to learn to work comfortably with children. This field can be especially hard for those who cannot stand to see children in pain.

Many physical therapists who work in pediatrics also spend a fair amount of time taking advanced or continuing education courses to make sure that they keep up with developments that affect their field of practice.

But before you can begin to practice as a pediatric physical therapist, you first need to earn your degree – an Undergraduate Degree at least. Taking a BSc, or Bachelor of Sciences, is always an excellent way to ease into practice as a pediatric physical therapist since it will give you a grounding in all the subjects you will need in your work. From there you can undertake a Graduate Degree, specializing in pediatric care as a physical therapist.

Three excellent choices when looking to undertake a Graduate Degree specializing in pediatric physical therapy are:

  • The University of Delaware
  • The University of Iowa
  • The University of North Carolina

Once you have acquired your Graduate Degree (from these institutions, or any other accredited institution), you need to apply for your license to practice as a physical therapist. Your license is acquired at the State level, and licensing as a physical therapist often requires at least two types of exams. Your license to practice must be renewed every two years, and constant study on the changes to the physical therapy profession is advised, as the exams change to reflect changes to the law and practice.

The career path of a pediatric physical therapist can be demanding. Like any medical profession it requires perseverance, a willingness to at times put the needs of the community before one’s own needs, and a compassionate approach to healthcare, especially since you are dealing with children. But pediatric physical therapy is also a highly rewarding profession, both professionally and personally. And the work is monetarily rewarding as well, ensuring that you can help others, and provide for yourself and your family as well.

Now that you know the basics of how to become a pediatric physical therapist, take the time to explore the options available to you regarding schools and training, and any financial aid available to you. Good luck!