Becoming a Physical Therapist: 5 Education Steps

Though becoming a physical therapist involves many steps, it can be broken down into five essential points, or steps you undertake in an educational context, which we’ve outlined for you below:

Undergraduate Degree

steps to becoming a physical therapistIn order to begin your pursuit of a career as a physical therapist, the first thing you need to do is get your Undergraduate Degree. Though you can’t technically apply for your licensing without having your Graduate Degree already in hand, you still have to acquire your Undergraduate Degree first. A BSc, or Bachelor of Sciences, is preferable in this regard since that program of study will require you to cover course subjects like Physics, Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, and other Physical Sciences, which figure into the physical therapy Graduate Degree you’ll shortly be undertaking.


You can start getting experience in a clinical setting before you begin your Undergraduate Degree, but it’s easier to find volunteer, or in rare cases paid work, as a physical therapist – or more likely assisting a physical therapist – once you’ve completed an Undergraduate program. Volunteering in hospital is always a popular choice for getting immediate and tangible experience as a physical therapist.

If you find yourself having trouble getting experience as a physical therapist, you can hold off until your Graduate Degree since many Graduate programs in physical therapy involve clinical work as part of your training, but it’s still advisable to get your feet wet before you head into Graduate level studies.

Graduate Degree

With more than 200 schools across the US offering APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) accredited Graduate Degrees in physical therapy, you can choose the school whose location, programs, and entry requirements are best suited to you. And you will want to choose carefully, because Graduate Degree programs have a larger focus on lab work and practical classes than on the theoretical courses an Undergraduate program favors. Once you’ve completed your Graduate Degree and are seeking to work as a physical therapist, in a clinical environment or otherwise, the nature of your lab work and the reputation of the school from which you obtained your degree will greatly influence your chance of success.


Once you have completed your Graduate Degree you can take the National Physical Therapy Examination, which is preparatory to your being able to take your State licensing exams. Each State requires you to take two separate licensing exams, though the requirements and type vary by State.

Continuing Education

Your license to practice physical therapy must be renewed every two years, which makes it imperative for you to undertake a course of continuing study while practicing in your field. This is also advisable in terms of improving your care and treatment of your patients, since practices change and new innovations lead to positive and effective change in the field. But, at the most mercenary level, if you’re not keeping up with changes in the field, you’re not going to pass revised licensing exams.

Though the steps to becoming a physical therapist is fairly intensive in terms of time put in, the five steps above are the entire basis of working toward that goal. It’s a fairly straightforward path, and one that you can prepare easily for with enough time and some dedication. If you need help preparing for any of the steps mentioned above, use the various sections of this website to do some more in-depth research, and plan for your future.