There are two paths to becoming a sports therapist. The first path is to become a physical therapist with a specialty in sports medicine. The second path is to become a physical therapy technician choosing to specialize in sports medicine while working with a physical therapist. We will explore both career paths and discuss the salary advantages of becoming a physical therapist instead of a technician.
Physical Therapist Requirements – Your Educational Foundation
To become a physical therapist is controlled by each states local rules and regulations. How many years of school to become a physical therapist is fairly consistent between states. In general you should expect the following requirements in most states:
· Bachelor Degree from an Accredited University – 4 Years.
· Masters or Doctorate in Physical Therapy from an Accredited College or University – 2 to 3 Years.
· Residency requirement, usually 1500 hours. – 1 to 2 years.
While the length of time spent in school is very high the payoff is very high, also. You will receive a high wage and often a level of independence not found in most other careers.
A sports therapist takes the training of a physical therapist and augments the training with further specialization into sports injuries and the support of athletes.
A Sports Therapist salary, with a Physical Therapy License, covers a range from approximately $52,000 to almost $84,000 per year. The average in a 2009 survey of USA sports therapists was $74,000 per year. Sports therapists working for professional sports teams commonly earn well over $100,000 per year.
Getting Into the Sports Therapy as a Physical Therapy Technician
If the idea of an 8 year commitment to school and residency seems intimidating you can jump into a sport therapy career on a slightly lower level by becoming a physical therapy technician, also known as a physical therapy assistant. What does it take to become a physical therapist assistant? The requirements are significantly different than a sports therapist. It usually requires the following:
· Associates Degree from Accredited School – 2 Years
· Successfully Passing National Licensure Exam
A physical therapy technician works with a physical therapist helping to setup and administer treatments. The pay ranges of a physical therapist technician are considerably different with a median salary in the USA being $45,669.
The Best Physical Therapist Schools
In a 2008 study physical therapy schools were rated. All of these universities offer either a masters or doctorate degrees in Physical Therapy. Following are ten of the highest rated schools:
· University of Southern California – Los Angeles, CA
· University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA
· Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis, MO
· University of Delaware – Newark, DE
· University of Iowa -Iowa City, IA
· US Army – Baylor University – Fort Sam Houston, TX
· Arcadia University – Glenside, PA
· MGH Institute of Health Professionals – Boston, MA
· Northwestern University – Chicago, IL
· University of Miami – Coral Gables, FL
Great schools for this program can be found in most states across the country, with 212 different universities and colleges accredited nationwide.
The Best Physical Therapy Schools – Technician or Assistant
If you were expecting another list you may be disappointed. With the lower requirements required to become a physical therapy technician the number of schools offering courses increases dramatically. You will find programs which are offered by trade schools, community colleges, major universities, and even online programs. The one common item you must verify is the educational facility’s ability to offer an associate degree which qualifies for you to take the national licensure examination.
Take time to ask schools you are considering about the success rate of their students passing the national exam. It would be wise to ask them about placement assistance.
Many of the same universities which offer physical therapy assistant degrees offer technician training, too.
Moving From Being a Physical Therapist into Sports Therapy
The transition for being a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant into sports therapy is basically a choice of focus. By adding sports physiology, sports psychology, and other sports related courses to your studies will aid you in finding a position which focuses on the support of sports teams and athletes. Your desire to work solely in sports therapy requires you to stay focused on your goals.
Choosing to become a sport therapist places you into a fast growing career. It is anticipated the field will expand by 27 percent over the next few years. It is a career which will provide you with great opportunity and personal satisfaction.