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How to Become a Professional Sports Physical Therapist

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

One way to combine your love of sports and medicine is to become a professional sports physical therapist. A sports physical therapist, also called a PT, is responsible for assisting athletes and patients with sports-related injuries. For instance, you create a treatment plan tailored to help patients prevent sports injuries. Also, you work to rehabilitate patients with injuries so they can return to their daily activities or to playing sports. Thus, sport physical therapy isn’t a career you can enter quickly. You must perform the tasks necessary to work in the field.

Volunteer in a health care setting. Many physical therapy programs want you to have some volunteer experience in a hospital, clinic or physical therapy department. Volunteer work prepares you to enter formal training and gain some practical work experience.

Study sports medicine. A major requirement to becoming a sports physical therapist entails having in-depth knowledge of how the human body functions. You can choose to pursue a four-year degree in sports medicine, kinesiology, chemistry, biology or exercise physiology.

Attain an internship to gain practical experience. Obtaining a sports physical therapist job requires completing an internship. Most colleges provide internships with local sports teams as part of the major requirements.

Earn a graduate degree. A graduate degree in physical therapy takes approximate three years. During that time, you obtain clinical experience working with athletics. Also, you take courses such as medical screening, pharmacology, therapeutic interventions, evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning.

Seek licensure. In all states and the District of Columbia, you’re required to take – and pass – the National Physical Therapy Examination or NPTE. Before you take the exam, the NPTE needs proof that you’re eligible for the examination. Thus, you must show that you graduated from an accredit physical therapy program. Also, you have to pay an application fee to take the licensing exam.

Obtain a sports physical therapist position. Employment opportunities are available with amateur and professional sports teams, colleges, private practice or fitness centers. You can also seek employment assisting athletics. Contact your college advisor, network with any of your internship supervisors and keep abreast of any job postings to find a sports PT position. As of May 2010, the mean salary for a sports physical therapist was $77,990 a year, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS.

Tip

During your internship, you work under an experienced sports therapy supervisor. Your work consists of reviewing patients’ medical records, clerical work and assisting in diagnosing and treating patients.

Choose your undergraduate major according to your sports therapy interest. For example, studying kinesiology teaches you about the human body. You want to pursue a pre-medical minor too.

Warning

Check with your state for additional requirements. You may have to continue your sports physical therapy education to maintain your license.

2016 Salary Information for Physical Therapists

Physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $85,400 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physical therapists earned a 25th percentile salary of $70,680, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $100,880, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 239,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physical therapists.

About the Author

Demetrius Sewell is an experienced journalist who, since 2008, has been a contributing writer to such websites as Internet Brands and print publications such as "Cinci Pulse." Sewell specializes in writing news and feature articles on health, law and finance. She has a master's degree in English.

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