DPT vs. PT

Differences between getting a masters and doctorate in PT.

A master’s degree in Physical Therapy is different from a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. And the roles are still evolving. Learn more about the responsibilities and requirements of becoming a successful PT or DPT.

What’s the difference between a DPT vs. PT?

All individuals in the field of physical therapy, whether as new students or current therapists, must be aware of the recent changes in the profession. Unlike in the past, where a master’s degree was sufficient to become a physical therapist (PT), the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) now requires a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

As a DPT, you assist patients in improving their mobility, regaining their well-being, and returning to work. While becoming a DPT is lengthy and time-consuming, you will have a rewarding job enhancing other people’s lives.

Requirements of a DPT and a PT

DPT and PT differ in many aspects, from education level to the task an individual is assigned in the field. For instance, to become a physical therapist, you will need a master’s degree, which takes two years to finish, and 15 weeks of clinical work. A DPT, on the other hand, is a transitional program that you can undertake once you have earned a professional PT qualification. A DPT degree takes 3 years to complete, and you will be better equipped when you begin your career.

Furthermore, the two degrees differ in terms of specialization programs. Unlike DPT programs, which cover a broad range of perspectives on the same subject, physical therapist programs emphasize the medical field studied in physical therapy. Unlike PT courses, DPT programs equip you to cope with complicated challenges in the physical therapy field by addressing topics such as healthcare management, imaging, pathology, and pharmacology.

As of 2020, a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree is necessary for all licensed physical therapists. Current physical therapists with master’s degrees can continue to practice, though they must complete transitional courses (“post-professional”) to earn their DPT.

Can I continue practicing without a DPT?

Of course, working as a PT with a master’s or bachelor’s degree in physical therapy is still possible. But, if you are still enrolled in a PT degree program, the APTA mandates that you obtain a DPT certification to work in the field. Individuals possessing a Master’s or a Bachelor’s degree in physical therapy are encouraged to enroll in a DPT program, in case it becomes a requirement down the road.

Responsibilities of a DPT

As a DPT, your primary duty is to assist individuals suffering from skeletal, muscular, or nervous disorders. You are also tasked with creating unique rehabilitation plans for patients, which may include particular activities to assist them in healing from their specific injury. Other responsibilities include:

  • Helping patients with mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers
  • Carefully evaluating the health records of patients
  • Giving patients education on how to do physical therapy home exercises
  • Using electrical stimulation or giving massages to hasten recovery
  • Discussing care delivery to patients with nurses, doctors, and other medical specialists
  • Supervising physical therapy aides and specialists
  • Performing tests to identify the extent and severity of injuries
  • Keeping track of patient improvement
  • Recognizing and treating people with movement problems

How do I become a doctor of physical therapy?

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree

First, obtain a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, nursing, or perhaps another medical field. Attending universities that offer a joint bachelor’s and DPT degree will help you start your profession sooner.

2. Obtain a DPT degree

Pursue a 3-year DPT curriculum approved by CAPTE. The first year will include courses like anatomy and imaging, followed by lab work and clinical education. You will then complete your training with hands-on practice under the supervision of a clinical instructor.

3. Successfully go through the NPTE

You will be required to pass the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). This assessment will test your understanding of body systems and other topics.

4. Acquire your license

Because licensing requirements vary from state to state, be sure to check the requirements. Once approved, you can keep your license current by taking continuing education classes.

5. Finish a residency program

A residency program is just one year, and you will gain significant training and hands-on experience in DPT practices.

6. Obtain board certification

Obtain board certification from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. You can select from the following DPT specialties:

  • Sports clinical specialist (SCS): You will aid athletes in recovering from injuries, reducing discomfort, and preventing future injuries.
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary specialist (CCS): You will directly support patients suffering from heart and lung diseases, including heart attacks, cystic fibrosis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Orthopedic clinical specialist (OCS): You will assist patients who have injuries or disorders that impact their muscles, joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Geriatric clinical specialist (GCS): You will be specialized in assisting elderly patients who suffer from ailments such as osteoporosis and Parkinson’s.

Important skills to have as a DPT

For a successful career in DPT, you need a number of “soft skills,” including:

  • Attention detail
  • Time management
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Physical endurance
  • Strong leadership capabilities

Join a Friendly and Collaborative Team of DPTs at Brook Rehabilitation

Brooks Rehabilitation is your trusted organization if you’re searching for a great place to start your DPT career. We offer a friendly work atmosphere and a team of professionals dedicated to providing excellent patient care.

Our organization allows you to grow and build your career regardless of your specialty. If you are working as a professional PT or have your DPT, apply to be a Physical Therapist at Brooks Rehabilitation today!

Join our team.

It’s time to do the best work of your life.

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