If you want to pursue a medical career without going to medical school,
consider a degree in physical therapy. It's the health-care profession that
measures, maintains and restores physical mobility.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) no
longer accredits undergraduate degrees. That means you'll need at least
a master's degree to work in this field.
Tom Overend works with a university school of physical therapy. Entrance
requirements at his school include a bachelor's degree in any field; courses
in human physiology, biology and statistics; and 50 hours of work with people
who have physical or cognitive problems.
Other schools do not require an undergraduate degree. Some schools allow
direct entry from high school. Northeastern University offers a program
like that. It takes six years to complete.
Other schools offer "three-plus-three" programs. Consider the University
of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Students there take three years of pre-professional
courses before going through three years of professional education.
Whatever program you choose, you can expect to spend between five and
seven years in school. And you will spend lots of time outside the classroom
in clinical internships, which vary in length.
A degree in physical therapy does not guarantee employment, though. Graduates
must also pass state exams.
So how can high school students prepare for a physical therapy degree?
"They need to get the strongest science background they can," says
Claudette Finley. She is an associate professor of physical therapy at the
University of Florida.
"They need all those really hard biology, chemistry and physics
[courses] that are offered in high school so it gives them a solid foundation
for taking these courses in college....A person must have a high GPA [grade
point average] to qualify for most programs throughout the country," she adds.
They should also volunteer or work as an aide in a physical therapy
department to find out if they would enjoy the field, says Finley. They
need to find out if they can interact with patients on a daily basis.
Nursing homes and sports teams are also good places to volunteer.
Expect to spend a fair bit of money on textbooks.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Physical
Physical Therapy -- The Web Space
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