Physical therapists evaluate, plan and administer physical therapy programs to restore function, relieve pain and prevent disability following disease, injury or loss of a body part. Physical therapist assistants help administer tests and treatment programs under the direction of physical therapists. Physical therapy aides perform routine tasks to
assist the physical therapy team.
• develop individualized physical therapy programs for patients based on referrals
from physicians, a review of medical records, examination and evaluation of the
• administer therapeutic exercises to improve or maintain muscle function.
• instruct and motivate patients.
• administer treatments involving light, heat, water and electricity.
• evaluate the effect and duration of interventions and make any needed
• perform therapeutic massage and joint mobilization.
• administer traction to relieve neck and back pain.
• instruct patients and families in physical therapy procedures to be used at home.
• train patients to use prosthetic and orthotic devices and recommend
• interact and practice in collaboration with a variety of professionals, including
physicians, social workers, nurses, psychologists and other therapists.
• work with employers to prevent on-the-job injury and to facilitate the return
to work of injured employees.
• facilitate functional recovery in patients after suffering a stroke.
• facilitate motor development in children in the school system.
• help heart patients regain full quality of life.
Physical therapists may specialize in sports physical therapy, orthopedics, pediatrics,
clinical electrophysiological testing, geriatrics, hand rehabilitation, oncology, women’s
health, neurology and cardiopulmonary therapy. Many also consult and/or engage in
research, education, administration and community health.
Average Salary Range
$40,000 – $75,000 (physical therapists)
$12,000 – $42,000 (aides & assistants)
Students interested in becoming physical therapists should take challenging high school courses in science, math and
English. Three physical therapy programs in Virginia award the degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The other two Virginia programs are at a master’s level. To be a licensed physical therapist, a student must graduate from an accredited college or university and pass an exam. Licensed physical therapist assistants must graduate from
an approved two-year college program for physical therapy assistants and pass an examination.
American Physical Therapy Association
1111 N. Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314