If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Physical therapist: How I got my job and where I'm going

In this career profile, Taylor explains the education and training required to become a physical therapist, and what the interview process was like as a new graduate.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

So going into college I knew I wanted to do something within the healthcare field, I studied biology because I thought it was going to be a really good foundation no mater where I went. But as I went through college I changed my mind several times about what I wanted to do. I think at one time I wanted to study orangutans in Borneo because I took a really cool primatology course and then I fell in love with psychology and that was my passion too and then as we went on I ultimately thought about what is is that I truly love about healthcare and what is it that I truly love about working with people. And that's why I went back to physical therapy as my kind of career choice and I worked in a clinic as a volunteer observing physical therapy being done and I just fell in love with it. The people that I worked with were just so passionate about what they were doing and just passionate about getting people better and it was infectious like you couldn't not want to be there. So to become a physical therapist you go through your four year undergraduate degree. It doesn't matter necessarily what degree you get your undergraduate in as long as you fulfill those prerequisites. From there in 2015 what they required all physical therapy programs to be a doctorate level and that is because we now have direct access to patients so patients can come to us without seeing their primary care doctors without seeing any other medical providers. And so we have to be able to have the knowledge and the skill to identify things that might not be in our realm of care. So you go to a three year doctorate program it's a clinical doctorate and within that time you are having a whole series of tests. You're going through every body system there is and learning what you can and how those body systems affect movement. From there you have time in the clinic you work with physical therapists, you train under them and after you graduate from that program you have to take a national boards test. That certifies you to become a physical therapist and then you get licensed in your individual state. As soon as I graduated from USC I started applying to jobs actually even before I graduated from USC I was sending out my resume, I applied to different places all over southern California and eventually interviewed at this amazing place in Beverly Hills and fell in love with it. I had a great connection with the person who owned the clinic and really got behind the philosophy of their practice. And then my husband found out that we were going to be moving to Colorado and so I had to leave my dream job behind in California, took a couple of weeks to kind of get my feet underneath myself and started applying again towards more jobs. Which is scary too because in California I was very familiar with the different clinics there because that's where I went to school, people knew USC as a place to have great physical therapist come out. So coming out to Colorado I was a little bit nervous but I interviewed at several places and realized that it's not necessarily about how much I want them to like me but also how much I need to like them as well when applying for jobs and that's when I interviewed with Specialized Physical Therapy. And I interviewed with the president and vice president of the company and went on to a second interview with my clinical director and it was just instant. I loved everything about the company and I was like ugh, if I don't get this job I'm gonna be so frustrated but I ultimately got a call back. It was actually on my birthday and they told me that I got a job if I wanted it. So from there it went into the negotiation part of my salary and to the schedule I wanted to work and to how many people I wanted to see a week and the benefits that could come from the job that I got. When you start interviewing as a physical therapist you can have a whole host of different types of interviews for one of my interviews I had to evaluate a patient's knee and it was really one of the techs that was working at the clinic, I worked on their knee and evaluated what I thought was going on. In some clinics you might have to do hands on so to the person who's interviewing you for. I didn't have to do that for the job that I got hired at but I've definitely seen interviewers come in and have to treat me or my boss or somebody else to get an idea of what their hands feel like 'cause that's an important aspect of being a physical therapist as well as a way for your employer to also know maybe where you need to work on more to be an asset to their company. I would always recommend that when people are interviewing places they ask about, do you have a yearly review policy in your company because that is the time that you have an opportunity to discuss your salary, to discuss your growth in the company. So having the opportunity to sit down once a year with your employers and discuss how you've added value to their company as well added value to their clinic is something that's really important. As a physical therapist you really have kind of a lot of different paths that you can take so you can be a clinical physical therapist working nine to five treating patients that's typically what we expect when we kind of get out of physical therapy school, that's where we're gonna start our job. There's roles of working as an instructor for some of the continuing education courses that you can take as well as working as a researcher and then as well there's also working as a director. So managing a company, managing a clinic is also another path that you can take as well. Within orthopedics you can work with different age ranges you can work with different professions, you can be more based in return to work or return to sports so working with athletes, you can be based in pediatrics as well. There's also neurological physical therapy so patients that have had a neurological insult or neurological disorder it's a different way to look at the body and how their movement patterns are changed. So there's people that work in schools to help children be able to access their classrooms and to be able to participate with their peers too. So you know there's a lot of different ways that physical therapists can be a part of their community. There's even physical therapist that work with animals so I always think that was a really cool option as well. I don't really have any long term goals except to just keep growing my profession, keep learning as much as I can, I'd love to have an opportunity to work in academia work as a teacher either through mentoring or through actually working in the classroom with students. But ultimately I want to stay in the clinic that's where I feel I'm meant to be but I definitely know there is something else out there that I wanna accomplish within my career, I think being content with your job is ultimately gonna leave it to be stale.