How To Become A Pediatric Physical Therapist

Whether you already work as a physical therapist or are still in school earning your degree, you might be thinking about specializing. One area of specialization to consider is working as a pediatric physical therapist, physical therapy that specializes in treating children. Before you take the next steps, do some research and consider questions. We have provided a list of questions and answers below to help you gain an understanding of what Pediatric Physical Therapy entails. 

What is Pediatric Physical Therapy?

Pediatric Physical Therapy is the practice of working with children, as well as their families, in order to build strength, improve movement and strengthen skills necessary for completing daily activities. Pediatric PTs work work with infants, children and teens in order to increase their mobility after an injury or as a result from a disease, illness or disability.

Where Do Pediatric Physical Therapists Work?

Pediatric physical therapists work in some of the same settings as general physical therapists. They work in medical centers, rehabilitation facilities, and home health. Pediatric PTs also work in children’s hospitals and as school-based therapists. School-based physical therapy may offer a nice change of pace from working in hospitals and rehab centers.

What Does a Pediatric Physical Therapist Do?

Pediatric physical therapists work with children from infancy through adolescence. They work with children to improve strength, range of motion, and endurance. PTs also help children with gait problems, delayed motor development, and balance problems.

Depending on the facility you work in, you might treat children with a wide variety of conditions. In a children’s hospital, you may work with kids who have burns, cancer, and injuries from trauma. As a school-based therapist, it’s common to treat children who have conditions, such as cerebral palsy, autism, and developmental delays.

Therapists may provide wound care, manual manipulation, and develop recreational activities. Pediatric physical therapists may also be involved in fitting and teaching children how to use prosthetics and assistive technology.

How Much Does a Pediatric Physical Therapist Make?

The approximate average salary for a Physical Therapist in the United States is $88,880. Average salaries vary depending on location.  Take a look at some of the average salaries for Physical Therapists in these top-paying states:

  • Nevada: $107,920
  • Alaska: $99,180
  • New Jersey: $97,770
  • New Mexico: $97,210
  • California: $97,110

What are Pediatric Physical Therapist Requirements?

If you’re thinking about working as a pediatric physical therapist, you might wonder if you have what it takes. It may be helpful to talk with therapists who already work in pediatrics. Learning the pros and cons from someone working in the specialty may help you decide if it’s right for you.

It also helps to have the following:

  • A strong desire to help people
  • Enjoy working with children
  • Organization skills
  • The ability to work as part of a team
  • Good communications skills
  • Flexibility

In addition to these qualities, there are specific educational and license requirements that need to be met in order to become a Pediatric Physical Therapist. Continue reading to learn more about how to specialize in Pediatric Physical Therapy.

How Do You Specialize in Pediatric Physical Therapy?

At the start of 2017, to be eligible to take the physical therapy licensure exam, you must have earned a doctorate in physical therapy (DPT). Depending on your school, you may be allowed to select some of your clinical rotations. Try to get a couple of rotations working with children in pediatric facilities.

After graduating from A DPT program, you may want to consider a residency or fellowship in pediatrics.  A residency or fellowship will provide additional specialty training in pediatrics and may increase your marketability. It is also a chance to find mentors in the field, which can be helpful as a new therapist.

Another option is to become board certified in pediatrics. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers a pediatric certification for qualified therapists. Although the credential is not mandatory to work in pediatrics, it does set you apart from other candidates.

Pediatric physical therapy is not the right specialty for everyone, but it can be a great choice for some people. If you like working with children, want to make a difference and enjoy a challenge, it might be something to consider.

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