Physical Therapy Programs: Becoming a Certified Specialist

Choose a Specialty

physical therapy programs student with patient

Enhance your career by choosing physical therapy programs that will separate you from the pack.

You can become certified in any of the eight different specialties designated by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

 Read below for a description of each specialty, the types of responsibilities each one entails, and how it meets the specific needs of patients.

Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy

Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapist Job Duties Common Diagnoses Encountered
Help patients who have recently had heart or lung surgery, along with patients who have been diagnosed with cardiopulmonary disorders. Hypertension, chronic heart failure, pulmonary fibrosis, bronchitis

Clinical Electrophysiology

Clinical Electrophysiologist Job Duties Common Diagnoses Encountered
Clinical electrophysiology refers to the use of electrodes on the body for therapeutic purposes. Patients will be highly active individuals whose lifestyles or work conditions have led to disorders, but you'll also encounter patients who have experienced a higher degree of trauma, such as car accident victims or war veterans. Nerve compressions, carpal tunnel syndrome, accident victims, trauma victims


Geriatric Physical Therapist Job Duties Common Diagnoses Encountered
Help elderly patients work towards reducing any discomfort and restoring mobility so that they may ultimately increase their activity levels. Arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, incontinence


Orthopedic Physical Therapist Job Duties Common Diagnoses Encountered
Help individuals who suffer from chronic conditions and those who need rehabilitation post-surgery. You'll administer an array of treatment options that range from hot and cold packs to joint mobilizations. Injuries or diseases of the musculoskeletal system


Pediatric Physical Therapist Job Responsibilities Common Diagnoses Encountered
Young patients may have special needs that require continuous help in building strength, increasing fitness levels, developing gross and fine motor skills or improving coordination and stability. You will be responsible for early detection of physical issues to ensure the best course of treatment. Developmental delays, cerebral palsy, spina bifida

Sports Physical Therapy

Sports Physical Therapist Job Duties Common Diagnoses Encountered
Work with athletes to prevent injuries and prepare their bodies for maximum physical exertion. You will often be asked for equipment recommendations and tips on enhancing performance. Acute and chronic injuries, knee injuries, shoulder injuries, compartment syndrome

Women's Health

Women's Health Physical Therapist Job Duties Common Diagnoses Encountered
Women have special needs in many areas of medicine, and physical therapy is no different. If you become certified in this specialty, you'll be evaluating and treating women in all stages of life Prenatal and postpartum depression, lymphedema, osteoporosis, pelvic pain, urinary incontinence

Physical Therapy Certification

Once you've chosen a specialty, the next step is to work towards certification. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) has two main requirements before you can take the certification exam in any specialty: an up-to-date license in physical therapy, along with completion of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the specialty area. Of those 2,000 hours, at least 25 percent must have been in the last three years. Also note that each specialty council has an extra set of conditions that must be fulfilled, which may require additional training.

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