Physical Therapy Programs: Becoming a Certified Specialist
Choose a Specialty
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 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 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.
Education and Career Guide
- Training & Education Time to completion, what you'll study and more.
- Physical Therapist Assistant How to become a PTA.
- Guide to Degrees From DPTs to Transitional MPTs, we’ve sorted it all out for you.
- Financial Aid Questions? We've got answers.
- Student Interview Find out what physical therapy school is really like.
- All About Physical Therapy Jobs What is a physical therapy job like?
- Salary Information How much can you earn as a physical therapist?
- Licensing Guide to physical therapy licensing requirements & exams.
- Physical Therapist Assistant Profile An inside look at physical therapy assistant careers.
- Accreditation & Organizations Physical therapy resources.