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Travel Physical Therapist

What does it take to be a Travel Physical Therapist? Like, what classes? Is your schedule busy? Does it take a lot of college? etc.

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Jessica’s Answer

To be a travel physical therapist, you first must go to school to be a physical therapist. Becoming a physical therapist is a doctorate degree. You will go to school for 4 years and get an undergraduate degree (it can be in anything as long as you have the prerequisites - usually kinesiology, exercise science, or something like biology will get you those), and then 3 additional years of PT school, which will give you a DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy) degree. While in school you will do a mixture of course work and clinical affiliations that will give you practical experience. After graduation you must sit for and pass a board exam to get your physical therapy license. Most companies require physical therapy travelers to have at least 1 year of experience and travel assignments are usually 12-16 weeks in length. I would recommend getting experience in varied settings, long term care (so like nursing homes), rehab, and hospital settings as these are the settings that usually need travelers. The schedule can be busy, it depends on the setting.
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Dee’s Answer

I am an occupational therapist but the educational demands and prerequisites are similar. So far as the initial bachelor's degree make sure that it has strong critical thinking skills and writing skills as a part of your degree. Those two skills can take you far no matter what vocation you ultimately choose. Additionally, you might want to have an emphasis on informatics and computer skills as those are helpful with electronic health records. OT has two levels of entry-master's and doctorate. I agree with the previous advice regarding experience. 1 year is all that is required but I started traveling after I'd been out 4 years and still felt a little lost. Before you travel, find out the productivity demands, work hours, reimbursement for travel time, contract buy out and per diem for housing, meals and transportation.
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Margie’s Answer

Hi Jay'Lin,
To be a travel physical therapist (PT) or physical therapist assistant (PTA) you will first need to be license which requires for you to have a degree in physical therapy. You can choose the PTA route which is 2-2.5 years or the DPT (doctorate in PT) route which is a bachelor's degree (4 years) then 3-3.5 years of your doctorate program in PT.

More info about becoming a PT https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/becoming-a-pt
More info about becoming a PTA https://www.apta.org/your-career/careers-in-physical-therapy/becoming-a-pta

After that your will sit for you national physical therapy exam aka the board exam. Depending on the state you may need to take a jurisprudence exam (state law).

Once you are a licensed therapist you can now look for travel therapy job through recruiters. An average assignment is 13 weeks almost anywhere in the U.S. However the only twist to this is you must be 1. carrying a license to practice PT in your assigned state or 2. apply for a compact license if your state qualifies. Here is a site to assist you with compact licensure. https://ptcompact.org/

As far as work load it depends on your setting. There are many settings in physical therapy that can be broken up under two umbrellas: outpatient and inpatient. Under these umbrellas are more specific types of settings like orthopedic, neurologic, pediatrics, hospital-based, school based, home health, acute care, long term care, assisted living facilities, skilled nursing facilities, etc.

Margie recommends the following next steps:

Find a PT or PTA program, take prerequisites if needed.
Upon graduation sit for national physical therapy exam (board exam) in order to be licensed.
Research travel therapy companies and find/talk to recruiters.
Pick the states you want to travel to and research their licensing policy. Look to see if they are part of the PT compact.
Pick types of settings you would like to work in.
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