Physical Therapist  What They Do

Just the Facts


Physical Therapists Career Video



Assesses, plans, organizes, and participates in rehabilitative programs that improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength, and improve or correct disabling conditions resulting from disease or injury.

This career is part of the Health Science cluster Therapeutic Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Plans, prepares, or carries out individually designed programs of physical treatment to maintain, improve, or restore physical functioning, alleviate pain, or prevent physical dysfunction in patients.
  • Performs and documents an initial exam, evaluating data to identify problems and determine a diagnosis prior to intervention.
  • Evaluates effects of treatment at various stages and adjusts treatments to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Identifies and documents goals, anticipated progress, and plans for reevaluation.
  • Records prognosis, treatment, response, and progress in patient's chart or enters information into computer.
  • Obtains patients' informed consent to proposed interventions.
  • Reviews physician's referral and patient's medical records to help determine diagnosis and physical therapy treatment required.
  • Tests and measures patient's strength, motor development and function, sensory perception, functional capacity, or respiratory or circulatory efficiency and records data.
  • Instructs patient and family in treatment procedures to be continued at home.
  • Discharges patient from physical therapy when goals or projected outcomes have been attained and provides for appropriate follow-up care or referrals.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Related Careers


Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Kinesiotherapist -- Creates and oversees exercise programs for patients who have experienced disease or injury that affects their strength or physical abilities.
  • Orthopedic Physical Therapist -- Diagnoses and treats patients with joint pains, sports injuries and arthritis, among other ailments.
  • Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapist --