Credentials. That's where it all starts for physical therapists. PTs must have a post-grad professional degree. No, not a PhD, but a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree awarded after the aspiring PT finishes a physical therapy program. (PTs could cut out sooner from academics and instead get a Masters of Physical Therapy, an MPT.) Doctoral programs usually span three years; Masters, two to three years.
And don't forget about the bachelor's degree, a prerequisite for these professional degrees. Undergrad course should, ideally, include anatomy, physiology, biology and chemistry. Hardcore science stuff.
But get used to the science. Physical therapy programs cover toughies like biomechanics, neuroscience and pharmacology. Add to this coursework clinical rotations, where student PTs work in areas like acute care and orthopedic care -- under the watchful eye of an experienced supervisor.
For those who can't get enough of school and want to hone their skills even further by specializing, there are residences ready and waiting for them. Residencies can last anywhere from nine months to three years and can be in specialties like gerontology.
Now school's out, and it's time to get licensed. States require that PTs be licensed, and rules vary from state to state. But in general, PTs must pass a National Physical Therapy Examination, or its state counterpart. Some states mandate continuing education for PTs to maintain a license.
If a PT is really a glutton for credentialing, the PT can become board certified in a clinical specialty, like pediatrics. That means the PT has to pass another exam.