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Can a Felon Become a Physical Therapist?

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When it comes to finding a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging.  Jobs they once had are lost and careers may be gone.

They will have to be creative and willing to learn a new trade or start a different career.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession.

This blog post will address the issue of whether a felon can become a physical therapist.

  • What is a Physical Therapist?
  • What Education/Training Does a Physical Therapist Need?
  • How Much Does a Physical Therapist Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Physical Therapist


What is a Physical Therapist?

A physical therapist (PT) is a person trained to assist patients in reducing pain and improving or restoring mobility.

Patients are taught by a physical therapist to prevent or manage a medical condition to achieve long-term health benefits.

They develop a treatment plan and utilize techniques to reduce pain, promote the ability to move, restore physical function, and prevent disability.

A physical therapist works in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, home health agencies, fitness facilities, and nursing homes.  They work in rehabilitation, prevention, and promoting health and wellness.

A physical therapist examines patients to determine:

  • Patient history
  • Review of physical systems of functioning
  • Performing tests to identify existing and potential problem
  • Provide intervention
  • Conduct re-examination
  • Modify interventions
  • Develop discharge plans

There are particular skills that a successful physical therapist must have:

  • Caring and compassionate
  • Detail-oriented to observe a patient’s pain and locate problem areas
  • Good dexterity to move a patient’s body
  • Good communications and interpersonal skills to work one-on-one with patients
  • Good physical fitness for transferring patients
  • Stamina to lift patients and stand for long periods of time
  • Good coordination
  • Reading comprehension to understand written instructions from physicians and other healthcare professionals
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to work in a stressful environment

What Education/Training Does a Physical Therapist Need?

In order to become a physical therapist, an individual must graduate from a physical therapist educational program with a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.  A program typically takes three years to complete.

Classes will include courses in biology, chemistry, biomechanics, neuroanatomy, human development, examination techniques, and treatment procedures.  Usually, 80% of a program will be classroom and lab work with 20% clinical education.

All states require a physical therapist to be licensed.  Following educational requirements an individual must take and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

Physical therapy programs can be found at 199 universities and 212 approved professional physical therapy education programs.

Entry requirements for physical therapy programs include bachelor’s degree with a GPA of at least 3.5.  Most programs expect students to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) with certain minimum scores.  Volunteer experience and letters of recommendation are necessary along with an interview.

A criminal background check is routinely conducted as part of the admission requirements.

How Much Does a Physical Therapist Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are approximately 204,000 licensed physical therapists in the U.S.

This occupation is expected to show a 36% growth by 2024.

The reason for this growth and for physical therapy to be one of the top 10 jobs in high demand is due to the aging of the baby boomer population.

The median salary of a physical therapist in 2015 was $85,000 annually.

Experience will make a difference in how much a physical therapist earns annually.

The area of the country in which a physical therapist works also makes a difference in their earnings.  Those on the East or West coast typically earn more than a physical therapist that works elsewhere.

The top states for PT salary are California, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, and New Mexico.

An Opportunity for Felons?

Many physical therapy education programs do a background check on applicants for their program.

As many as 84% of PT programs require a background check of students at least once while they are enrolled.

Each state board for licensure establishes its own criteria.  Currently, 12 states require a criminal record check before issuing a PT license: California, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington.

While each state board sets its own standard for a background check, they will consider relevant factors such as type of offense, potential for harm to the public, and potential for reoccurrence of criminal activity.

Some states indicate that “an explanation of how a felon’s character has been rehabilitated” is factored into a decision on licensing.

In some states, a crime of moral turpitude or a narcotics offense can result in a denial of a licensing application.

In Texas, an applicant is allowed to review their criminal record before submitting an application.

The board then considers the type of felony, how long ago it occurred, and an applicant’s age at the time of the crime.  Decisions are then made on a case-by-case basis.

It is important to be honest in filling out an application for licensing.  If a felony isn’t disclosed but found on doing a background check, this constitutes fraud and is a punishable crime.

For anyone considering not being honest about their felony, it is a crime to falsify an application, which could result in being sent back to prison.

In order to be successful in this pursuit, it is essential for felons to be honest about their background. Lying about their conviction will prevent them from becoming a physical therapist.

They are already working with the often negative perceptions of being dishonest, untrustworthy, and unwilling or unable to follow directions from authority figures.

There are many success stories, as the Guide to Being Employed, reveals, showing how having a goal, commitment, dedication, and perseverance can assist felons in achieving their dream.

Having their felony expunged can give them the chance they need to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a physical therapist.

Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that they have not been convicted of a crime.

Felons have been shown to make good employees.

We’ve also been talking to others in the field recently and feel that interior designers may be a good alternative to a physical therapist.  If you want some inspiration of a website to help you get inspired, you can check this one.

Supporting a Felon in Becoming a Physical Therapist

For families of felons wanting to pursue a dream of becoming a physical therapist, encourage your loved one and support their efforts to live an honest life, change their lifestyle, and keep their dreams alive.

They have made mistakes and been incarcerated, but they have paid the consequences for their past actions.  They are not defined by their crime.

It is time for them to move forward and live an honest life.

Encourage them to find out if they qualify to have their record expunged.  Having their record expunged will qualify a felon to be able to take the physical therapist licensing exam.

Your family member is worth making the effort for, if they are sincere in their desire to become a physical therapist.

Help them realize their ambition no matter how difficult the road might be.

What do you think about this blog post?  Are you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a physical therapist with a felony?  What was that like for them, and how did they achieve success?  Please tell us in the comments below.


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