Learn How Physical Therapy Specialties Advance Your Physical Therapy Career
Physical therapy certification is a wise career move on many levels; for one, it helps the PT build on an existing base of knowledge and achieve excellence—not only in overall performance, but in the more finite skills related to a particular area of practice.
Physical therapy specialties provide formal recognition for PTs with advanced clinical knowledge and experience, increasing the likelihood of better pay and preferential treatment in hiring. Currently, the American Board of Physical Therapist Specialties (ABPTS) has certified 8,408 individuals and offers, in conjunction with APTA, board-certification in seven specialty areas.
Types of Physical Therapy Specialties & Certifications
The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) certifies individuals who have demonstrated advanced clinical knowledge and skills in physical therapy specialty areas. Currently, the ABPTS offers board-certification in these seven specialty areas:
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialist, CCS
Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Certified Specialists (CCS) assist patients recently diagnosed with disorders of the heart or lungs; many of these patients have undergone heart or lung surgery, and it is the responsibility of the CCS to increase the stamina of these organs, as well as improve the patient's ability to function independently, outside of a hospital or clinical setting. The CCS physical therapy certification ensures excellence in working with patients suffering from hypertension, chronic heart failure, pulmonary fibrosis and bronchitis.
Clinical Electrophysiologic Certified Specialist, ECS
Clinical Electrophysiologic Certified Specialists (ECS) help active patients overcome injuries and illnesses stemming from lifestyle or work conditions. An ECS obtains physical therapist certification to better assist patients suffering from a wide range of disorders, from a high degree of trauma, like war veterans and car accident victims, to something much less severe, like carpal tunnel syndrome. As an ECS, your professional goal is more high tech than other physical therapy specialties, requiring you to treat your patients through the use of a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit and improve their recovery outcomes by conducting electromyogram and nerve conduction velocity testing (EMG /NCV).
Geriatric Certified Specialist, GCS
Geriatric Certified Specialists (GCS) assist a very specific group of individuals, the elderly; because this client base suffers from a wide range of medical conditions, GCS focus their physical therapy career on certain medical procedures, like hip surgery and joint replacements. Patients seeking treatment from a GCS require medical consult on conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer and incontinence, and look to their primary physicians, GCS and rest of the rehab team to help them with mobility, reduce discomfort and hasten recovery.
Neurologic Certified Specialist, NCS
Neurologic Certified Specialists (NCS) treat patients in recovery from a traumatic brain injury, or patients seeking rehabilitation therapy after the diagnosis of a neurological illness; some if these illnesses include cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and injuries to the spinal cord. Stroke victims are also greatly helped by physical therapist certification in NCS, who guide patients in learning to function independently, as well as deal with issues related to the neurological disorder, such as paralysis or problems with balance and coordination.
Orthopedic Certified Specialist, OCS
Orthopedic Certified Specialists (OCS) provide care for patients suffering from chronic conditions and any injury or illness that presents a challenge to the musculoskeletal system. Patients of OCS are seeking physical therapy post-surgery, and it is the responsibility of the PT to administer an array of treatment options and uniquely adapted therapy plans while also advancing their physical therapy career.
Pediatric Certified Specialist, PCS
Pediatric Certified Specialists (PCS) treat infants and adolescents diagnosed with special needs, temporary illnesses and/or chronic disorders. The goal of the PCS is to help the patient through challenges presented by the diagnosis; this means developing physical therapy programs that help the patient build strength, increase fitness levels or develop gross and fine motor skills; the ultimate goal is to improve patient coordination and stability. The PCS must also detect physical issues early on, to ensure the best possible course of treatment.
Sports Certified Specialist, SCS
Sports Certified Specialists (SCS) assist athletes and evaluate medical conditions; they prescribe treatment of active and chronic pain sustained from sports related injuries and strain. Among the various physical therapy specialties, the SCS is unique in that it requires the PT to administer preventive care, thereby helping the athlete avoid bodily harm during sports. The SCS working in therapist jobs in Colorado also helps prepare team members for maximum physical exertion and recommends equipment and tips for enhancing performance.
Women's Health Certified Specialist, WCS
Women's Health Certified Specialists (WCS) work with female patients of childbearing age and those in menopause and perimenopause. The WCS prescribes physical therapy that helps patients heal faster and respond more comfortably to treatments and surgeries performed because of pregnancy, post partum issues, Lymphedema, osteoporosis, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. The WCS assists and educates women of all ages through both short term and chronic conditions.
The Next Step: How to get your Physical Therapist 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 physical therapy license, 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.
Use career resources to verify physical therapy licensure and stay current on important dates, events, PT literature, networking and deadlines offered by national organizations dedicated to physical therapy; the success of your physical therapy career hinges on competence and continuing education.
Boost your Physical Therapy Career – Get a specialized Physical Therapy Certification & set yourself apart from the competition
Once you have your specialty certification, you have a better chance of getting physical therapy jobs at health care facilities nationwide. In addition, our physical therapy jobs offer higher pay because of the added benefits package. Our benefits package is at the top of allied healthcare recruiting agencies and includes a continuing education reimbursement.