Different Types of Therapist Degree Programs

This page outlines the different types of therapy degree programs and careers that you can choose. We will detail the different types of therapy, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, respiratory therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy and marriage/family therapy, as well as the different types of degrees available in each.

If you are interested in a career involving some type of therapy, you probably want to help other people in some way. Whatever type of therapy degree you choose, you will have the opportunity to help people mentally, physically or both.

Below are descriptions of the different types of therapy careers available, and possible online degree programs.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists are known as PTs and help ill and injured people to improve their degree of movement and manage pain. Physical therapy is a very important part of rehabilitation after surgeries. It also is very important to help people with chronic diseases to life a normal life.

As a physical therapist, you will provide care to people of all backgrounds and ages who have functional problems due to various conditions and injuries. These can include sprains, strains, fractures, knee replacement, strokes and more.

The job outlook for physical therapists is outstanding: BLS reports that PT jobs will increase by 34% by 2024. Salaries are also excellent at a median of $84,000.

To become a physical therapist, you need to earn your Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, or DPT. This is now the terminal degree generally required to work as an independent physical therapist.

Northeastern University offers an online DPT degree that lasts three years.

Classes include:

  • Differential Diagnosis and Medical Screening
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Pharmacology
  • Motor Control
  • Comprehensive case analysis

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist works with injured, sick or disabled people to help them to learn how to live a normal life and do regular daily activities independently. Occupational therapy helps these patients to recover and improve skills that are needed to live on their own, such as eating, dressing, bathing and walking.

Many patients who have permanent disabilities, such as people with cerebral palsy or victims of major strokes, need to learn how to do daily tasks so that they can live as independent a life as possible.

You will show patients how they can use various types of adaptive equipment to do things on their own. You might for instance show someone with cerebral palsy how to use a leg brace or eating aid to live independently.

As with physical therapy, occupational therapists are seeing very strong demand in jobs. BLS states that the job field for OTs will increase by 27% by 2024. The federal government thinks that OTs will continue to play a role of growing importance for people with illnesses and disabilities over time. This need should continue to grow as our population gets older and lives longer.

The median salary for occupational therapists is similar to physical therapists at approximately $80,150. Occupational therapists who work in nursing home facilities generally earn the most at $88,780.

To become an occupational therapist, you need to earn your master’s degree in occupational therapy. Some OTs earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree locally, and then earn their master’s degree online.

You can earn your Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at A.T. Still University. This program provides you with the additional skills that you need to grow your OT practice. It is designed for a practicing OT who has an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in OT. You may earn this degree entirely online, and complete your clinical hours in your current workplace or practice.

Required curriculum:

  • Advanced Theory and Philosophy in Occupational Therapy
  • Trends in Occupational Therapy
  • Issues in Diverse Populations and Settings
  • Research Methodology
  • Statistics
  • Evidence Based Practice for OT Clinicians

Massage Therapy

A massage therapist treats her clients by using her hands to massage muscles and other soft tissues. Massage therapists can greatly relieve pain, heal injuries, boost circulation, cut down on stress and increase relaxation. All of these things that massage therapists do helps to improve the general health of clients.

A massage therapist may use various techniques, lotions and oils, as well as tables and chairs as they are treating the client.

The job outlook for massage therapists is good, with 22% increase in jobs anticipated by 2024. More states are adopting licensing procedures for massage therapists, so it is likely that this field will grow as more people accept massage as a legitimate way to improve health.

Most massage therapists complete a certificate program or associate’s degree in massage therapy. There are generally at least 500 hours of experience required to earn a certificate or degree. Some states will now require you to get a license or certification before you can work or practice.

The median salary for massage therapists is $38,040, with the top 10% earning more than $74,000 per year.

To get a certificate or associate’s degree in massage therapy, you should check community colleges in your area.

Speech Language Therapy

Speech language therapists are also known as speech language pathologists. They specialize in assessing, diagnosing, treating and helping to prevent both communication and swallowing problems in patients.

Problems with speech, language and swallowing can happen for many reasons. The most common are brain injury, stroke, loss of hearing, Parkinson’s disease, cleft palate or autism.

A speech language therapist works with their patients who have speech and language problems, as well as cognitive and/or social communication issues. Some patients may not be able to speak at all, or they can speak with difficulty, such as stuttering. You also could work with patients who cannot understand language, or people with voice disorders.

Job growth for speech therapists will be strong at 21% through 2024. Median pay for speech therapists is also excellent at $73,400 per year. The highest pay will usually go to people who work full time in nursing homes and residential care centers.

Working in speech therapy requires you to earn a master’s degree, and you must be licensed in almost all states.

Idaho State University offers a quality online Master of Science Speech-Language Pathology degree. This is a 36 month program that has all of its academic coursework online. There are two on campus clinical practicum experiences, and also a required clinical practicum in your home area.

Required curriculum is:

  • Early Language Development and Disorders
  • Speech Language Sound Disorders
  • Principles of Research in Communication Disorders
  • School Age Language Development and Disorders
  • Disorders of Swallowing
  • Neurogenic Disorders of Language and Cognition
  • Neuropathologies of Speech
  • Fluency Disorders in Children and Adults

Marriage and Family Therapy

A marriage and family therapist helps people to deal with their problems in their relationships, and to overcome mental and health disorders. They listen closely to their clients and ask them questions to help the clients to understand their problems better.

Marriage and family therapists use many techniques to help clients, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Some issues can be overcome with enough therapy, while others can just be managed effectively.

Marriage and family therapists are seeing strong growth in demand with 19% more jobs expected by 2024. The median salary is $48,600, but the highest salaries close to $70,000 per year go to therapists who work in state and local government.

You must have a master’s degree and license to practice in marriage and family therapy.

An excellent online choice for a master’s in marriage and family therapy is at the University of Southern California Rossier. This program trains you to deal with many professional and personal problems that often confront individuals and families.

Courses include:

  • Creating Communities of Interest
  • The Counseling Process
  • Professional Identity, Law and Ethics for Counselors
  • Theories of Marriage and Family Therapy
  • Theories in Counseling
  • Measurement Procedures for Counselors
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Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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