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How to pursue a job in academic PT

Interested in a career in academic physical therapy?

Below are suggestions for students and physical therapists who are interested in pursuing a career in physical therapy education.

Physical therapist education programs across the country need talented and passionate individuals to educate the next generation of physical therapists.  There is currently a shortage of qualified PT faculty and program chairs.

Pillars of academia

The academic environment is much different than the clinic and faculty have different roles and responsibilities in the areas of:

  • Teaching
  • Service
  • Scholarship  

Consider specialization or advanced degrees

Faculty hold different advanced credentials such as clinical specializations and doctoral degrees in various disciplines. Depending on your passion for a particular faculty role, you may wish to pursue a:

Depending on the program, some faculty residencies hire non-faculty, while others will enroll new faculty into their residency for formal training.  Higher education leadership fellowships are for existing faculty who are looking for their next career step - including becoming a DPT program director, chair or dean.  You can learn about different opportunities on the American Board of PT Residency & Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) site's online directory

    Leverage and expand your network

    Contact your local doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program director and different faculty to learn more about their specific roles and what drew them to academics. You can view the national list of DPT programs that are ACAPT members. Then talk to your network about opportunities to be a:

    • graduate assistant in teaching or research,
    • teaching assistant and/or lecturer in classroom and lab coursework,
    • part-time employee or volunteer with your local DPT program - including committees, community service, advisory councils, etc.  

    Seek opportunities to develop your network, including attending American Council of Academic Physical Therapy (ACAPT) events like the Educational Leadership Conference (ELC).

    Become a clinical instructor

    Clinical educators are the front-line educators using validated techniques to assess student comprehension in all domains of learning.  For those interested in leadership opportunities in the clinical setting, clinical education can be an excellent way to advance the PT profession.

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