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Physical Therapists Stand Out with Specialty Certification

Physical Therapists Stand Out with Specialty Certification

Cindy Mehallow / Monster Contributing Writer

When it comes to opening doors and opening eyes, specialty certification lets employers, colleagues and patients know that a physical therapist (PT) possesses advanced clinical skills in a particular area. Board-certified therapists truly stand out from their peers, considering fewer than 10 percent of the roughly 63,000 members of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) have obtained this voluntary advanced credential. And this exclusive group of therapists can reap a variety of benefits: increased prestige, patient referrals, job opportunities, peer recognition and higher pay.

More on Physical Therapists


Salary: $46,510 - $94,810
Min. Education: Master's
Related Careers: Occupational Therapist, Social Worker

The Go-to Person

After physical therapist Gail Dean Deyle, DPT, OCS, FAAOMPT, became an orthopedic-certified specialist in 1991, peers viewed him as a mentor, colleagues sought his advice and he was invited to participate in continuing-education programs.

“People could clearly understand where my expertise and interest lay,” says Deyle, who is graduate program director for the transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah. Recently retired from the US Army, Deyle also founded the US Army-Baylor University doctoral program in orthopedic physical therapy at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Following her certification four years ago as an orthopedic specialist, Sharon Feldman, PT, OCS, found that she, too, became an unofficial resource for therapist peers and medical colleagues at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), where she serves as clinical manager of the Arthritis Center.

Under a new clinical ladder program, the RIC now rewards and encourages board certification with opportunities for advancement and higher salary growth.

A study published in 2002 by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) of the APTA shows that board-certified PTs reported a higher average income than noncertified peers, says Andrea Blake, director of the board’s specialty certification department. Studies have also found that physicians and employers believe that certified specialists achieve more effective clinical outcomes and often manage patients with more complex conditions.

Seven Ways to Shine

Currently, the ABPTS offers seven specialty certification areas:

• Cardiovascular and pulmonary (CCS).
• Clinical electrophysiology (ECS).
• Geriatric (GCS).
• Neurology (NCS).
• Orthopaedic (OCS).
• Pediatric (PCS).
• Sports (SCS).


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