Kinesiotherapy Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a kinesiotherapy career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if becoming a kinesiotherapist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Kinesiotherapy

Kinesiotherapy is an allied health profession that concerns corrective therapy. Common careers in this field include physical therapy assistance, kinesiotherapy and occupational therapy. See below for a comparison of these careers:

Physical Therapist Assistant Kinesiotherapist Occupational Therapist
Career Overview Under supervision, physical therapist assistants help to rehabilitate patients from illnesses and injuries. Kinesiotherapists rehabilitate patients through the application of therapeutic exercise. Occupational therapists help patients physically recover skills and abilities needed for day-to-day living.
Education Requirements Associate's degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree
Program Length Two years full-time Four years full-time Two years full-time (following the bachelor's degree)
Certification and Licensing Licensure required in most states N/A Licensure and certification required
Experience Required None; entry level 1,000 hour internship Six months of fieldwork
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 Much-faster-than-average growth (41%) compared to all occupations* No data available for kinesiotherapists, but jobs for physical trainers were projected to grow faster than average (19%) compared to all occupations* Much-faster-than-average growth (29%)compared to all occupations*
Annual Mean Salary $54,330 (2014)* $78,000 (2014)** $80,000 (2014)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Kinesiotherapy Association.

Physical Therapist Assistant

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) work under the supervision of physical therapists, helping patients recover from surgical procedures, injuries and other illnesses. Their intention is to help the patient reclaim movement in the body and mitigate pain involved in the recovery process. They may utilize exercise techniques and apply therapeutic methods, such as those involving massage, electrical stimulation and mechanical traction. They are often responsible for transporting patients safely to treatment areas.

Requirements

According to the BLS, states generally require PTAs to hold an associate's degree from a physical therapy assistance program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Programs consist of didactic and clinical coursework and include a certification program in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Most states require PTAs to be licensed, which usually involves sitting for the National Physical Therapy Exam after completing an accredited program. The exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Your state may require an additional state-administered examination and continuing education credits in order to maintain licensure.

Below are some examples of what employers were looking for in December 2012:

  • A not-for-profit healthcare provider in Virginia was looking for a full-time licensed physical therapy assistant to participate in a home care program. Candidates were to hold an associate's degree in physical therapy assistance and have at least one year of clinical experience. The employers also required that the candidate hold or be eligible for a Virginia or West Virginia state license. Candidates were also expected to hold a valid driver's license and be able to pass a criminal background check.
  • A North Carolina home healthcare company was seeking a full-time physical therapist assistant with an associate's degree from an accredited program and 6-12 months of experience as a PTA, preferably in a home healthcare environment. Candidates were to hold an unrestricted state license and be certified in CPR.
  • A privately-owned rehabilitation center in New Jersey wanted to hire a full- or part-time PTA. Candidates were expected to hold or be eligible for a state PTA license. Candidates also needed at least one year of experience or clinical association in a sub-acute/rehabilitation setting dealing with adult and geriatric patients.

Standing Out

According to the BLS, job opportunities may be more plentiful for PTAs who are willing to locate to rural areas and seek jobs in acute care and orthopedic settings. You may also enhance your career prospects by continuing your education to earn a bachelor's degree. Such degree may qualify you for a management or administrative position and could lead to a position as a kinesiotherapist.

Kinesiotherapist

The American Kinesiotherapy Association (AKTA) explains that the holistic practice of kinesiotherapy (sometimes referred to as exercise physiology) begins where traditional therapy ends. In this, the purview of a kinesiotherapist is different from that of a physical therapist or PTA, who are more focused on patients with acute or more severe conditions. Their focus is instead on the physical and psychological benefits of therapeutic exercise. The AKTA notes that the mission of this discipline, which was developed during World War II, was to restore wounded and ill soldiers to full-functioning capability and return them to their units as quickly as possible. Today, kinesiotherapists continue to work in cooperation with licensed medical practitioners to assess patients' physical and emotional conditions, develop treatment plans, intervene to apply treatments and educate patients about how to continue therapeutic exercises on their own.

Requirements

The AKTA reveals that a kinesiotherapist must graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). In 2012, the CAAHEP accredited bachelor's degree programs in kinesiotherapy at five postsecondary institutions in the United States. The program must contain a clinical internship of 1,000 hours under the supervision of a Registered Kinesiotherapist (RKT). You must serve the internship after having completed all required didactic instruction in the program. While there is no strict licensure requirement for kinesiotherapists, the AKTA strongly recommends that upon completion of your education, you sit for the registration examination from the Council on Professional Standards for Kinesiotherapy Board of Registration. Passing the exam entitles you to the RKT credential.

Here's a glance at what some employers were looking for in kinesiotherapists in December 2012:

  • A physical therapy and rehabilitation facility in Arizona had openings for several kinesiotherapists. To be considered, a candidate was to be a credentialed RKT. Though recent graduates were welcome to apply, the employer preferred that candidates have at least two years of medical rehabilitation experience.
  • A Veterans Affairs facility in South Carolina wanted to hire a full-time kinesiotherapist to work as a home-based primary care rehabilitation therapist. Candidates were to hold a CAAHEP-accredited bachelor's degree in kinesiotherapy or exercise science with an emphasis on kinesiotherapy. Years of experience, scope of knowledge and/or advanced degrees were to be the determining factors for pay grade.
  • A university healthcare system in California was seeking a full-time exercise physiologist. Candidates were to hold at least a bachelor's degree and be certified as a Clinical Exercise Specialist from the American College of Sports Medicine. Candidates were required to have several years of experience in multi-phase cardiac rehabilitation.

Standing Out

Kinesiotherapy is a broad term. Those who practice it are required to have extensive knowledge about body systems and functions. Internships can give you experience in various areas of practice; however, you may be able to stand out from the crowd by specializing in one specific area, such as geriatric or pediatric kinesiotherapy. You may want to concentrate on rehabilitation therapy applied to wounded veterans. In addition, you can broaden your horizons by obtaining certification in a related area, such as exercise physiology. A master's degree in an allied health field, such as occupational therapy, may also enhance your employment possibilities.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapy consists of therapeutic interventions and exercises that help people overcome physical and cognitive disabilities and perform the functions necessary for daily living. Occupational therapists may examine a patient's physical and mental conditions as well as the patient's social and home environments. In addition to administering treatments, they make recommendations to the patient and the family about appropriate treatment regimens and the use of rehabilitative equipment.

Requirements

As the BLS states, occupational therapists are required to hold master's degrees from programs that are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). A master's degree program normally takes two years of full-time study, including about six months of field work. Some schools offer programs that allow you to earn a bachelor's and master's degree in five years total. The BLS reports that all states require occupational therapists to be licensed. Licensure eligibility entails graduating from an ACOTE-accredited program and passing the certification examination from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, which leads to the Occupational Therapist Registered (OTR) credential. Continuing education credits are required to maintain certification. Individual states may also have their own additional requirements.

Here are a few ads for occupational therapists that were running in December 2012:

  • A Texas office of a nationwide home healthcare provider was looking for a full-time occupational therapist. Candidates were to have graduated from an ACOTE-accredited program and to hold national certification. Candidates were to be licensed in Texas and to have accumulated two years of qualifying work experience.
  • A healthcare services provider in Florida wanted to hire a full-time occupational therapist. Candidates were to have graduated from an accredited program and hold an active Florida license. Candidates were also to have accumulated at least one year of experience in the treatment and rehabilitation of mental and physical disabilities. The employer preferred that candidates have experience in multiple settings.
  • An Ohio healthcare services provider advertised for a full-time occupational therapist to provide therapeutic services in the area of Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. Candidates were to have graduated from an ACOTE-accredited program and hold Ohio licensure. The employer sought candidates who had accumulated at least one year of work experience, preferably in a clinical setting.

Standing Out

The practice of occupational therapy spans generations and settings. You may stand out by specializing in working with children, adults or geriatrics or by concentrating your practice in areas such as health and wellness, work/industry or mental health. Board and specialty certification in one or more areas may enhance your marketability. The BLS states that, in 2010, 48% of the total number of licensed occupational therapists worked in healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics. You may distinguish yourself by becoming an independent consultant, specializing in home-based care.

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