If you drew a Venn diagram of a physical therapist and a travel-enthusiast, there would be some very important characteristics that overlap between them. PTs and world travelers evaluate situations thoughtfully and plan accordingly. They are smart, creative, and crafty, but flexible when things do not go as expected. They truly want to get to know people and understand their backstory. They are empathetic and caring, and view the world through a compassionate lens. With this in mind, earning a physical therapy degree abroad is the perfect way to pair these two passions.
Why Earn Your Degree Abroad
Earning a physical therapy degree abroad will give you the education you need, the added element of living overseas, and first-hand knowledge of international healthcare. These experiences will be an advantage throughout your career, maybe even starting with physical therapy internships or physical therapy jobs abroad!
International experience can add to your resume and broaden your idea of what physical therapy really means. Interactions with clinicians and patients abroad will help you immensely when entering the people-centered profession of physical therapy. It will change how you approach patients and handle cases, even with small lessons, like how to communicate with someone whose first language is not English. Whether jobs abroad are on your mind yet or not (let’s not get ahead of ourselves!), the cross-cultural learning experience you’ll gain from earning your physical therapy degree abroad will greatly compliment the qualities needed to be an all-star physical therapist.
The cultural perspective paired with your PT degree will provide you with valuable exposure to an international healthcare system and patient care abroad. This will give you a unique understanding of the field, and will be a valuable tool throughout your career.
Universities all around the world offer outstanding physical therapy degree programs. If you have your sights set on a certain area, chances are there is a great PT program available. If you are still wide-open on where you would like to study, here are some regions that excel in healthcare (and also offer plenty of activities for when you need a break from schoolwork!):
Costa Rica has many advantages for aspiring physical therapy students. Known for having one of the best healthcare systems in Latin America, Costa Rica is consistently ranked at the top for the population’s long-life-expectancy by the World Health Organization. As a country that values good health, Costa Rica is an excellent place to learn from fellow PTs, healthcare professionals, and patients. On top of that, weekend trips to the beach or the rainforest sounds like the perfect way to relax after a hard week of studying!
The United Kingdom is renowned for academics and its National Healthcare System, which are a winning-combo for any PT student. Many UK universities are closely connected to hospitals too, so PT students can get great exposure working with real patients while earning their physical therapy degree in the UK. England and Scotland are two popular destinations for pursuing physical therapy degrees abroad, with many great PT programs to choose from. Plus, riding to class on red double-decker buses after a delicious serving of fish and chips doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Australia is packed with great universities known for reputable PT degree programs and research. It is also considered to have a lower cost of tuition for many academic programs when compared to the U.S. and the U.K. Physical therapy is a valuable profession “down under”, as taking care of the active Aussies is important work. Outside of class you can participate in the active lifestyle yourself, whether diving in the Great Barrier Reef or surfing some gnarly waves (just so you have an even better connection with your patients, of course!).
Physical Therapy Degree Programs
There are many great choices for physical therapy degrees all around the world. One thing to keep in mind is that different countries have different requirements for physical therapy professionals. In some places, you can pursue an undergraduate degree in physical therapy and be set to enter the working world. But, in other countries, you might need a masters degree or a doctorate for a majority of PT jobs. No matter what level PT degree is right for you, studying internationally will give you a cultural perspective and competitive edge for your future.
Undergraduate physical therapy degree programs are usually three to four years in length and give students both classroom knowledge and some clinical experience. Some physical therapy schools will require undergraduate students to complete prerequisite science courses before entering PT programs. Keep in mind: there are many countries where you can practice physical therapy with only an undergraduate degree; England is a great example of this, with quite a few undergraduate PT programs that will allow you to work in the United Kingdom after graduation.
Physical therapy master’s degree programs are often more intensive, two-year programs that include additional professional and clinical experience. Physical therapy masters programs are even more transferrable between countries for employment. The hands-on, patient experience typical of PT master’s degrees will prepare you for your career and allow you to truly reflect on the unique techniques you learn from another culture’s healthcare system. Prerequisites for physical therapy master’s programs are usually an undergraduate degree in something related to PT, such health science.
If you want to go all out, physical therapy doctoral programs are the epitome of professional PT life; with a doctorate PT degree you will have the choice of where you want to work in the future. Earning a doctorate in physical therapy will require more years of schooling and will give you a long-term immersion into the country you choose. These three to four year degree programs will give you an education along with meaningful experience from being fully immersed in an international healthcare setting.
As you dive into researching physical therapy degree programs, make sure you are aware of the requirements for each country. This will help you as you think about what an international PT degree means for you. Do you want to gain cultural experience for a career back home? Or is working abroad for the long-haul in the cards for you? Thinking about the logistics upfront will make finding the perfect PT degree program a whole lot easier.
Benefits & Challenges
Do the research. As mentioned, physical therapy degree programs have differing requirements around the world. With a field as specific as PT, it’s important to have an idea of what you are looking for in a degree program as well as your future career. The cultural experience will be worth it, but just make sure your international degree program matches the requirements for your desired country of employment!
Set yourself apart. If earning a physical therapy degree abroad is sounding pretty good right now, the benefits for you and your career are undeniable. Physical therapy can be a competitive field, so what better way to set yourself apart than with an international PT degree? You will not only learn from living abroad, but also the many different approaches to health care and treatment around the world. This can give you the edge you need as you move forward in your career.
Pursuing a physical therapy degree abroad will give you the opportunity to learn from international healthcare professionals and your patients. These experiences are more than just an extra bullet point on your resume; your experiences abroad will impact you for the rest of your life and give you a perspective unlike any other.