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Learning to become a South Dakota Physical Therapist

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Located in the Midwest, South Dakota is a sparsely populated state of approximately 800,000 inhabitants, with about 160,000 of them living in the city of Sioux Falls, the largest city in the state. South Dakota is bordered by six states, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana. The state is divided by the Mississippi River, and ranching accounts for a sizable portion of the state's economy. However, the primary contributors to state solvency are tourism and defense spending. Tourist attractions include Crazy Horse Memorial, Mount Rushmore, the Black Hills, Badlands, Wind Cave, Custer State Park and Deadwood. The state is also home to a major motorcycle rally and offers endless attractions for outdoor adventurers.

With such a small population, it should come as no surprise that the state does not have many schools or physical therapy programs to choose from within its borders when compared with other states. However, what is available can be supplemented by online courses and programs. The state university offers a master's degree in physical therapy, which would allow a therapist to apply for licensure to practice in the state.

While most states adhere to guidelines similar to those imposed by the federal government, some states have restrictions and requirements that go beyond those set at the national level. South Dakota is considered rigid in terms of its rules for deciding who will be allowed to practice physical therapy in the state and what standards they will have to meet and maintain. Each state has a governing board or association to oversee professions such as physical therapy. In South Dakota, that organization is the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). As in all states, physical therapists in South Dakota must complete at least two degree programs before being allowed to practice in the profession. The programs—both graduate and undergraduate—will be heavily concentrated in sciences, and students will receive practical experience in addition to their academic studies.

To practice in South Dakota, a student must receive his or her degrees from a school or program accredited by the Commission of Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This requirement weeds out programs offered by a considerable number of campuses and online institutions, making it doubly important for students wishing to practice in this Midwest state to verify a school's accreditations. CAPTE is sponsored by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA).

Once students meet all the academic requirements (This means earning at least a master's in a physical therapy program), they must pass a national examination for physical therapists. This test is administered through the FSBPT, and ensures that therapists across the country are being held to similar high standards. Remember that some states have more stringent requirements than those set at the national level.

The final step to gaining licensure requires that applicants be approved by the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners. This organization will ultimately determine whether an applicant is allowed to practice physical therapy in the state. Once licenses are issued, this board will determine whether they are renewed.

With an average salary around $67,000, the long process of getting licensure in South Dakota is worth the endeavor.