What do the letters mean after your PT’s name?

So you want to find the most qualified physical therapist to help you back to full recovery, but you’re not sure what all those letters after their name means. I’m Jesse Hill, PT, DPT, OCS, the clinical director at Carolina Physical Therapy, and I’m going to explain a little more on these letters and their meanings.

Let’s begin with education and titles

Every physical therapist has PT behind their name. More recent graduates of physical therapy programs will most likely have both PT and DPT behind their name. PT is an abbreviation for your title as described on your state license (Physical Therapist), whereas DPT is the credentials you receive after graduating with your Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. You might also see some PTs have PT, MPT which would indicate they have a Master’s degree in physical therapy instead of a doctorate (which also tends to mean they have more experience in the field).

Ok, now I’m going to dive more into specialty qualifications.

Some physical therapists have additional qualifications that can be something to look out for if you have a specific need as a patient. For example, the OCS stands for Orthopedic Clinical Specialist. This is one of 9 specifications granted by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) indicating that the therapist has undergone an extra examination to ensure they have knowledge and understanding of current evidence and research regarding patient treatment for orthopedic conditions. Orthopedics is the medical specialty concerned with the correction of deformities or functional impairments of the musculoskeletal system. Other specialties include geriatric (elderly), women’s health, pediatrics, sports, etc.

What about therapists that don’t have any letters behind their name besides PT, DPT, or MPT?

Physical therapists in most states are required to undergo a minimum amount of hours of extra training (continuing education units). Your physical therapist likely has quite a bit of extra training, because not all courses mean you will have extra letters after your name when you complete them. If you’re looking for a PT with a particular set of skills, don’t hesitate to ask.

What are some other common credentials you may find behind a physical therapists name?

I’d love to answer that but the fact is even PT’s themselves can’t keep up with how many there are now! You may find letters designating them as vestibular specialists, manual therapy specialists, or specialists in certain forms of treatment such as for back pain or Parkinson’s disease. The great part is that all of them are easy to look up on the internet in order to find out more information about what extra skills or training your PT might have.