The main focus of a physical therapist (PT) is to help patients regain mobility or manage a particular physical condition that causes pain and dysfunction. Physical therapist jobs may differ according to the specialty the therapist has trained in. While some physical therapists help their patients in various areas of rehabilitation and injury management, others are trained in a particular sub-category, such as pediatric or geriatric therapy. The following is a short list of a few specialties one might focus on in their career as a physical therapist:

1. Pediatric Physical Therapist

In a nutshell, the pediatric PT will treat only children and possibly adolescents. The main goal of a pediatric PT is to help rehabilitate children afflicted by a disease or medical condition. This may include children confined to a wheelchair due to a neurological condition, musculoskeletal problems, orthopedic condition or a disease such as cerebral palsy. Children recovering from serious injuries may also require treatment from a pediatric physical therapist. A pediatric PT is often board certified from the American Physical Therapy Association.

A pediatric PT may offer several options for a treatment and management plan for their young patients. This may include therapeutic exercises to regain strength and agility to affected muscle groups, or range of motion exercises. Balance and coordination training may also be a main focus. In addition, the pediatric physical therapist may provide educational lessons and training for caregivers and parents.

2. Geriatric Physical Therapists

This specialty focuses on patients who are elderly. As an individual ages, he or she may be prone to developing conditions such as arthritis or joint discomfort, or simply be unable to get around due to mobility issues. For whatever the reason, a geriatric physical therapist may implement a plan that can help the patient achieve a higher level of independence and mobility. The geriatric PT may also help elderly patients find relief from pain, with specialized exercise programs and activities. The geriatric PT may also teach the patient how to use an assistive device, such as a walker or cane. This job also requires certification from the state in which the PT wishes to practice in.

3. Sports Injury Physical Therapist

Head injuries and musculoskeletal injuries are common in many sports related activities. A physical therapy sub-specialty may include rehabilitation for sports injuries. Many athletes are referred to a sports rehabilitation to help them get back into the action after an injury. Sports therapy may involve pain management or post-surgery rehabilitation. Therapists in this field help individuals retrain by restoring mobility and strengthening major muscles.

4. Industrial Physical Therapist

Perhaps you have never heard of this specialty. It's really quite simple: an industrial physical therapist is someone who specializes in rehabilitation of those who have incurred injuries on the job. While the main tasks and objectives of an industrial physical therapist may be similar to that of any other PT, he or she often takes it one step further. As an industrial physical therapist, an important duty may be to evaluate work conditions.

For example. the industrial PT may find certain areas in the workplace to be ergonomically poor for workers. The therapist may suggest ways to correct this and make the working environment more ergonomic, thus reducing the risk of future work-related injuries.

5. Aquatic Physical Therapist

According to research, water therapy can be therapeutic for some individuals. An aquatic PT helps rehabilitate patients in an aquatic environment. This often includes assistance in a heated whirlpool or swimming pool. Aerobic conditioning exercises may be taught in the water or swimming may be encouraged to restore flexibility.

Many other specialties in the field of physical therapy exist as well. Requirements may differ, but a professional degree will be needed, and certification for a specialty will also be required.