Physical therapy involves assessing patients who experience mobility issues from injuries, illnesses, or surgeries. Physical therapists then build and oversee individualized treatment plans that propel patients toward recovery.
To prepare for these careers, physical therapy students explore assessment and rehabilitation for issues that limit mobility, as well as pathophysiology, medicine, and patient care related to these issues. They also study exercise and fitness concepts and a therapist's role in healthcare practices.
Careers for physical therapy majors include physical therapists, as well as physical therapist aides and assistants. This guide addresses each of these careers and examines relevant certifications, resources, and specializations for physical therapists.
Why Pursue a Career in Physical Therapy?
Physical therapists must understand biological and fitness concepts related to mobility and function. For this reason, physical therapy careers are well-suited for individuals who are interested in both fitness and medical care. Successful professionals enjoy working with and helping others. They also have strong communication and organization skills.
Physical and emotional stamina are also valuable, since professionals must physically assist patients who struggle with everyday movements. These patients may also experience fear, frustration, and exhaustion, and therapists must soothe these emotions through encouragement and placidity.
These careers allow professionals to earn a lucrative income, while also providing job satisfaction from helping others.
Physical Therapy Career Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physical therapist positions are projected to grow by 18% between 2019-2029, which would create almost 50,000 new positions in the field. These employment numbers reflect a projected increase in the number of chronically ill and elderly patients, as well as medical advancements that can lead to more trauma survivors.
These positions can be competitive since many physical therapy speciality certifications are common. For instance, more than 15,000 therapists hold orthopaedic certification through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialities (ABPTS). To increase employment odds, professionals can choose less common certification specialties, like cardiovascular and pulmonary or women's health credentials.
The BLS also projects a 29% increase in physical therapist aide and assistant positions in the coming years.
The following table provides an overview of these positions, including job descriptions and median salaries.
Physical therapists help patients overcome injuries, manage chronic issues, and regain mobility. Professionals draft and administer treatment plans based on their observations and each patient's history. They must also communicate patients' needs with families and alter treatments to reflect patients' progress or setbacks. These physical therapy careers require a doctorate and a license or certification.
Median Annual Salary: $89,440
Physical Therapist Assistant
Physical therapist assistants oversee therapy sessions to offer feedback on patient needs and physically assist patients with exercises and stretches. Professionals also perform massages and inform patients' families of their aftercare needs. These positions call for at least an associate degree and a license or certification.
Median Annual Salary: $58,790
Physical Therapist Aide
Physical therapist aides perform administrative duties, like scheduling appointments and purchasing supplies. Individuals may also clean therapy rooms before and after treatments and prepare equipment for sessions. High school graduates can earn these positions, but they must undergo on-the-job training.
Median Annual Salary: $27,000
Skills Gained With a Degree in Physical Therapy
Physical therapists must be positive and knowledgeable team players who understand current medical concepts and technologies. Earning a degree can also help individuals develop stronger people skills (e.g., patience, kindness, and active listening) and managerial proficiencies (e.g., time management and problem-solving skills). The following list details a few other skills that benefit physical therapy professionals.
Physical therapists work with a variety of patients, each with unique health issues. For this reason, therapists must be organized — mentally and systemically — to separate details of each case. Professionals must also organize treatment plans, maintain records on patients' progress and setbacks, and excel at time management.
Therapists consult with medical professionals to determine patients' needs. They must also explain treatment plans to patients and their families using simple terms and actively listen to patients' feedback. Professionals also learn to consider their tone and phrasing to ensure they show compassion and motivate patients toward improvement.
An important skill developed during a physical therapy program is the ability to conduct rigorous research. Professionals must stay current with healthcare technology and procedures and study health issues and medical equipment to help patients with unique needs. An understanding of historical and recent trends, as well as benchmarks, is essential when reviewing a patient's history and forming a hypothesis for treatment.
Physical therapists observe patients before and during sessions and use these observations to build and alter treatment plans. Professionals should be detail oriented and analytical when making these notes — patients may not always voice their discomfort or concerns. Therapists also learn to use therapy equipment and tools to provide data analysis.
Patients may experience setbacks during physical therapy. Adaptability allows therapists to note those issues and alter treatment plans accordingly. Therapists may deal with last-minute appointment changes due to emergencies, patient needs, or changes in an organization's healthcare policies. Professionals may also need to adapt their therapy techniques to incorporate new technologies.
Physical Therapy Career Paths
Given the relatively short list of occupations for this degree, career opportunities in physical therapy are surprisingly widespread. For instance, professionals can work for sports teams or outpatient care centers, and they may also specialize in areas like geriatrics or oncology. Because of this diversity, individuals who want to become physical therapists should choose a doctoral program that aligns closely with their goals. Professionals can also pursue speciality certifications to prepare for specific careers, including the following options.
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
These professionals help patients with heart and respiratory issues, such as COPD and heart disease. Rehabilitation techniques improve overall heart and lung health. Therapists guide patients through rehabilitation exercises and also teach stress reduction techniques. These professionals often work at outpatient centers and hospitals.
- Clinical Electrophysiology
Clinical electrophysiology specialists assist with muscle and nerve injuries. Their techniques can help with tissue repair, muscle spasms, and wounds like diabetic ulcers. They can also help patients increase mobility and manage pain. These jobs involve outpatient care, and many electrophysiologists work at hospitals.
Some physical therapists specialize in helping elderly patients maintain mobility and experience less pain from issues like osteoporosis and arthritis. Other concerns may include neurological problems related to Parkinson's and dementia, as well as heart and respiratory health. Common workplaces include outpatient care centers and residential care facilities.
Neurology specialists focus on conditions related to the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy, sciatica, and multiple sclerosis. These issues may hinder mobility, speech, and learning and disrupt respiratory and cardiovascular processes. Professionals may also help patients recover from strokes. Rehabilitation centers and hospitals often employ these physical therapists.
Oncology physical therapists focus on cancer patients who experience musculoskeletal issues during and after treatments. These workers may help patients with fatigue, weight management, ongoing pain, coordination, and memory loss. Professionals often work with doctors and surgeons to collaborate on treatment plans. These therapists may work at rehabilitation centers and hospitals. As of June 2019, only around 70 people held ABPTS certification in oncology.
Orthopaedic physical therapists treat issues related to bones, joints, and other musculoskeletal elements. Patients may need help recovering from hip replacement surgeries or injuries like strained muscles and broken bones. Professionals can also treat patients with ongoing disorders, such as arthritis or bursitis. Hospitals, outpatient clinics, and home health organizations often employ these therapists.
Pediatric specialists treat patients from birth through adolescence for various conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy, and scoliosis. Professionals work with other medical and developmental professionals to build treatment plans, and they also help families understand at-home rehabilitation strategies. These physical therapist careers can be found at schools, hospitals, and outpatient care centers.
Sports-based physical therapists help athletes recover from injuries, such as concussions, ACL tears, and rotator cuff injuries. They employ techniques like exercise, dry needling, and massage. Therapists promote rapid recovery and help athletes stay active while they are injured. Many sports teams hire these professionals to treat their players. Other potential workplaces include hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
- Women's Health
This specialization focuses on women's health issues like pelvic pain and incontinence. These physical therapists also offer prenatal and postpartum care and help women recover from surgeries like hysterectomies. These treatments often occur at women's health clinics and hospitals. Fewer than 500 individuals have earned ABPTS certification in this area, as of June 2019.
- Wound Management
Wound management physical therapists work with medical teams to build treatment plans for issues like diabetic sores, edema, and post-surgery marks. Responsibilities include cleaning and dressing wounds and administering treatments such as compression therapy, electrical stimulation, and whirlpool techniques. These professionals may work in hospitals and clinics.
How to Start Your Career in Physical Therapy
Physical therapists need a doctorate recognized by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Students may enter these programs after earning a bachelor's or master's in a related field, such as biology or exercise science. Physical therapists also need a state license.
High school graduates can apply for physical therapist aide positions, and associate degree-holders may qualify for physical therapist assistant jobs. However, assistants must also earn a license or certification and aides complete on-the-job training.
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides
Physical therapist aides only need a high school diploma, and no license is required for this position. Physical therapist assistants, meanwhile, must earn an associate degree. Programs may include supervised clinical experience and should hold accreditation from CAPTE.
Assistants must also earn a certification or license; requirements for these positions vary by state. Common requirements include passing exams on laws that impact physical therapy practice, criminal background checks, and the National Physical Therapy Examination. Organizations may also require that physical therapist assistants hold certifications in areas like first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Earning a bachelor's degree in a related field can provide career advancement opportunities for current physical therapist assistants. These four-year programs cover physical therapy topics in greater detail and can prepare students for graduate school.
Physical therapists need a doctorate and a license to practice in any state. Students can begin working toward these goals by earning a relevant bachelor's degree.
No school offers a bachelor's in physical therapy, so students must choose other undergraduate fields to prepare for doctoral programs. These fields may focus on medical concepts like anatomy, biology, psychology, or healthcare administration. Other options include fitness-based majors, such as exercise science, fitness, and kinesiology.
According to CAPTE, most physical therapist doctoral programs require prerequisite classes in areas like physiology, psychology, and physics. Candidates should make sure their bachelor's program addresses these topics.
Students should remember, though, that earning a bachelor's degree does not meet the educational requirements for physical therapist positions.
Students who earn a physical therapy doctorate learn to assess and treat patients with issues that limit functionality. Curricula often address exercise physiology and rehabilitation techniques related to neuromuscular and musculoskeletal problems. Students also explore medicine for mobility-limiting disorders and the anatomy and biology of movement.
Programs emphasize care management, the importance of considering patients' psychosocial needs, and the role of physical therapists in allied healthcare. Degree-seekers also complete clinical internships and practicum experiences. Classes and fieldwork prepare graduates to take the physical therapist licensure exam.
Learners should choose doctoral programs that suit their career goals. For instance, departments may target specialized fields, such as pediatrics or sports medicine. Other programs may cover a wider array of specializations, including cardiovascular, orthopaedic, and geriatric physical therapy. These programs prepare graduates for more general physical therapy work.
Students can pursue different types of doctoral degrees in physical therapy, such as a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in physical therapy. A DPT program focuses on practical applications, while a Ph.D. track emphasizes research.
Graduation time frames vary based on factors like term length and credit requirements, but students usually take 4-6 years to earn their doctorate.
Every state requires physical therapists to hold a license. To qualify for these credentials, professionals must hold a doctorate from a CAPTE-accredited program. Candidates must also pass the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy's (FSBPT) National Physical Therapy Examination.
States may also require applicants to pass a criminal background check and an assessment on local laws that relate to physical therapy practice. Professionals must complete certain requirements to renew their licenses, although these vary by state.
How to Advance Your Career in Physical Therapy
Professionals can advance their careers by obtaining field experience, pursuing certifications, and earning additional postsecondary education to enhance their management skills. Therapists can also connect with organizations to participate in professional development experiences and network with other professionals to learn about job openings and earn recommendations. All of these options are covered in more depth in the upcoming sections.
Physical therapist aides and assistants should take note when choosing their career advancement strategies. Some undergraduate programs, for instance, may focus more on preparing students for graduate school rather than for advancement in aide and assistant positions.
Residency or Fellowship
Residencies and fellowships provide field experiences that give job applicants advantages over the competition. Participants gain first-hand experience with diagnosis and treatment, as well as with patient care and medical equipment. Employers know these applicants understand medical concepts and can practically apply them when helping ill and injured patients.
These experiences also provide training within speciality areas. This detail can help professionals discover their preferred career path while earning speciality certifications to further increase their career opportunities.
Field experiences also increase participants' confidence in supervised settings before they transition into full-fledged physical therapist careers.
ABPTS offers certifications in 10 specializations, including clinical electrophysiology, women's health, and neurology. To earn these certifications, physical therapists usually complete exams and 2,000 hours of clinical fieldwork related to their target specialization.
Professionals can hold more than one certification, but they must apply for each credential separately with new clinical hours. Multiple certifications can increase a therapist's career options by verifying their expertise in different areas.
Nursing homes, for instance, may show preference to a professional with geriatrics and cardiovascular and pulmonary certifications. Likewise, therapists with pediatrics and sports certifications may work for school athletic teams, but they can also pursue employment in pediatric or professional sports settings.
ABPTS certifications last 10 years before professionals need to apply for recertification. Recertification calls for a current physical therapist license and evidence of recent direct patient care.
Clinic managers and directors supervise staff and oversee daily operations, creating budgets and work schedules. Other responsibilities include upholding clinic policies and state regulations, training new employees, and making choices that increase and improve patient care.
Professionals may supply treatment, while also offering educational programs to patients, employees, and communities. Organizations like hospitals, residential care facilities, and outpatient care centers all need these types of managers and directors.
Clinics that operate as standalone businesses may prefer to hire managerial candidates with a degree in business administration, health administration, or health management. Individuals also need clinical or administrative healthcare experience to earn these positions.
Physical therapists can also open their own clinics within their specialty areas. These professionals make all business, hiring, and policy decisions and are responsible for the facility's success.
Candidates for all of these careers should boast strong communication skills for building partnerships with other organizations and tending to human resources concerns.
Continuing education (CE) experiences help professionals stay up to date on field trends, technologies, and policies. Many licenses and certifications require a minimum number of CE hours each renewal cycle.
Physical therapists can complete or teach courses, attend conferences, and participate in webinars and study groups to earn these CE hours. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) oversees a learning center and offers CE opportunities on topics like neuromuscular diagnosis, telehealth, and arthritis treatments. MedBridge also delivers CE courses on group injury prevention, stroke recovery, and concussions.
Professionals can pursue certification in a speciality area like geriatrics or wound management, advancing their careers and earning CE credit simultaneously. Physical therapy assistants can also advance their careers in specialty areas without becoming physical therapists.
Physical therapists must stay up to date on treatments, technologies, and medical emergencies to provide their patients with the most effective care. Professional organizations help therapists stay current on these topics by offering webinars, workshops, and events.
These events also encourage networking so that professionals can learn from each other's experiences. This can help professionals learn about open job positions, new certification opportunities, and new treatment techniques.
Organizations also publish scholarly brochures, journals, and magazines on current physical therapy ideas. Group members often benefit from subscription discounts.
How to Switch Your Career to Physical Therapy
Physical therapist assistants can transition into physical therapy careers by completing a bridge program. Certified nurse assistants and medical assistants can also make this transition; like physical therapists, these professionals use medical knowledge, equipment, and research to treat patients' health issues.
Professionals outside the traditional healthcare field may also be able to transition into physical therapy careers. For instance, athletic trainers and exercise physiologists have knowledge and experience in diagnosing, preventing, and treating medical issues through physical activities, much like physical therapists.
All of these career changes call for advanced degrees since physical therapists must hold a CAPTE-accredited doctorate in physical therapy. However, these programs admit candidates with undergraduate credentials in a variety of areas, like exercise science, psychology, and biology. Professionals must also earn a field-specific state license to work as physical therapists.
Where Can You Work as a Physical Therapy Professional?
Physical therapists work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, outpatient care centers, and nursing homes. They can also find careers in school systems and with professional sports teams. Additionally, therapists can open private practices and treat patients through home-based services.
- General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
This industry represents organizations that offer outpatient care, while also providing beds and meals for patients who need inpatient treatment for sicknesses and surgeries. These hospitals typically include labs, X-ray departments, and pharmacies, as well as emergency treatment centers.
Average Salary: $91,590
- Home Healthcare Services
Home healthcare services provide treatments that patients receive in their homes for sickness, injury, or surgery recovery. Generally, therapists provide this care for patients who cannot attend sessions at healthcare facilities. Home healthcare services may include blood draws, wound management, and physical therapy sessions.
Average Salary: $96,900
- Spectator Sports
Sports teams offer career opportunities in physical therapy, hiring professionals to help athletes recover from injuries. These therapists may also screen athletes to find and prevent possible injuries and educate athletes on healthy practices. Professionals also guide athletes on gaming practices and methods to increase mobility.
Average Salary: $106,210
- Nursing Care Facilities
Nursing care facilities provide long-term care to patients who need constant attention due to surgeries, chronic health conditions, or limited mobility. Physical therapists in this industry help patients with issues like memory retention, pain management, and heart health.
Average Salary: $94,620
- Outpatient Care Centers
Outpatient care centers offer medical treatment to patients who do not require overnight stays. Patients at these centers attend physical therapy sessions, generally by appointment. The frequency of visits is usually determined during an initial evaluation and may lessen as the patient recovers.
Average Salary: $97,480
Location impacts physical therapists' career opportunities and salaries. Therapists in Nevada and Alaska, for instance, average annual salaries of more than $100,000, while professionals in South Dakota typically earn less than $80,000 a year.
Location can also affect the quantity of work available. California, New York, and Texas each employ more than 15,000 physical therapists, while states like Wyoming, Alaska, and North Dakota are each home to fewer than 1,000 of these workers.
Therapists should research both factors when considering where to pursue employment. Alaska, for example, hires comparatively few physical therapists, but offers the second-highest average pay among U.S. states.
Interview With a Physical Therapist
Dr. Jasmine Marcus
Dr. Jasmine Marcus, PT, DPT, CSCS, is a licensed doctor of physical therapy, as well as a certified strength and conditioning specialist, writer, and editor. In over five years of orthopedic practice, she has helped hundreds of patients. A graduate of Cornell and Columbia, Jasmine has worked with people of all ages and treated people of all abilities, including Olympic athletes. She has been published in The New York Times, Runner's World, and many physical therapy publications.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in physical therapy? Is it something that you were always interested in?
I decided to pursue physical therapy after working as a journalist. I wanted to be a writer most of my life, but eventually realized I wanted to help people more directly and have a more stable career.
- What did your career path look like after graduating? How did you end up where you are now?
After graduating, I was hired to work at the practice where I had one of my clinicals during physical therapy school — an outpatient orthopedic clinic. I've now been practicing for over five years.
- What do you feel are the most important skills to be successful in physical therapy?
To be successful in physical therapy, you need to be able to form relationships with people. You should be able to listen and explain yourself well to others. You also need to be curious since the job involves continuously learning.
- What does continuing education look like for you? How do you stay up to date with new research and developments in the field?
I participate in continuing education courses in person and online, and I also attend physical therapy conferences. Surprisingly, social media plays a role in my unofficial continuing education. I have accountsjust for physical therapy, and many of the clinicians I follow create posts that link to research articles. It's a great way to be exposed to new ideas.
- What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? The most challenging?
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is helping people get back to doing what they love. I also enjoy getting to meet and speak with so many different people each day. The most challenging aspects are when outside factors create barriers to care for patients.
- What advice would you give to students considering a degree and career in physical therapy?
If you're considering becoming a physical therapist, spend time shadowing in different settings to really get a feel for the job. Spend time learning about both the positive and negative aspects of the job.
Resources for Physical Therapy Professionals
Resources for physical therapists include professional organizations, online courses, and publications like journals and magazines. The following lists overview a few available resources in detail. Professionals can also look for resources within their specialties, such as those provided by the Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy and the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy.
- Professional Organizations
The following organizations are good resources for students who wish to apply for academic funding and professionals seeking new career opportunities. Some of these associations are nearly a century old, and they have built social networks across national academic and professional communities. These groups can also be useful resources for continuing your education after graduation.
American Physical Therapy Association: This professional society was founded in 1921, and it has grown to a membership of over 100,000 physical therapists and students. Educators can nominate students and peers for honorary academic membership. Students can also apply for merit-based funding, such as the Mary McMillan Scholarship Award and the Minority Scholarship Award. APTA members gain access to an exclusive database of job listings, career development events, patient care research, and payment reform articles.
Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy: FSBPT is a national licensing agency that administers physical therapy exams and issues professional credentials on a state-by-state basis. Students can log on to this website to apply for a state-issued physical therapy license, review study materials and handbooks, and request practice exams. Current professionals can apply for membership to gain access to continuing education materials, networking events, and the official FSBPT magazine.
The Alpha Eta Society: This academic honors society recognizes academic achievements in the allied health fields. AES has almost 100 chapters and thousands of members across the country. This honors society hosts national meetings once a year to present undergraduate and graduate students with awards celebrating their academic achievements.
- Open Courseware
Universities often supply free online lessons and lectures for those interested. The following courses are a sampling of offerings pertaining to physical therapy. Some courses may emphasize anatomical knowledge, while others guide students through movement exercises and rehabilitation techniques.
Deep Tendon Reflex Examination and Evaluation - Wayne State University: This class helps prepare students for lab work and patient care, covering reflex intensity and how it affects physical performance. This online course includes 21 videos of sample physical exams, anatomy diagrams, and a quiz section.
Physical Intelligence - Massachusetts Institute of Technology: This undergraduate course teaches students to observe kinesthetic learning tendencies. Participants learn how people develop strength, endurance, and balance. These observations can be applied to future work with patients.
Open-Access Physical Therapy Journals
Academic and professional journals can give you insight into the various specialties within the field of physical therapy. These resources can help you gain further clarity before you pursue a graduate degree or career.
Journal of Physical Therapy: This quarterly, peer-reviewed journal caters to an international audience. The first issue of JPT appeared in 2010, and the editorial board includes professors from India, Canada, Australia, the United States, and China. This periodical welcomes research articles and reviews that pertain to rehabilitation and physical therapy. JPT's website also includes a calendar listing upcoming international physical therapy events, such as the International Association for the Study of Pain convention.
Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation: This journal accepts research submissions about several physiotherapy topics, such as clinical rehabilitation, electromyography, kinesiology, and geriatric physical therapy. Authors may submit their work free of charge. The editorial board is composed of faculty members from the Institute of Care and Research in Italy, George Mason University in the United States, and the Federal University of Minas in Brazil.
Physical Therapy Journal: This is the official journal of APTA. Readers can access PDF format archives of this periodical dating back to 1980. The print edition of this journal is circulated to over 80,000 readers.
Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy: Readers can access JNPT's archives and view all of the issues printed from 1992 onward. Before 2003, this periodical was called Neurology Report. The editorial board accepts academic research submissions that pertain directly to neurologic physical therapy topics, including comparative trials, case studies, special interest papers, and systematic reviews. Special interest papers can pertain to new technologies and research that affect the neurologic physical therapy profession and academic community.
Physical Therapy Books
The books described below serve as technique guides to help identify pain sources and mobility challenges, and some of them are written specifically for the treatment of athletes or geriatric patients.
Pathology and Intervention in Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation: This well-known textbook for aspiring physical therapists covers anatomy from head to toe, common types of pain, nonsurgical intervention techniques, pathology diagnosis, and muscle diseases. This textbook may appeal to visual learners — it includes over 700 illustrations, photos, CT scans, and MRIs that present examples of introduced concepts.
Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System: Foundations for Rehabilitation: This 725-page volume by Donald Neumann is an in-depth resource for students exploring kinesiology, physical therapy and rehabilitation. The text covers subjects such as biomechanical principles, mastication, upper extremities, and the axial skeleton.
Improving Functional Outcomes in Physical Rehabilitation: This practice-driven guide to physical rehabilitation techniques is available in digital and print formats. Authors Susan O'Sullivan and Thomas Schmitz delve into identifying and addressing geriatric mobility issues and pain sources. Exercises and movements are depicted with color photos and illustrations. This book may be especially useful for students preparing for physical therapy board exams.
Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, Corrective Strategies: This book is available in digital and print formats. Author Gray Cook is a physical therapist who specializes in Olympic coaching, movement pattern screenings, conditioning, and preventing sports injuries. This is a useful resource for physical therapists who wish to work with athletes.
Online Physical Therapy Magazines
There are several digital physical therapy magazines that showcase new technology and techniques within various specialty fields. Some of these publications enjoy a high level of readership among students and professionals.
Digital Magazine for Pediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists: This monthly digital magazine is published by Your Therapy Source — a New York-based physical therapy supply retailer and educational resource.
Pathways Magazine: This quarterly can be downloaded in a PDF format from the publication's website. Pathways was founded in 1979 in the District of Columbia and is dedicated to health, wellness, environmental justice, and metaphysical features. This publication also has a print edition.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is physical therapy a good career?
According to the BLS, physical therapists earn a median of almost $90,000 and can work in nearly all medical industries. Professionals can also work in sports or school settings. These positions are projected to increase by 18% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.
- What kind of jobs can you get with a physical therapy degree?
The most common careers with a physical therapy degree include physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and physical therapy aides. These individuals may also apply their knowledge of exercise and biology as fitness instructors, athletic trainers, and exercise physiologists. An advanced degree may also qualify graduates to teach physical therapy courses at postsecondary institutions.
- What is the highest-paying physical therapy specialty?
Pay varies based on location and experience. For instance, physical therapists at physicians' offices earn a median salary of $88,700, while therapists in child daycare services make about $100,000 annually.
- How do you become a physical therapist?
Physical therapists need a doctorate from a program that holds accreditation from CAPTE. Candidates must also pass the National Physical Therapy Examination and earn a state license. Individuals should consider completing fellowships, residencies, and certification programs related to their specialties to boost their employment opportunities.
- What's the difference between a physical therapist and an occupational therapist?
These positions overlap in some ways. For instance, both types of therapists support people with their problems or assist with neurological disorders like cerebral palsy. Physical therapists help with mobility and pain issues related to injuries, surgeries, and wounds. Alternatively, occupational therapists often help patients with a wider variety of issues, such as cognitive disorders, and prepare them for day-to-day activities, such as housecleaning and budgeting.