Jobs, Salaries and Career after Masters in Physical Therapy and Therapist - Updated 2020

2018 median Pay for Physical Therapy and Therapist

The median annual wage for physical therapists was $87,930 in May 2018.


Pay

Because they must often lift and move patients, they are vulnerable to back injuries. Physical therapists can limit these risks by using proper body mechanics and lifting techniques when assisting patients. Work Schedules Most physical therapists work full time. About 1 in 5 worked part time in 2016. Although most physical therapists work during normal business hours, some may work evenings or weekends.



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Number of Jobs for Physical Therapy and Therapist

Number of Jobs in 2018 was 239,800


Education required

Doctoral or professional degree


Job Outlook for Physical Therapy and Therapist

Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for physical therapy will come from the aging baby boomers, who are not only staying active later in life, but are more susceptible to health conditions, such as strokes, that may require physical therapy. In addition, physical therapists will be needed to treat people with mobility issues stemming from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or obesity.


Job description of Physical Therapy and Therapist

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Duties

Physical therapists typically do the following:

  • Review patients’ medical history and any referrals or notes from doctors, surgeons, or other healthcare workers
  • Diagnose patients’ functions and movements by observing them stand or walk and by listening to their concerns, among other methods
  • Develop individualized plans of care for patients, outlining the patients’ goals and the expected outcomes of the plans
  • Use exercises, stretching maneuvers, hands-on therapy, and equipment to ease patients’ pain, help them increase their mobility, prevent further pain or injury, and facilitate health and wellness
  • Evaluate and record a patient’s progress, modifying a plan of care and trying new treatments as needed
  • Educate patients and their families about what to expect from the recovery process and how best to cope with challenges throughout the process

Physical therapists provide care to people of all ages who have functional problems resulting from back and neck injuries; sprains, strains, and fractures; arthritis; amputations; neurological disorders, such as stroke or cerebral palsy; injuries related to work and sports; and other conditions.

Physical therapists are educated to use a variety of different techniques to care for their patients. These techniques include exercises; training in functional movement, which may include the use of equipment such as canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and walkers; and special movements of joints, muscles, and other soft tissue to improve movement and decrease pain.

The work of physical therapists varies by type of patient. For example, a patient working to recover mobility lost after a stroke needs different care from a patient who is recovering from a sports injury. Some physical therapists specialize in one type of care, such as orthopedics or geriatrics. Many physical therapists also help patients to maintain or improve mobility by developing fitness and wellness programs that encourage healthier and more active lifestyles.

Physical therapists work as part of a healthcare team, overseeing the work of physical therapist assistants and aides and consulting with physicians and surgeons and other specialists.


How to become Physical Therapy and Therapist

Physical therapists need a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.

Education

In 2017, there were more than 200 programs for physical therapists accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). All programs offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.

DPT programs typically last 3 years. Many programs require a bachelor’s degree for admission as well as specific educational prerequisites, such as classes in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics. Some programs admit college freshmen into 6- or 7-year programs that allow students to graduate with both a bachelor’s degree and a DPT. Most DPT programs require applicants to apply through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS).

Physical therapist programs often include courses in biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, neuroscience, and pharmacology. Physical therapist students also complete at least 30 weeks of clinical work, during which they gain supervised experience in areas such as acute care and orthopedic care.

Physical therapists may apply to and complete a clinical residency program after graduation. Residencies typically last about 1 year and provide additional training and experience in specialty areas of care. Physical therapists who have completed a residency program may choose to specialize further by completing a fellowship in an advanced clinical area. The American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education has directories of physical therapist residency and fellowship programs.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require physical therapists to be licensed. Licensing requirements vary by state but all include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Several states also require a law exam and a criminal background check. Continuing education is typically required for physical therapists to keep their license. Check with your state boards for specific licensing requirements.

After gaining work experience, some physical therapists choose to become a board-certified specialist. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers certification in nine clinical specialty areas of physical therapy, including orthopedics, sports, and geriatrics. Board specialist certification requires passing an exam and at least 2,000 hours of clinical work in the specialty area within the last ten years or completion of an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)-accredited residency program in the specialty area.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Physical therapists are often drawn to the profession in part by a desire to help people. They work with people who are in pain and must have empathy for their patients.

Detail oriented. Like other healthcare providers, physical therapists should have strong analytic and observational skills to diagnose a patient’s problem, evaluate treatments, and provide safe, effective care.

Dexterity. Physical therapists must use their hands to provide manual therapy and therapeutic exercises. They should feel comfortable massaging and otherwise physically assisting patients.

Interpersonal skills. Because physical therapists spend a lot of time interacting with patients, they should enjoy working with people. They must clearly explain treatment programs, motivate patients, and listen to patients’ concerns in order to provide effective therapy.

Physical stamina. Physical therapists spend much of their time on their feet, moving as they demonstrate proper techniques and help patients perform exercises. They should enjoy physical activity.

Resourcefulness. Physical therapists customize treatment plans for patients. They must be flexible and adapt plans of care to meet the needs of each patient.

Time-management skills. Physical therapists typically treat several patients each day. They must provide appropriate care to patients along with completing administrative tasks, such as documenting patient progress.


What people in similar profession do

Job Title What they do How to become one
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Job Outlook for other majors in Health and Wellness

Job Title Number of jobs Median Salary Job outlook
Chiropractic 47400 $71410 Faster than average
Dentistry 153500 $156240 Much faster than average
Veterinary Medicine 79600 $93830 Much faster than average
Registered Nurse 1314400 $78470 Much faster than average
Nursing Administration 352200 $99730 Much faster than average
Nursing Practitioner 1314400 $78470 Much faster than average
Nursing Practice 352200 $99730 Much faster than average