EduTrek College Search
HOME  |  CONTACT US
Two Easy Ways to Start Your College Search
Get Matched to Schools
Tell us what you're looking for in a college, and we'll find them for you.
Create Your Free Profile Now
We've made over 1,444,945 college matches.
Search EduTrek's College Database
Keyword:
Location:
Search Tip: Looking for Online Colleges? Use ONLINE as the Location.

Physical Therapist Salary and Careers

Nurse Image
Profession Overview

Physical therapists help treat and educate patients who have decreased mobility or are disabled due to injury or illness. They help their patients regain and improve mobility, whether it’s their ability to sign a piece of paper or walk across a room. Physical therapists also use their skills to reduce patients’ pain and to improve their condition without using serious surgeries or lifelong prescription medications. However physical therapy is also frequently used in conjunction with those other treatment plans.

Those considering going into physical therapy as a profession should have a strong interest in health care, biological sciences, and in empathizing with and caring for others. However you’ll also need the ability to push people to do things that may be difficult for them for the sake of their rehabilitation and overall health.

Physical therapists practice in a variety of different work environments. Many practice in hospitals and private doctor’s offices, however they also work in schools, hospices, fitness centers, sports training facilities, occupational settings, research centers, homes, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes.

As a physical therapist, you can focus on a variety of different specialty areas:

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary – These physical therapists treat patients who have cardiopulmonary disorders (such as heart attacks and cystic fibrosis) or who have had heart or lung surgery.

Clinical Electrophysiology – This type of physical therapist uses electrotherapy (electrical energy as a medical treatment) to help patients manage pain and increase mobility.

Physical therapists help treat and educate patients who have decreased mobility or are disabled due to injury or illness. They help their patients regain and improve mobility, whether it’s their ability to sign a piece of paper or walk across a room. Physical therapists also use their skills to reduce patients’ pain and to improve their condition without using serious surgeries or lifelong prescription medications. However physical therapy is also frequently used in conjunction with those other treatment plants.

Those considering going into physical therapy as a profession should have a strong interest in health care, biological sciences, and in empathizing with and caring for others. However you’ll also need the ability to push people to do things that may be difficult for them for the sake of their rehabilitation and overall health.

Physical therapists practice in a variety of different work environments. Many practice in hospitals and private doctor’s offices, however they also work in schools, hospices, fitness centers, sports training facilities, occupational settings, research centers, homes, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, and nursing homes.

As a physical therapist, you can focus on a variety of different specialty areas:

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary – These physical therapists treat patients who have cardiopulmonary disorders (such as heart attacks and cystic fibrosis) or who have had heart or lung surgery.

Clinical Electrophysiology – This type of physical therapist uses electrotherapy (electrical energy as a medical treatment) to help patients manage pain and increase mobility.

Geriatric - They treat elderly patients as they go through the aging process and experience illnesses and conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and bone replacements.

Integumentary - These physical therapists treat patients who have skin conditions such as burns and other wounds.

Neurological - This type of physical therapist works with patients who have neurological disorders and diseases such as strokes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and brain and spinal cord injuries. People with these types of disorders tend to suffer from impaired vision, and balance, and often have a decrease in ability to move around and complete everyday activities.

Orthopedic - These physical therapists treat patients who have musculoskeletal injuries or disorders such as sprains, sports injuries, back pain, and strains, and help people recover from orthopedic surgery.

Pediatric - Pediatric physical therapists work with children, infants, and adolescents to treat a variety of disorders and illnesses.

Sports - They treat athletes from those who play sports at a recreational level, to professionals and Olympians, and help them to manage and rehabilitate athletic injuries as well as prevent future ones.

Women’s Health - These physical therapists specialize in working with women to manage and treat issues related to childbirth.

Physical therapy professionals are currently in high demand; physical therapists hold nearly 200,000 jobs in the United States, and physical therapy assistants and aides number nearly 115,000. Their employment is also expected to increase much faster than the national average; check out the "Physical Therapy Job Market" section for more details.

Physical Therapy Salary and Job Growth

According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists earned a median salary of $76,310 (or a median hourly rate of $36.69) in 2010. The bottom 10 percent made less than $53,620 and the top 10 percent brought home more than $107,920.

Physical therapist assistants made a median annual salary of $49,690 and physical therapist aides earned a median wage of $23,680. Keep in mind that assistants are required to have much less education and experience than a full-fledged physical therapist, and to become an aide you need to go to school for even less time. The chart at the bottom of this page details the degrees of schooling required to hold various jobs in physical therapy.

Most physical therapists work full time, with about 30% working part time in 2010. As a physical therapist, your work hours and schedule will depend on your work setting. However many have shifts before or after normal business hours and on weekends to accommodate working professionals who need their treatments.

2010 Median* Physical Therapy Salaries

Median Salary for Physical Therapy Bar Chart
*The median salary is the midpoint of all the salaries, the point at which half of physical therapy professionals earn more than that figure and half of them earn less.

Physical Therapy Job Market

Projected Physical Therapy Job Growth (2010-2020)

Job Market for Physical Therapy Pie Chart

Expect to see a huge jump in physical therapy employment in the next 10 years; the National Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs will increase by 39% (that’s nearly 3 times the national average) between 2010 and 2020.

Physical therapist assistants can expect to see an even more significant employment increase in the coming decade at 46% and aide employment will grow by 43%.

Job opportunities will be plentiful because the elderly are staying active much later in life than the previous generation. This lifestyle is helping them live longer, more fulfilled lives, but brings with it a whole new set of injury risks that will require physical therapy to heal. Those in older age brackets are also more likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes, and may need physical therapy to recover from those as well.

As medical technology continues to advance, more patients who would not have previously survived will need the help of physical therapists to go through rehabilitation after traumas and surgeries. Advances in medical technology have also led to an increase in outpatient surgery, because in many cases complicated and care intensive procedures are no longer used. However these patients will continue to need physical therapy to recover from their outpatient surgeries.

Physical Therapy Programs and Degrees

There are several different degrees that lead to a career in physical therapy. Check out how long it’ll take to complete each degree and the different jobs you’ll qualify for in the chart below:

Degree Type

Length of Program

Program Setting

Qualified Jobs After Graduation

Certificate 1 year or less Technical schools and community colleges Physical Therapist Aide
Associates Degree 2 years Technical schools and community colleges Physical Therapist Assistant
Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) 2 years after obtaining a bachelor's degree, 6 years total Universities Physical Therapist
Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) 3-4 years after obtaining a bachelor's degree, or 7-8 years total Universities Physical Therapist
All physical therapists also need to be licensed by the state or states that they intend to practice in. Generally you can obtain a license by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam or a similar state-specific test.