Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who work with patients to improve their range of motion, reduce pain, and prevent disabilities caused by injuries or illnesses. As the population ages and demand for healthcare services increases, physical therapy has become a popular career choice. However, one question many people ask before entering this profession is, “Do physical therapists make good money?” In this article, we will explore the average salaries of physical therapists, the factors that impact their earnings, the pros and cons of pursuing a career in this field, strategies to maximize earnings, success stories, and how physical therapy salaries compare to other healthcare professions.
Exploring the Average Salary of Physical Therapists
The median annual salary for physical therapists in the United States is $89,440, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is higher than the median annual salary for all occupations, which is $41,950. However, it’s important to note that physical therapy salaries can vary significantly based on the state, city, and even work setting.
National average salary
In addition to the median annual salary, the BLS also reports that the average hourly wage for physical therapists is $43.01. This can vary based on the work setting and specialty, as well as factors such as experience and education.
Salary by state and city
Physical therapy salaries can vary significantly based on the state and city. According to the BLS, the top-paying states for physical therapists are Nevada, Alaska, New Jersey, California, and Texas. The top-paying cities are Las Vegas, NV; Vallejo-Fairfield, CA; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA; McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX; and El Paso, TX.
Highest paying states and cities
According to a report by U.S. News & World Report, the highest-paying work settings for physical therapists are nursing care facilities, home healthcare services, and outpatient care centers. However, hospitals and physician offices also tend to pay higher-than-average salaries.
Factors that affect salary differences among states and cities
One major factor that can impact physical therapy salaries is the cost of living in a particular state or city. For example, physical therapists in California may earn higher salaries, but they also face a higher cost of living. Additionally, demand for physical therapy services can impact salaries in certain areas.
Factors that Impact Physical Therapist Salaries
Several factors can impact physical therapy salaries, including specialization, experience, education, and work setting.
Physical therapists can specialize in a variety of areas, such as pediatric therapy, geriatric therapy, sports therapy, and orthopedic therapy. Those with specialized skills and knowledge may be able to command higher salaries.
Just like with any profession, experience can impact physical therapy salaries. Physical therapists who have been in the field for several years may be able to negotiate higher salaries or qualify for more advanced positions.
Education level can also impact physical therapy salaries. Physical therapists with advanced degrees, such as a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), may be able to earn higher salaries than those with just a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
As mentioned earlier, work setting can also impact physical therapy salaries. Those who work in higher-paying settings, such as hospitals or outpatient care centers, may be able to earn more than those who work in schools or home healthcare services.
How these factors impact salary
It’s important to note that while these factors can impact salaries, they don’t always have a straightforward relationship. For example, a physical therapist with a DPT who specializes in pediatric therapy may earn less than a physical therapist with a bachelor’s degree who works in a hospital. It’s essential to consider all factors when assessing salary potential.
The Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Career in Physical Therapy
Like any career path, there are both benefits and drawbacks to pursuing a career in physical therapy.
Benefits of a career in Physical Therapy
- High demand: Physical therapy is a fast-growing field, with an anticipated job growth rate of 18% from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS. This means there is high demand for qualified professionals.
- Flexible work settings: Physical therapists can work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to schools to outpatient clinics. This allows for flexibility in schedule and work environment.
- Fulfilling work: Physical therapists often work with patients to improve their quality of life, increase independence, and reduce pain. Many find this work satisfying and rewarding.
- Opportunities for advancement: Physical therapists can pursue advanced certifications or management positions to increase their salary potential and career growth.
Drawbacks of a career in Physical Therapy
- Physical demands: Physical therapy can be physically demanding, as therapists may need to assist patients with mobility or perform manual therapy techniques.
- Emotional demands: Physical therapists may work with patients who are in pain or struggling with disabilities, which can be emotionally taxing.
- Education requirements: Becoming a physical therapist requires a significant amount of education and training, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
- Paperwork and documentation: Like many healthcare professions, physical therapy involves a lot of documentation and paperwork, which can be tedious and time-consuming.
Factors to consider before choosing this profession
It’s essential to consider your own strengths, interests, and lifestyle when choosing a career path. If you enjoy working with people and have an interest in healthcare, physical therapy can be a fulfilling and lucrative career. However, if you don’t enjoy the physical demands of the job or find the education requirements daunting, it may not be the best fit for you.
How to Maximize Your Earnings as a Physical Therapist
If you’re already a physical therapist or are considering entering this field, there are several strategies you can use to maximize your earnings.
Pursuing advanced certifications
Physical therapists can pursue advanced certifications in specialized areas, such as orthopedic therapy or sports therapy. These certifications can increase their salary potential and open up job opportunities.
Specializing in in-demand areas
As mentioned earlier, physical therapists who specialize in in-demand areas such as geriatric therapy or pediatric therapy may be able to command higher salaries. It’s essential to stay up to date on industry trends and predictions to determine which areas are likely to be in demand.
Working in higher-paying settings
As we mentioned earlier, physical therapists who work in higher-paying settings such as hospitals or outpatient care centers may be able to earn more than those who work in schools or home healthcare services. Consider exploring job opportunities in these higher-paying settings.
Strategies for career advancement
Physical therapists can also pursue career advancement opportunities, such as becoming a manager or director of a physical therapy department. These positions can come with higher salaries and more opportunities for growth and advancement.
Real Stories of Success
While salary is an important factor to consider, it’s also essential to consider the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from a career in physical therapy. Here are a few real stories of success from inspiring physical therapists:
Career paths of inspiring physical therapists
- Andria Picard: Andria became a physical therapist after being a competitive gymnast. She specializes in sports therapy and owns her own practice, where she works with professional athletes.
- Matthew Goodemote: After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child, Matthew became a physical therapist to help others with disabilities. He owns a successful physical therapy practice and has authored a book on living with cerebral palsy.
- Maureen Givas: Maureen started her physical therapy practice over 20 years ago and now employs 16 physical therapists. She focuses on integrative and holistic therapy approaches, which have been very successful for her patients.
Challenges they faced
Each of these physical therapists faced unique challenges on their path to success. Andria initially struggled to start her own practice, but she persevered and now has a thriving business. Matthew faced discrimination and ableism as a person with cerebral palsy, but his experiences inspired him to become an advocate for disability rights. Maureen faced financial challenges in the early days of her practice, but she remained committed to her vision and was eventually able to grow her business to great success.
Financial success and fulfillment in their careers
All of these physical therapists have found financial success and fulfillment in their careers. They have been able to help countless patients and make a real difference in people’s lives. While salary is only one factor to consider when choosing a career path, it’s clear that physical therapy can offer both financial stability and emotional fulfillment.
Comparing Physical Therapy Salaries to Other Healthcare Jobs
While physical therapy salaries are higher than the median salary for all occupations, how do they compare to other healthcare professions?
Occupational therapists are another type of healthcare professional who work with patients to improve mobility and daily living skills. The median annual salary for occupational therapists is $86,210, which is slightly lower than the median annual salary for physical therapists.
Speech therapists, also known as speech-language pathologists, work with patients to improve communication and swallowing disorders. The median annual salary for speech therapists is $79,120, which is slightly lower than both physical and occupational therapists.
Registered nurses (RNs) are another important healthcare profession. They provide patient care, administer medications, and educate patients about health conditions. The median annual salary for RNs is $73,300, which is lower than physical, occupational, and speech therapists.
Salary differences among specialties
It’s important to note that within each of these professions, there can be significant salary differences based on specialty, education, experience, and work setting. While physical therapy may not always be the highest-paying healthcare profession, it does offer a strong combination of financial stability and fulfilling work.
Do physical therapists make good money? As we’ve explored in this article, the answer is yes. While salaries can vary based on several factors, physical therapy offers a lucrative career path with opportunities for growth and advancement.
However, while salary is an important factor to consider, it’s not the only one. It’s important to also consider your own strengths, interests, and lifestyle when choosing a career path. Physical therapy can be a fulfilling and rewarding profession for those who enjoy helping others and have an interest in healthcare.
Whatever career path you choose, it’s important to stay up to date on industry trends and continue learning and growing throughout your career.