Career Choices for Physical Therapists

If you’re planning on a career in physical therapy you actually have a wide array of choices available to you within the profession. All of which, it might be added, are highly lucrative options. And no matter which avenue you choose within the field of physical therapy, you can perform a personally and professionally rewarding service to your community.

The options available to you cover a good stretch of medical territory, and as physical therapists are in high demand in all the respective fields, as a trained professional you can specialize in whatever field suits you best.


At its heart, physical therapy is about recovery. You are actively engaging in helping injured or otherwise chronically afflicted individuals recover mobility, a sense of dignity, or recover from severe physiological or neurological damage. It’s not always an easy career, and it requires a significant investment of time and care, but it is always worth the effort.

Below are some quick introductions to what various aspects of the field entail:

Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Closely tied to sports medicine, this is a great career path for those individuals who are not only fans, but want to give something back to the sporting world. Practicing orthopedic physical therapists treat patients for musculoskeletal system injuries, and provide both long and short term rehabilitation for post-op orthopedic surgery patients.

Geriatric Physical Therapy

Specialists in geriatric physical therapy care work with senior citizens to correct or address issues relating to aging and the degradation of various bodily systems. Physical therapists working in this aspect of the field can expect to work with patients suffering from osteoporosis, post-op hip replacement issues, and even some patients with degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Unlike other aspects of the physical therapy field, geriatric physical therapy has the highest burnout rate of physical therapists, due to the fact that a majority of the patients one works with are not in treatment for recovery, but are in treatment to slow gradual decline. Consider carefully before pursuing this particular physical therapy career path.

Neurological Physical Therapy

Physical therapists working in this aspect of the physical therapy profession treat cases of brain injury, strokes, spinal cord injury and other afflictions affecting the nervous system. Because these damages often require long-term repair, physical therapists working as neurological specialists must be willing to work long term for minimal gains, as not all nervous system injuries can be reversed entirely.

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapy

This aspect of the field involves dealing with patients recovering from heart attacks, post-op heart surgery, and pulmonary diseases. This career path makes high demands on a physical therapist’s time and energies, as patients in treatment for cardiovascular and pulmonary issues are prone to relapse or secondary issues relating to their afflictions. Recuperative efforts on the part of the physical therapist are often performed in conjunction or co-supervision with medical professionals in other fields to ensure that treatment and recovery are handled as smoothly as possible.

Pediatric Physical Therapy

Physical therapists involved in the pediatric branch of the field work with children, specifically working to repair or correct birth defects and developmental disorders/delays. The work entails working on physical skills and development in terms of motor skills, coordination, balance, etc.

Now that you’re better acquainted with the challenges of being a physical therapist, consider what branch of the field best suits you. More often than not, this question comes down to where you want to do the most good. Physical therapists are in high demand because the work they do is important, and often ongoing. Decide what area is best suited to your own needs and goals as well, and make a difference.