Physical therapy is both a rewarding and lucrative career. Like many fields in the medical profession, physical therapy provides a way for motivated individuals to be both recognized, and well paid for their work.
This career path is made all the more appealing by the fact that though many students apply for, and train in, this field, there is always more demand for trained and accredited professionals than graduates to fill those positions. Consequently, physical therapists are highly sought after, and well recompensed for their work.
Below, we’ve outlined exactly what this means for those going into this well compensated profession. Please note that none of the numbers presented below account for benefit packages, which are much harder to calculate into census data due to influencing factors and widely differing corporate practices.
According to the US News & World Report, the average annual salary of a physical therapist in 2009 was $74,480. And the salaries appear to be increasing from year to year as demand increases – in 2008 the national average was $72,790.
The rates vary, but higher salaries can be expected in fields where demand is increasing. This is especially true for physical therapists who work with seniors, a growing population with increasing problems to be cared for.
Factors Influencing Physical Therapist Salary
There are two major factors influencing the salary of physical therapists.
First, is the degree a physical therapist holds, with a high degree level resulting in better salaries through the attainment of greater or more demanding postings.
Second, is the level of clinical experience a practitioner has accrued. Starting salaries are not exactly anaemic in physical therapy, but as with any profession in the healthcare industry, the higher salaries go to those practitioners who have the relevant experience to provide better care.
Best Paying Industries
If you’re looking to work in a high-yield aspect of the physical therapy healthcare profession, you should look to work in one of the following areas, all of which pay top tier salaries to trained and accredited professionals (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics):
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
- Home Healthcare Services
- Individual and Family Services
- Office Administrative Services
- Nursing Care Facilities
As in any profession, the setting or environment in which you work determines both the nature of the tasks you are required to perform and the recompense you can expect for doing them. In physical therapy, many practitioners work in clinics, either for themselves or for other practitioners. And according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the earning potential for physical therapists employed in clinical settings is an average of $75,760 a year.
Other physical therapists choose to work in daycare environments, in military or recreational settings, and in some of the industries discussed in the preceding section. For each, the salaries vary widely, even within the same industry, but the vast majority of salaries are within the range of the national mean.
Physical Therapy Salary by Locaiton
Another influencing factor on the kind of annual salaries a physical therapist can earn is the location in which they work. Some States offer better average salaries than others; below is a list of the highest paying States as regards physical therapist salaries – according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2009:
- Alaska – $87,410 a year
- Maryland – $86,190 a year
- Nevada – $85,360 a year
- New Jersey – $83,780 a year
- California – $83,740 a year
Another factor to consider when deciding in which State to practice is the fact that some States have a glut of physical therapists, while others have a need that is simply not being met. Generally, a State with a higher demand for physical therapists will offer higher salaries to lure needed practitioners away from other regions.
The preceding information should give you a good understanding of physical therapy salary expectations. Now, it’s time to look at what the career and tasks are like, as well as the educational requirements you’ll need to get trained, licensed, and start practicing.