By Diane Turner
There are currently around 198,600 physical therapists working in the United States, but this is expected to grow to nearly 276,000 by 2020. Physical therapists can be employed in private offices, clinics, nursing homes or hospitals and will be expected to provide specific treatment plans that will help patient manage pain more effectively. This may be centered on treating pain associated with a specific illness or injury, but it may also center around preventing injuries associated with chronic conditions or on the job concerns.
Physical therapists may earn a variety of education levels before they enter into the field. Some physical therapists will only be required to earn an associate’s degree, while more advanced therapy positions will require therapists to earn a doctorate before entering into the field. Each state also has its own licensing program that therapists will be expected to complete before entering into the field.
A physical therapist will be expected to have an extensive medical knowledge that will allow them to diagnose issues a patient might be having and administer proper treatment. They will also need to develop strong personal skills that will allow them to put a patient at ease and make them feel safe while uncomfortable therapy techniques are administered. Those in the administration portions of this field will be expected to develop the necessary leadership skills to oversee their employees and encourage them to follow the assigned procedures of the facility.
The role of a physical therapist in the workplace will depend on the nature of the facility where the therapist is employed. Physical therapists that treat patients in a health care environment will typically expect long periods of time on their feet performing physical treatments on patients that arrive for treatment. Those working in a home care environment will work with patients for a specific amount of time, occasionally working at a clinic in addition to meeting with patients in their homes.
Physical Therapist Average Salary
The average physical therapist salary is $76,310 as of 2010. Several factors can influence what a physical therapist earns, including the area where the therapist works, the specializations the therapist employs and the type of facility where the therapist works.The level of training a physical therapist earns before entering into the field will be the key to earning a competitive wage later.
Physical Therapist Salary Factors and Influences
Much of the influence on how the salary for a physical therapist will change is based on the level of education the therapist earns before entering into the field. Those that earn a more advanced degree will be able to apply more extensive treatment options, making you more desirable to medical facilities.
The employment facility the physical therapist works with will also have a significant impact on the physical therapist average salary. Those working in a nursing home environment can earn an average of $83,220 while those that will be working in a home care environment can earn an average of $89,150.Positions in home care are more competitive, only encompassing 10 percent of available positions in the physical therapy field, while health practitioners’ offices and hospitals employ 37 and 28 percent of physical therapists respectively. Those hoping to work in a more competitive sector of the physical therapy market are encouraged to earn additional certifications to make their application more appealing.
The type of certification the professional earns will have a significant influence on their ability to earn a competitive salary for a physical therapist. While each state will require their physical therapists to earn a license in their state, the process for maintaining this license will vary. States that require therapists to continue their education in order to maintain their certification will lose out on their potential earnings should they need to pay for these courses.
Many areas also encourage physical therapists to pass a national board exam to work in a specific field. Taking an exam to earn a board certification will open the therapist up to additional facilities for employment, encouraging more competitive earnings. Board exams will typically allow a physical therapist to specialize their practice so they may work with a specific employment agency. The top earning industries that employ board certified physical therapists include:
Management, Technical and Scientific Consulting Industries: Average Salary: $91,020
Home Health Care Facilities: Average Salary: $89,150
Employment Facilities: Average Salary for a Physical Therapist: $84,610
Nursing Home Facilities: Average Salary of a Physical Therapist: $83,220
Community Care Facilities Targeting the Elderly: Physical Therapist Average Salary: $82,840
Facilities that focus on preventative care tend to offer a more competitive salary for a physical therapist than those that offer therapy for those that have already been injured. Facilities that create treatments plans will need to hire therapists that have a higher level of education and experience in the field, making these employees more valuable. Physical therapists that can create a specialized treatment plan that is most effective in assisting a specific group of people with treating their ailments will be able to move into supervisory or directory positions in addition to working with patients, allowing them to earn salaries associated with management roles.
The location of the physical therapist will also make a significant difference in the amount they can be expected to earn. Those working in nonmetropolitan areas can expect to earn a wage in the $75,000 range while those working in a metropolitan area can earn significantly more. The top salary areas for physical therapists working in a metropolitan area include:
McAllen-Edinburg Mission, Texas: Average Salary: $122,160
El Paso, Texas: Average Salary: $105,400
Fairbanks, Alaska: Average Salary: $104,250
Midland, Texas: Average Salary: $102,720
Sioux City, Iowa: Average Salary: $101,770
The location of the physical therapist will typically influence the salary of a physical therapist due to the population in this area. In general, the larger the elderly population in a given area, the greater the need for physical therapists will be due to the increased risk this population has for injury. Populations that tend to work jobs of a physical nature are also more likely to require physical therapists to treat pain and injury brought on by the responsibilities of their occupation.
Physical Therapist Salary Compared To Related Fields
Physical therapists earn a salary that is slightly higher than similar fields in the medical care field.
Average Physical Therapist Salary: $79,830
Average Chiropractor Salary: $67,200
Average Audiologist Salary: $66,660
Average Speech Language Pathologist Salary: $66,920
The average physical therapist salary is more than most other therapy-related fields. In addition to offering additional financial compensation compared to other types of jobs in the medical profession, physical therapy is showing a larger increase in the amount of jobs available to those looking to enter the field. With the growing need for those in this position, it will be easier to earn a competitive salary that makes it easier to earn a decent income in the physical therapy field.
Physical Therapist Salary by State
Listed below are the top five states that employ physical therapists as well as the average physical therapist salary by state.
Physical Therapist Salary in Texas: Average Salary: $90,500
Physical Therapist Salary in California: Average Salary: $86,890
Physical Therapist Salary in Florida: Average Salary: $82,050
Physical Therapist Salary in New York: Average Salary: $78,840
Physical Therapist Salary in Pennsylvania: Average Salary: $76,640
Also listed are the states with the highest concentration of physical therapists, as well as the average salary of a physical therapist in these areas.
Rhode Island: Average Salary: $82,240
Connecticut: Average Salary: $80,490
Massachusetts: Average Salary: $78,310
Maine: Average Salary: $74,320
Vermont: Average Salary: $72,110
A career in physical therapy allows professionals to earn a competitive salary. When compared to careers that have a similar educational requirement, physical therapists can earn a suitable wage that keeps this career choice in the medical field. Combining this with the variety of career choices in this field makes physical therapy one of the more lucrative career choices available.
Types of Physical Therapist Salaries
There are a variety of positions in the field of physical therapy. Different positions offer different levels of compensation based on the type of work the therapist is expected to take on. Much of the variety in income level will depend on the facility that employs the therapist and the specific techniques used to provide healing. Listed below are some of the more popular choices in this field as well as a brief description of the employment requirements for each.
Home Care Physical Therapist: Average Salary: $76,781
Physical therapists that provide home care will be responsible for evaluating a patient’s home environment and developing a personalized treatment plan for their injury. They will work cooperatively with the patient’s physician to deliver care in addition to the medical treatment the patient receives. Those that wish to provide home care for patients will need to earn a master’s degree and become certified to work in the field.
Nursing Home Physical Therapist: Average Salary: $78,700
Physical therapists working through a nursing home will work with patients within a specific facility. They will answer to the patient’s physician and work alongside athletic trainers and aides within the nursing home to create a personalized therapy plan that will address the patient’s specific needs.
Occupational Therapist: Average Salary: $75,940
Occupational therapists will work to develop physical therapy programs to help combat specific occupational hazards. They will also be expected to work with individuals to maintain their ability to perform tasks on the job and teach them techniques that will help prevent injury on the job. Unlike other physical therapy positions, this job only requires professionals to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Registered Respiratory Therapist: Average Salary: $59,416
Respiratory therapists focus their treatment on those with pulmonary disorders. They will be expected to collect samples of blood, breath and sputum to check levels of carbon dioxide, oxygen and other gasses to evaluate lung function. They will then prescribe a treatment plan to address any issues in this field. In order to work in this field, professionals are expected to achieve an associate’s degree and maintain their CPR certification.
Physical Therapy Director: Average Salary: $104,700
Directors will be expected to coordinate the initiatives, policies and objectives that physical therapists employ with their patients. They will be expected to oversee the physical therapy staff to ensure that they are following procedures and complying with the requirements of the assigned therapy programs. Those that hope to work as a physical therapy director will typically be asked to amass 10 years of experience in the field.
Physical Therapy Supervisor: Average Salary: $88,599
Supervisors will oversee how specific physical therapy programs are administered with patients. They will provide guidance for therapists in their staff and give advice regarding different practices and techniques that may encourage more effective results. Supervisors are encouraged to have 3-5 years of experience in the field before taking on these responsibilities.
History of Physical Therapists
Physical therapy has been considered a professional field since the late 1800s, with the first school offering certification in this field opening in Boston in 1881. The field combines ancient arts of massage, stretching and exercise to assist those with physical ailments. The popularity of this field grew in the early 20th century as therapists worked to treat sufferers of the polio epidemic. Today there are over 111 physical therapy programs that help to treat a variety of physical ailments and alleviate pain throughout the body.
Physical Therapist Salary Outlook – Conclusion
The field of physical therapy is expected to grow by at least 39 percent by 2020, giving prospected employees plenty of room to get involved with this field. This is a 13 percent improvement over similar fields in treating practitioners and health diagnosing positions.
The growing demand for employees in this field largely revolves around the aging baby boomer population that requires more care. People in this age range are much more likely to suffer from mobility-related injuries, heart attacks or stroke than previous generations, making it necessary to provide them with the necessary physical therapy to recover after these events have occurred. With the growth of diabetes patients in the United States, it is expected that an ever increasing number of therapists will be needed to address the physical issues that are created by this disease as well.
Locations that provide orthopedic care provide many more jobs than other health-based care centers because these locations are more likely to treat elderly patients. Health care centers in rural areas will have especially high growth rates because their facilities are much less likely to become saturated by those already working in the physical therapy field.
Advances in technology are also encouraging an increase in available positions in the physical therapy field. Therapy mechanics in smaller sizes are allowing those in this profession to provide care to newborns, allowing them to treat birth defects that previously did not have a treatment plan.