Physical Therapist Job Descriptions, Average Salary, Interview Questions

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

As licensed healthcare professionals, physical therapists evaluate and treat patients with mobility, pain, and other movement-related conditions. They deal with patients of all ages and backgrounds and often collaborate with other professionals in the healthcare field. Professionals in this role can work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and private practices. Their responsibilities include developing personalized treatment plans based on a patient’s specific needs and goals. Among the techniques they might use are exercise, massage, and manual therapy, all of which can assist patients in regaining mobility and reducing pain.

Physical therapists must possess strong interpersonal skills and thoroughly understand human anatomy and physiology. It is also essential that they are capable of communicating with patients and fellow healthcare professionals and working well in teams. Additionally, they need excellent problem-solving skills and creative thinking to solve complex patient issues.

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National Average Salary

Physical therapist salaries vary by experience, industry, organization size, and geography. To explore salary ranges by local market, please visit our sister site

The average U.S. salary for a Physical Therapist is:


Physical Therapist Job Descriptions

The first step when hiring a great physical therapist is a well-crafted job description. Below are real-world examples to help give you the best chance of success on your recruiting journey.

Example 1

[Your Company Name] is searching for an experienced and certified physical therapist to join our team. You will be in charge of assisting patients with physical recovery from injuries and trauma. It will be your job to schedule appointments with your clients, prescribe medications relevant to the injuries if needed, and assess patients for relevant injuries. If you are interested in this position, please consider applying! To be qualified for this position, you will be required to have relevant degrees in physical therapy, as well as the ability to communicate accurate information to patients. Although this position is full-time, hours will be based on appointments rather than daily amounts. If you are interested in joining our team, are a motivated physical therapist, have a fantastic work ethic, and have good communication skills then this position is for you!

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Review medical histories
  • Diagnose function and movement issues
  • Develop specialized care plans, goals, and expected outcomes
  • Use exercises and hands-on therapy to ease pain and increase mobility
  • Monitor progress and modify treatment as needed
  • Counsel patients and their families about the recovery process

Education and experience

Physical therapists need a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited program. These programs typically require a bachelor’s degree and prerequisite courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, and physics. Physical therapy students do clinical work while being supervised, and DPT programs usually take about three years to complete. 

Required skills and qualifications

  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Compassion, empathy, and a desire to help people
  • Strong analytical and observational skills
  • Dexterity and physical stamina for exercises and hands-on therapy
  • Flexibility and resourcefulness to develop individualized treatment plans
  • Time-management skills
  • Keen attention to detail

Preferred qualifications

  • Valid state license
  • Continuing education certificates
  • Must be willing to complete all compliance standards
  • Ability to stand, walk, sit, use hands to feel, and reach with hand and arms
  • Ability to lift up to 50 pounds
  • Bilingual

Example 2

ABC Company is currently seeking a Full-Time Physical Therapist to provide physical therapy to children with neuromuscular disorders and atypical or delayed development. ABC Company provides medical, therapy, special education, and family services to infants and young children with cerebral palsy and other developmental delays and their families.

Essential functions:

  • Provide assessment and physical therapy treatment for agency children, in client homes, other community sites, and in the center
  • Assess and evaluate the children
  • Establish and carry out a treatment program according to the child’s needs
  • Evaluate home and/or school situation by making site visits, if indicated
  • Educate parents or caretaker and educational staff in specific handling of child
  • Act as consultant to therapy and educational staff in regard to specific children
  • Seek consultation from appropriate team members when necessary
  • Participate in developing or making adaptive equipment for their child
  • Perform case management and other administrative requirements
  • Act as case manager for specific children
  • Provide adequate medical records and documentation (e.g., IFSP) on assessment, progress, and program of each child in accordance with clinic policy
  • Schedule minimum hours of therapy as established by therapy department policy
  • Participate at staff conferences and meetings and in-services
  • Organize specific areas in therapy department and order supplies and equipment as needed
  • Keep time records and billing sheets weekly
  • Coordinate services with other therapy and educational programs, having contact with involved medical and educational personnel within this facility and at outside agencies
  • Provide training, care coordination, assistance with access, program planning, interagency coordination, and administrative functions to support Medicaid programs
  • Perform training related duties
  • Organize therapy in-services on rotating basis
  • Facilitate professional growth of team members. Keep abreast of development of own professional field
  • Assist with demonstration in courses as appropriate
  • Share information from courses, etc. in staff in-services

Education & experience:

  • Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy is required; Master’s of Science degree in Physical Therapy or Doctorate of Physical Therapy preferred
  • Previous experience as a physical therapist working with children desired
  • Training and experience in the handling of children with cerebral palsy and the treatment of neuromuscular and developmental problems is desirable

Required licenses and/or certifications:

  • Must possess a State PT License
  • Current First Aid and CPR certification are required
  • Must possess valid State Driver’s License, automobile insurance, and a reliable means of transportation

Required abilities & skills:

  • Ability to establish and maintain effective working relationships with children, parents, staff, co-workers, and physicians
  • Ability to instruct parents and other persons involved in the handling and management of the child
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to pass State DSHS criminal history and background check and FBI fingerprint check

Example 3

Our ESIT (Early Support for Infants and Toddlers) Team is hiring a Physical Therapist to work with children from newborns to age three, and their families! Join our team of providers and our mission as we partner with families to build healthy foundations and community where all children thrive.

You will be joining a team that is focused on holistic, wrap around care to meet the critical individual needs of the developing child and support for the family. You will be working with a team of providers offering multidisciplinary care in a community that connects with, encourages, and build relationships with one another.

The Physical Therapist is responsible for the planning and implementation of physical therapy goals for children ages birth to three years old in a home-based setting.

Essential duties and responsibilities:

  • Provide services to children and families, offering parent participation during treatment to encourage parent involvement and training
  • Provide parent/family coaching support
  • Monitor treatment progress
  • Evaluate children for program qualification
  • Develop on-going individualized goals and regular progress reports
  • Participate with team members on a regular basis and provide inter-disciplinary consultations with other therapists as needed
  • Complete written daily treatment notes in a timely manner to document services rendered
  • Maintain records on each child as mandated to monitor progress
  • Provide daily insurance billing information to facilitate timely reimbursement
  • Include parents in decision making opportunities at progress report/reassessment periods
  • Monitor and track caseload requirements with on-going new referrals
  • Participate in staff development/training opportunities
  • Willingness and ability to work closely with families
  • Ability to work as a member of a team, and experience working with young children in a clinic, home, or community setting
  • Other duties as assigned


  • Graduate of an accredited Physical Therapy program with valid State Licensure
  • Pass State DSHS criminal history and background check and FBI fingerprint check if not in state for more than the past 3 years
  • Infant and child CPR, first aid, and blood borne pathogens training within 90 days of hire
  • Ability to work as a member of a team

Example 4

The ideal candidate will take ownership of this position. They will sustain the existing physical therapy department, oversee the existing ABC Company PT staff, communicate with other ABC Company physical therapists at the other ABC Company office locations for best practices and clinical care coverage, while continuing to focus on growth in the City area.

Responsibilities include:

  • Provide physical therapy to orthopedic but predominantly spine patients with the goal to avoid surgery but also to expedite recovery in the postoperative period
  • Work directly with neurosurgeons, orthopedic spine surgeons, pain management doctors, and physiatrists within the same City office
  • Evaluate each patient to develop, implement, and modify the treatment plan in accordance with the patient’s needs as they evolve and communicate any concerning observations to the treating physician either in person, phone call, or HIPAA compliant texting service provided by ABC Company
  • Responsible for identifying the need to refer and the delegation of referrals for any discipline-specific treatment services for assigned patients
  • Ensures the design of functional treatment programs allowing for an effective return to desired lifestyle activities
  • Performs other professional duties associated with the care of the patient, development of discipline-specific therapy services, and design of program delivery
  • Expands the physical therapy patient base and referral base

Valued skills:

  • Efforts efficiency and maximization of patient scheduling without reducing patient care
  • Maintains clean and orderly gym floor to provide a professional atmosphere that is appreciated and inviting to patients
  • Knowledge of eClinicalWorks a plus

Education & experience (including licenses):

  • Current state licensure as a Physical Therapist required
  • Certified BLS required

Candidate Certifications to Look For

  • National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). The National Physical Therapy Exam is an exam and certification used to assess the professionalism and expertise of a credentialed or non-credentialed physical therapist wishing to practice. This exam is a must for any physical therapist, as it is nationally recognized and very beneficial for a physical therapist position.
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). A Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist will be ensured to have an expert level of competency and understanding of strength and conditioning as it relates to physical therapy. This certification is offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is widely recognized as a beneficial credential for a physical therapist to hold.
  • Master Therapist (MTAPA). The MTAPA certification is offered by the American Psychotherapy Association and can prove to be beneficial for physical therapists looking to expand their credentials and certificates. This certification does require previous work experience, so it should be considered after work experience is gathered.

Sample Interview Questions

  • During treatment planning, how do you ensure the plan meets the goals and needs of the patient?
  • In order to reduce pain and restore mobility to patients, what techniques do you use, such as exercise, massage, and manual therapy?
  • When you work closely with a patient, how do you schedule and create an ideal appointment or session?
  • Do you have experience treating different patient populations, including children, athletes, and elderly patients, and how do you adapt your treatment plan according to their needs?
  • When communicating with patients and healthcare professionals about the patient’s treatment plan, how can you ensure that everyone is on the same page?
  • Is there a time when you had to troubleshoot a complex patient issue, and what steps did you take to resolve it?
  • To motivate patients to achieve their treatment goals, what steps do you take to help them set realistic goals?
  • Give me a sample treatment plan for someone with a bad back.
  • How do you track patient progress and update treatment plans using electronic health record systems?
  • In order to minimize any discomfort or pain your patients may experience during treatment, what steps do you take to make sure they are comfortable?

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