Physical TherapistJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Physical Therapists diagnose and treat people who have medical problems or conditions that hinder their ability to enjoy an active lifestyle. They provide treatment to relieve pain, improve mobility, and reduce the need for medication and surgery. Physical Therapists work in hospitals, nursing homes, private offices, fitness facilities, and other settings. They spend a lot of time on their feet, interacting with patients. All states require Physical Therapists, which are sometimes called PTs, to have a degree and be licensed.

Sample job description

[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

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a physical therapist is $92,350 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$91,850$124,250
Los Angeles, California$103,600$140,200
Denver, Colorado$86,350$116,800
Washington, DC$105,200$142,300
Miami, Florida$85,950$116,300
Orlando, Florida$79,300$107,250
Tampa, Florida$80,050$108,350
Atlanta, Georgia$84,000$113,650
Chicago, Illinois$96,550$130,650
Boston, Massachusetts$104,400$141,250
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$83,200$112,600
New York City, New York$109,900$148,700
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$89,500$121,050
Dallas, Texas$87,150$117,900
Houston, Texas$86,350$116,800
Seattle, Washington$100,500$135,950
National Average$78,500$106,200

Typical work environment

A physical therapist will be required to work with patients or clients who have physical injuries, pain, and trauma. Physical therapists will usually work in a clinic environment, although physical therapists commonly start their own practices as well. This position is likely to be full-time. The responsibilities of a physical therapist will vary depending on the clinic and location, though usually, a physical therapist will be responsible for consulting with patients in order to better understand and diagnose their problems, developing treatment plans and giving unique coaching, and occasionally using hands-on therapy if needed. Oftentimes, a physical therapist will be required to have relevant certifications to the position or clinic where they apply. Physical therapists may also be required to maintain patient records and data. A physical therapist will benefit from having excellent interpersonal skills because of the uniquely personal nature of the position.

Typical hours

Physical Therapists usually work during regular business hours, although evenings and weekends might be required depending on your employer. Most therapists work full time, but part-time shifts are common.

Available certifications

Physical therapists practice in a multitude of fields and have multiple areas of expertise, so having certifications in this field is extremely crucial. Some of the best certifications available for this position are:

  • 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.

Career path

Physical Therapists need to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. A bachelor’s degree is strongly preferred, in preparation for a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. This program usually takes three years and includes science courses and hands-on clinical work. Some graduates enter a yearlong residency program, which provides additional training and experience.

All states require Physical Therapists to be licensed and to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. Some states also conduct a criminal background check. Continuing education is typically required to maintain a state license.

Some therapists choose to become a board-certified specialist with the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1123

2020 Employment239,200
Projected Employment in 2030288,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 21% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift49,100 increase

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, aging baby boomers who want to stay active will boost the demand for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Diabetes and obesity are on the rise, which means Physical Therapists will be needed to help people manage these and other chronic conditions. Doctors also are performing more outpatient surgery, and those patients will require physical therapy during recovery.

Some Physical Therapists choose to specialize in one field, such as geriatrics or orthopedics.

Sample interview questions

  • What made you want to become a physical therapist?
  • What do you enjoy the most about being a physical therapist, and what is one thing you wish you could change about the job?
  • Do you have a degree in physical therapy?
  • When you work closely with a patient, how do you schedule and create an ideal appointment or session?
  • What is the most common aspect of physical therapy you will use?
  • How would you manage or treat a movement disorder?
  • What are some relevant certifications you have which would help you be a better physical therapist?
  • Are you knowledgeable in kinesiology?
  • How would you resolve an issue you had with a coworker or patient?
  • As a physical therapist, what is one thing you enjoy about helping your patients?
  • Give me a sample treatment plan for someone with a bad back.

Physical Therapist Jobs in Ashburn

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