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.
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 Background
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.
Skills and Competencies
- 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
According to Payscale the median annual salary of a Physical Therapist with
1 year of experience:
- Orlando, Florida: $57,000
- Tampa, Florida: $60,000
- Jacksonville, Florida: $63,000
- Miami, Florida: $60,000
- Atlanta, Georgia: $60,000
- Chicago, Illinois: $60,000
- Houston, Texas: $62,000
- Los Angeles, California: $65,000
- New York, New York: $70,000
- Seattle, Washington: $61,000
- Overall: $62,000
5 years of experience:
- Orlando, Florida: $60,000
- Tampa, Florida: $72,000
- Jacksonville, Florida: $69,000
- Miami, Florida: $73,000
- Atlanta, Georgia: $70,000
- Chicago, Illinois: $70,000
- Houston, Texas: $69,000
- Los Angeles, California: $85,000
- New York, New York: $80,000
- Seattle, Washington: $82,000
- Overall: $72,000
Similar Job Titles
- Athletic Trainer
- Exercise Physiologist
- Recreational Therapist
- Occupational Therapist
- Physical Therapist Assistant
- Physician Assistant
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.
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.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for Physical Therapists is expected to grow by 22 percent for the next several years, which is much faster than average. More Physical Therapists are needed in rural areas, where those services often aren’t available.
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.
Where You Can Find Jobs
- 4 Corner Resources
- Career Builder
- Zip Recruiter
- Explore Health Careers
- American Physical Therapy Association
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