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Physical Therapist

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(7.9 out of 10)

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0.2 percent

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Thanks in part to an aging population, the medical professionals who plan and execute rehabilitative programs designed to improve patient mobility and lessen pain are in high demand. Physical therapists might work in a clinic, hospital or private office, and your patients could include an injured soldier, an aging athlete or a recent accident victim. It’s your job to test and measure their coordination, muscle strength, range of motion and motor function. You may consult with other medical-care providers, including physicians, occupational therapists and social workers. Job opportunities look good in the field, and employment is expected to grow much faster than average thanks to rising demand for such services among older baby boomers.

By 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects physical therapist employment growth of 36 percent, with the field adding 73,500 more jobs. Driving this demand for physical therapists are older people who experience heart attacks, strokes and other injuries that require rehabilitation. Physical therapists are also increasingly being called upon to help manage chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity.


The median annual wage for physical therapists was $79,860 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid 10 percent of workers in the category made $112,020, while the bottom 10 percent made $55,620. The highest wages are for home health care and consulting positions. The best-paid physical therapists live in Las Vegas, Fairbanks, Alaska, and Jacksonville, Fla.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $92,860
Median $79,860
25th Percentile $66,950


At a minimum, you’ll need a master’s degree and a state license to become a practicing therapist. Many students also pursue a doctor of physical therapy degree, and new graduates taking the national licensure examination in the field after 2017 will be required to hold such a degree. Most doctoral programs take three years, compared with two or two and a half for a master’s. Many licenses also require continuing education in order to stay certified.

Reviews & Advice

On-the-job internships are a required part of any physical therapist’s training, and experts say that’s the place to make the connections that will land you a job. “It’s a unique opportunity for students to pay attention to what they like or don’t like” about the job or a particular type of practice, says Janet Bezner, vice president for education, governance and administration at the American Physical Therapy Association. Starting the job hunt while still in school is key, she says. That’s where you should narrow the type of patients you’d like to treat, be they orthopedic, pediatric, geriatric or another demographic, and identify the size and style of practice that will best suit you. She also advises applicants to highlight other skills in addition to their PT education and training. For example, Bezner notes a variety of skills, from a Pilates certification to an MBA, can add something extra when joining a practice. Plus, she says the current environment favors the job-seeker, so applicants have more room to tailor their job hunt to their own specifications.

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility poor Below Average
Stress Level good Below Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Kirk Shinkle.

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