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How Much Do Physical Therapists Make?

Looking at the financial side of being a PT

As cases of injuries and illnesses continue to increase every day, physical therapy is becoming the only go-to option to help people get the right treatment. As such, the future of physical therapy as an occupation looks even brighter now. In the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by 22 percent between 2018-2028.

Besides the projected occupational growth, it’s essential to know how much you can make throughout this profession, including the qualifications needed for the field. In this article, we reveal to you how much you can earn as a physical therapist.

But before we dive into the salary data, let’s look at the basics.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Physical Therapist (PT)?

There is no doubt that becoming a physical therapist requires a passion of working with people, significant years of education and training in areas such as anatomy, neuroscience, kinesiology, biology, biomechanics and exercise physiology.

Educational Requirement

New students aspiring to become physical therapists must earn a graduate degree from an accredited academic program. This degree program normally takes an average of four years to complete before you’re able to enroll in a Doctor of Physical Therapy Program (DPT) program, according to American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). 

The DPT program is a three-year program that involves classroom lectures, course work and clinical experience. Coursework at the doctoral level includes lab work and classroom instruction in medical diagnostics, patient evaluation, patient examination, prosthetics, orthotics and medical screening.

After graduation, physical therapists may apply to a clinical residency program. According to The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), residency programs include about 1,500 hours of clinical therapy practice to completed in 36 months. A clinical residency provides additional training and experience in individual areas of specialty. While in residency, an individual will often contribute to medical research and supervise other healthcare experts.

Licensing and Certification for Physical Therapists

All states require physical therapists to acquire a license of practice. While each state has its own licensing requirements, most require that candidates pass the National Physical Therapy Examination. Some states have additional requirements such as law exams and criminal background checks. Check with your state boards to know the specific licensing requirements.

Some physical therapists may decide to become a board-certified specialist. In this case, the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) offers certification in nine clinical specialty areas including sports, orthopedics, cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, neurology, women’s health and geriatrics. Therapists applying for ABPTS certification must pass a specialty certification exam and have at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in their specialty area within the last ten years

How Location & Industry Can Determine a PT's Income

As with nearly all career salary packages, a Physical Therapist’s income is determined by several factors. The most significant factors are the location of employment and the industry you’re working within. 

For instance, a Physical Therapist in New York City is likely to earn more than a professional PT in St. Louis, Missouri. According to a survey by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, a physical therapist’s salary averages $88,880 annually, with only 10 percent of PTs earning less than $60,390, and the highest-earning upwards of $123,350. Much of this data is dependant on location whereas the higher the cost of living, the more one can expect to earn annually. 

There are different industries of employment for physical therapy jobs where the annual salary exceeds the national average. The following outlines the top industries for employment and the average amount that a professional can expect to earn:

  • Home healthcare services: $96,070 annually
  • Nursing care facilities: $92,200 annually
  • Schools and instructional facilities: $93,700 annually
  • Retirement facilities: 93,740 annually
  • Child daycare services: $90,400 annually

What about owning/operating a private PT practice?

The biggest advantage for a physical therapist in private practice is freedom and independence. Physical therapists that decide to open their own practice have a great chance of earning more than the average salary. There are many factors to a salary range for a private practice Physical Therapist including the location of the practice, experience and the patients served.

To answer the question of how much can a physical therapist in the private practice make? Here are the possible figures:

  • A successful private practice can generate between $250,000 and $2,500,000 annually in gross revenue. The take-home profit can be anywhere between 20% to 30% of the total amount of gross revenue.
  • The average private practice brings in between $120,000 to $780,000 in gross revenue each year, with 12% to 20% being profit.

Any private practice that is currently in a deficit has the potential of being successful in the future. If you can hone in on your business skills, you’ll have the opportunity to build a successful private practice and generate substantial incomeUsing software with advanced scheduling, billing and practice management features can greatly increase a practice’s efficiency. 

Is Physical Therapy a Career for Me?

People who area perfect match for a career in Physical Therapy want to work closely with patients to develop treatment plans for injuries, movement-related disabilities, diseases and conditions. Many health insurance companies cover physical therapy care, which has further increased the demand for services. Now is a great time for those willing to venture into this field and make a difference in the lives of others.

FAQ

What Are the Highest Paying States for Physical Therapists?
In 2018, Physical Therapists in New York earned an average income of $87,470 a year, while those in California averaged $97,110 per year. The best paying states for physical therapists are Nevada, New Jersey, Alaska, California, New Mexico, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, Connecticut and Alabama.

How Much Do Physical Therapists Make an Hour?
Physical therapists earn an average of $42.50 per hour.

The bottom line

Having expectations about what you might earn being a PT is important to understand.

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