Physical therapists work with people of all ages, whether they've had strokes, sports injuries or require assistance after auto accidents. Physical therapists discuss patients' injuries with physicians, observe their physical limitations and establish treatment plans to help them rehabilitate from injuries or medical conditions. If you want to become a physical therapist, you'll spend at least seven years earning your bachelor's degree and doctorate in physical therapy. In return, you can expect to earn a relatively high salary compared to many occupations.
Salary and Qualifications
The average annual salary for a physical therapist was $81,110 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent made over $112,020 per year. To become a physical therapist, you need a bachelor's degree in any major and a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree -- the latter of which usually takes three years. You must then complete a residency program of nine months to three years, and then pass the licensing exam through the American Physical Therapy Association or a state association to get your license. Other essential requirements include at attention to detail, physical stamina, dexterity, compassion and interpersonal skills.
Salary by Employer
A physical therapist can earn higher salaries working for certain types of employers. In 2012, they earned the highest salaries of $90,440 working in the home healthcare industry, according to the BLS. Those who worked in employment services or for daycare centers also earned relatively high salaries of $87,030 and $86,480 per year, respectively. Physical therapists in employment services often work for corporations or with occupational therapists, helping employees with injuries get back to work. If you worked as a physical therapist in a nursing home, you'd earn $85,810 annually. At a general medical or surgical hospital, you'd make $80,060.
Salary by State
Physical therapists earned $110,670 in Nevada, according to 2012 BLS data, which was the highest salary among all states and the District of Columbia. Those in Alaska, New Jersey and California also earned above-average salaries of $89,950, 89,830 and $89,370 per year, respectively. In Connecticut, you'd earn a salary of $84,720, while you'd only make $79,600 in Massachusetts. Physical therapists in Pennsylvania earned $76,210 annually.
The BLS predicts a 39 percent increase in employment from 2010 to 2020, which is much faster than the 14 percent growth rate for all occupations. Population increases in the elderly population due to aging baby boomers should increase jobs for physical therapists. Baby boomers are staying more active as they retire than past generations and will need more physical therapy sessions. They are also more likely to suffer from heart attacks, strokes or arthritis as they age, which can also have a positive impact on physical therapy jobs.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: What Physical Therapists Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: How to Become a Physical Therapist
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physical Therapists: Job Outlook
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Physical Therapists
- American Physical Therapy Association: Role of a Physical Therapist
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