According to the Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of physical therapists (PT) is projected to grow 21 percent from 2020 to 2030. What stands out to us is that this is much faster than the average for all other occupations. In addition, about 15,600 openings for physical therapists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. These stats prove that physical therapy is undoubtedly one of the fastest-growing careers in the healthcare industry. Not only is it a “hot” career, but a rewarding profession allowing the chance to help people lead a much more active life.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the career of physical therapy, where you can land a job, and how you can advance in the profession.
What does it mean to be a PT?
The American Physical Therapy Association states that physical therapy (PT) aims to improve mobility, restore function, reduce pain, and prevent further injuries by using numerous methods, such as exercises and stretches.
A physical therapist plays a significant role in the rehabilitation process for patients of all ages. The goal is for patients to return to everyday life after an injury or to help them with other issues, including but not limited to posture and balance issues. The fact of the matter is that there are various facets to what physical therapists can do in this profession.
The duties of a physical therapist vary from patient to patient but what remains the same is the process in which patients are to be taken care of. Physical therapists must review a patient’s medical records, diagnose the physical issues, develop a treatment plan that best supports rehabilitation, and administer hands-on physical therapy. Along the way, physical therapists consult other medical professionals involved in the case and families to update them on the patient’s progress. As a result, physical therapists have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping patients live healthier lives while building solid relationships on their journey to recovery.
Benefits of becoming a PT
Physical therapy is a profession that allows you to perform acts of service every day. However, there are other benefits to being a physical therapist. If you are contemplating becoming one, here are some:
- Patient Relationships: As a physical therapist, you may have more time with a patient than other medical professionals, which helps build stronger relationships and genuine trust.
- Staying Active: Not only is your patient being active, but you can also be. You can be an encouragement to your patients to exercise by watching them perform the activity first. Often, workout equipment is part of treatment plans, and you get to use them too.
- Travel Opportunities: This job allows you to travel within your state and, in some cases, if you choose, to other states and countries. Traveling to other countries requires certifications. Beyond travel, being exposed to other physical therapy practices can spark a new interest in the profession for you.
- Competitive Salary: Most physical therapists work full-time with benefits that include 401K and a healthcare plan. The median annual salary for a physical therapist in May 2021 was $95,620.
- Flexible work schedule: Most medical professionals have long shifts with unpredictable schedules. Physical therapists typically work regular business hours, which helps lead to a better work-life balance.
Ready to pursue physical therapy as a career? Here’s how!
To become a physical therapist, you must first have a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, including chemistry, biomedical engineering, biology, physics, or physiology.
A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree must be completed next when undergraduate school is completed—after that, becoming a licensed physical therapist is the next big step. State licensing requirements vary from state to state, with some states requiring a criminal background check and other additional exams. However, everyone must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) regardless of state. The exam will test your knowledge of physical therapy in both theory and practice.
After completing the DPT degree, physical therapists enter a residency program, lasting about one to three years. This program will offer hands-on experience while working alongside experienced physical therapists. This opportunity allows recent graduates to figure out what specialty they enjoy working with, neurologic, pediatric, or geriatric physical therapy.
When the residency program is over, physical therapists can start working. They can work in a small practice or for a large organization such as a hospital, university, or sports team. Once experience has been gained, you can apply to become a board-certified specialist by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). This certification will further accredit you in your preferred specialty. Some physical therapists open their private practice after years in the field and receiving their special certification.
Where can you work as a physical therapist?
More than 80% of physical therapists practice outside hospitals, and not all physical therapists want to open their private practice. Here are some places you can take your talents:
- Local, state, and federal government
- Sports Physical Therapy
- Home Health
- Research Centers
- Outpatient Clinics
Career opportunities in physical therapy vary depending on your preferred specialty. The fact that physical therapy is in demand is an indication that there is room for career advancement.
SkillGigs is proud to help advance the careers of physical therapists to provide a platform and connection with employers for the next career move. Our talent marketplace provides physical therapists with opportunities that match pay, job criteria, and desired work schedules.