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Top 15 Physical Therapy Degree Jobs

By Sherice Jacob

Published:

As a college student in the midst of pursuing or having recently completed a degree in physical therapy, you might be feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about the career prospects ahead. The world of healthcare is vast, and many wonder: Where does a physical therapy degree fit in?

The misconception some have is that a physical therapy degree offers a narrow and limited path. They imagine the standard physical therapist role in a rehabilitation center or hospital. But that’s an incredibly nearsighted view. With the rising health issues globally, from sports injuries to an aging population requiring care, the need for specialized skills in physical therapy has never been more critical.

With that in mind, here are 15 of the top physical therapy degree jobs to consider as you take your first steps into working in this exciting career.

  • Clinical Physical Therapist
  • Sports Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Pediatric Physical Therapist
  • Geriatric Physical Therapist
  • Orthopedic Physical Therapist
  • Neurological Physical Therapist
  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist
  • Aquatic Therapist
  • Home Health Physical Therapist
  • Acute Care Physical Therapist
  • Research Physical Therapist
  • Physical Therapy Consultant
  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Traveling Physical Therapist
  • Physical Therapy Educator
degree guide physical therapy

1. Clinical Physical Therapist


A Clinical Physical Therapist, often viewed as the backbone of the physical therapy profession, primarily operates within healthcare facilities like hospitals, outpatient clinics, or private practices. Their principal objective is to assist patients in recovering and enhancing their physical abilities, often after surgeries, injuries, or due to chronic conditions. Leveraging a combination of manual techniques, therapeutic exercises, and other interventions, they help individuals return to their normal lives.

As a Clinical Physical Therapist

As a Clinical Physical Therapist, you’ll be entrusted with assessing and diagnosing patients, determining their rehabilitation needs, and devising tailored treatment plans. It’ll be your responsibility to guide patients through exercises, utilize specialized equipment when needed, and continually adjust their treatment strategies based on their progress. Regularly, you’ll collaborate with other healthcare professionals and keep meticulous records of patients’ advancements.

Benefits

  • Personal Fulfillment: Working as a Clinical Physical Therapist gives you the privilege of directly impacting people’s lives, aiding in their journey from pain or disability to recovery.
  • Diverse Patient Demographics: You’ll encounter patients from various walks of life, ensuring a dynamic and continually evolving work environment.
  • Constant Learning: The medical world is ever-evolving, and you’ll always be at the forefront, learning about new techniques, equipment, and best practices.
  • Stability and Demand: With an aging population and increasing awareness of the benefits of physical therapy, your skills will always be in high demand.
  • Opportunities for Specialization: Over time, you can choose to specialize in areas like sports medicine, pediatrics, or neurology, giving you the chance to hone specific expertise.

Working Conditions

Clinical Physical Therapists generally operate within well-lit, spacious healthcare environments. They engage in a lot of movement throughout their day, assisting patients and demonstrating exercises. While there’s the physical aspect of the job, the mental component, which involves understanding each patient’s unique needs, is equally crucial. The role also involves collaboration with a team, often including doctors, nurses, and other therapists, ensuring a holistic approach to patient care.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • State licensure, which typically involves passing the National Physical Therapy Examination.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Clinical Physical Therapist, you should be adept in patient assessment and possess excellent interpersonal skills for effective communication. Being detail-oriented will ensure you design tailored treatments and maintain accurate patient records. Your analytical skills will be crucial when adjusting treatment plans based on patient responses, and a compassionate, patient-centric approach is non-negotiable to foster trust and ensure the best outcomes.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($95,620)
  • Job Outlook (17%)

The median annual wage for physical therapists was $95,620 in May 2021.Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 17% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

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2. Sports Rehabilitation Specialist


Sports Rehabilitation Specialists are the unsung heroes behind every athlete’s triumphant return after an injury. Working predominantly with athletes—from amateur to elite professionals—these specialists design and implement tailored rehabilitation programs. Their expertise goes beyond general physical therapy, focusing on the specific demands and nuances of sports-related injuries, ensuring athletes not only recover but return to their sport with optimum functionality.

As a Sports Rehabilitation Specialist

As a Sports Rehabilitation Specialist, you’ll be tasked with assessing sports-related injuries to diagnose their severity and pinpoint the affected area. Your role involves crafting a sport-specific rehab program, encompassing strength training, mobility exercises, and agility drills. You’ll monitor an athlete’s recovery trajectory, making vital adjustments to the treatment regimen. Collaborating with coaches and trainers, you’ll provide insights into injury prevention and recommend conditioning techniques to maximize athletic performance.

Benefits

  • Influence in the Athletic World: Your work directly contributes to athletes’ careers, helping them return to their passion and, at times, achieving greater heights.
  • Cutting-edge Knowledge: You’ll be privy to the latest methodologies and technologies in sports medicine and rehabilitation.
  • Dynamic Work Environment: The high-paced world of sports ensures that no two days are alike, making for an exhilarating career.
  • Network Expansion: Interaction with athletes, coaches, and other professionals in the sports industry provides ample networking opportunities.
  • Promotion of Active Lifestyle: Your expertise doesn’t just aid injured athletes; you’ll play a role in promoting sports safety and an active lifestyle to a broader audience.

Working Conditions

Working as a Sports Rehabilitation Specialist often means splitting time between a clinic and on-field settings. Whether it’s at training grounds, gyms, or even during live sports events, being on-site to provide immediate care is crucial. The environment is dynamic, and you must be adaptable, moving from calm clinics to the adrenaline-filled atmosphere of a game. Regularly, you may find yourself working outside regular office hours, especially during sporting events or tournaments.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Sports-specific certifications or residencies, which focus on sports medicine and rehabilitation.
  • State licensure, as required for all physical therapists.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

Being a Sports Rehabilitation Specialist requires an in-depth understanding of biomechanics and sports-specific demands. Your observational skills will be pivotal to detect slight changes in an athlete’s movement, indicating recovery or the need for intervention. Quick decision-making, often in high-pressure situations, is essential. You’ll also need excellent communication skills to liaise with athletes, trainers, and other stakeholders, ensuring that the rehabilitation process aligns with the athlete’s goals and team objectives.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($91,680)
  • Job Outlook (7%)

The projected sports medicine specialist job growth rate is 7% from 2018-2028 with an average media salary of $91,680 as of 2020.


3. Pediatric Physical Therapist


Pediatric Physical Therapists hold the unique and delicate role of assisting children in overcoming developmental and physical challenges. From infants to adolescents, they specialize in understanding the growing body’s complexities, ensuring young patients can achieve milestones, participate in school and recreational activities, and simply enjoy the wonders of childhood without physical hindrances.

As a Pediatric Physical Therapist

In your role as a Pediatric Physical Therapist, you’ll be assessing, diagnosing, and treating a wide array of conditions in children, be it congenital, developmental, or acquired. Your interventions will span from educating families on home exercises to using playful therapeutic activities designed for children. Crafting individualized treatment plans, you’ll be helping kids enhance their gross and fine motor skills, improve balance and coordination, and foster independence in daily activities.

Benefits

  • Deep Emotional Rewards: Witnessing a child take their first step or participate in school activities without hindrance is profoundly gratifying.
  • Diverse Clinical Presentations: Children present with a wide array of conditions, making your day-to-day work varied and continually evolving.
  • Collaborative Environment: You’ll often work alongside pediatricians, educators, and families, ensuring a holistic approach to the child’s well-being.
  • Innovative Treatment Methods: Utilizing playful and creative therapy techniques keeps the job fresh and enjoyable.
  • Opportunities for Specialization: You can further niche down into areas like pediatric neurology or orthopedics, allowing for deep expertise in specific child conditions.

Working Conditions

Pediatric Physical Therapists often work in settings tailored for children. This could be pediatric clinics, schools, or children’s hospitals, all adorned with colorful and child-friendly equipment. The environment tends to be lively and joyful, filled with playful energy. Given the nature of the job, therapists might find themselves on the floor, participating in games, or using toys as therapeutic tools. Building trust and creating a comfortable space for children and their families is paramount.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Pediatric Physical Therapy Residency or specialized courses in pediatric therapy.
  • State licensure, as is standard for all physical therapists.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Pediatric Physical Therapist, your ability to connect and communicate with children is crucial. Patience is paramount given the unique challenges children might present with. Your problem-solving skills will come to play as you devise child-specific therapeutic interventions. An innate sense of empathy will help in understanding not just the child’s needs but also the concerns of their families. Additionally, a thorough grasp of childhood developmental milestones ensures your interventions are timely and effective.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($87,000)
  • Job Outlook (22%)

The projected pediatric physical therapist job growth rate is 22% from 2018-2028. The median pediatric PT salary is in the neighborhood of $87,000 per year.


4. Geriatric Physical Therapist


Geriatric Physical Therapists hold a crucial role in the healthcare landscape, dedicated to serving the older population. With aging comes a set of unique challenges: decreased mobility, increased susceptibility to injuries, age-related conditions, and the natural wear and tear of joints and muscles. These specialists are trained to understand the nuances of the aging body, ensuring seniors maintain their independence, functionality, and quality of life for as long as possible.

As a Geriatric Physical Therapist

As a Geriatric Physical Therapist, you’ll predominantly cater to the elderly, evaluating and treating conditions specifically associated with aging. Your tasks will involve crafting individualized therapeutic interventions to combat arthritis, osteoporosis, balance disorders, and post-operative rehabilitation. Collaborating with other healthcare providers, you’ll also be pivotal in fall prevention, walking training, and pain management, ensuring seniors lead a life of dignity and vitality.

Benefits

  • Significant Social Impact: You’ll play a role in enhancing the twilight years of countless individuals, offering them pain relief, mobility, and independence.
  • Growing Demand: With the world’s elderly population on the rise, your expertise will increasingly be in demand, ensuring job stability.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Working alongside gerontologists, caregivers, and families provides a holistic approach to senior care.
  • Continual Learning: The field of geriatrics is always evolving, presenting opportunities for further specialization and learning.
  • Flexibility: Opportunities exist in a variety of settings, from senior care facilities to private practices or even home health settings.

Working Conditions

Geriatric Physical Therapists often work in environments tailored to the comfort and safety of older individuals. This could be in nursing homes, senior rehabilitation centers, outpatient clinics, or sometimes directly at a patient’s home. The ambiance is typically calm, with a focus on accessibility and safety. Given the nature of the demographic, there’s a pronounced emphasis on building trust and ensuring patients are at ease during sessions.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Postgraduate courses or certifications in geriatric physical therapy.
  • State licensure, as mandated for all physical therapists.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Geriatric Physical Therapist, your interpersonal skills are of utmost importance, ensuring you communicate compassionately with the elderly. Your observational acuity is crucial, detecting subtle signs of discomfort or deterioration. Patience and empathy are essential, given the physical and cognitive challenges some seniors might face. A deep understanding of age-related conditions allows for precise interventions, and your problem-solving prowess ensures tailored solutions for the unique needs of each patient.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($68,810)
  • Job Outlook (16.9%)

The average Geriatric Physical Therapist salary in the United States is $68,810 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16.9% employment growth for physical therapists between 2021 and 2031.


5. Orthopedic Physical Therapist


An Orthopedic Physical Therapist specializes in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, making them an essential component in the world of rehabilitation and recovery. From fractures to surgeries, sprains to chronic pain conditions, these therapists utilize a plethora of therapeutic techniques to restore function, alleviate pain, and reinstate mobility in patients, facilitating their return to daily activities or specific physical pursuits.

As an Orthopedic Physical Therapist

As an Orthopedic Physical Therapist, your hands will be deeply engaged in diagnosing and managing a myriad of musculoskeletal conditions. You’ll be meticulously evaluating patients’ physical conditions, interpreting medical reports, and designing specialized treatment plans. Your day might involve manual therapies, guiding patients through specific exercises, employing modalities like heat or cold, and educating patients about self-management and prevention strategies.

Benefits

  • Broad Patient Demographics: Catering to all age groups with a variety of musculoskeletal issues ensures a diverse and engaging patient interaction.
  • Professional Growth: The vastness of orthopedics offers avenues for further specialization, such as sports orthopedics or post-operative care.
  • High Efficacy: The tangible results in mobility and pain relief provide immediate job satisfaction.
  • Collaborative Work Environment: Regular liaisons with orthopedic surgeons, general practitioners, and even athletic trainers widen your professional network.
  • Stable Demand: Musculoskeletal problems are prevalent, guaranteeing a consistent need for your expertise.

Working Conditions

Orthopedic Physical Therapists commonly operate within well-equipped clinical settings. These could be outpatient clinics, hospitals, or specialized orthopedic centers. The environment is tailored with therapeutic tools, from resistance bands to specialized machines. Given the hands-on nature of treatments, therapists often engage in one-on-one sessions, ensuring personalized care. While some patients might visit for post-operative rehabilitation, others might be athletes, ensuring a dynamic patient turnover.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (OCS) certification or related postgraduate courses.
  • State licensure, as customary for all physical therapists.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As an Orthopedic Physical Therapist, your analytical skills will be crucial, evaluating conditions and devising tailored treatment regimens. Strong hands-on manual skills enhance the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. Your ability to communicate clearly and empathetically ensures patients adhere to recommended exercises and understand their recovery journey. Staying updated with the latest research and techniques in orthopedics is essential, ensuring optimal patient outcomes. Lastly, patience and resilience are key, working alongside patients through their rehabilitation milestones.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($72,799)
  • Job Outlook (22%)

Between 2018 and 2028, the career is expected to grow 22% and produce 54,200 job opportunities across the U.S, with an average salary of $72,799.


6. Neurological Physical Therapist


A Neurological Physical Therapist specializes in treating individuals plagued with disorders of the nervous system. These encompass a range of conditions, from traumatic injuries like spinal cord damage to progressive ailments like Parkinson’s disease. The role is challenging yet immensely rewarding, as therapists delve deep into the complexities of the human nervous system, aiding patients in regaining movement, function, and independence.

As a Neurological Physical Therapist

As a Neurological Physical Therapist, you’re at the forefront of managing neurological afflictions. Your day-to-day tasks involve comprehensive assessments of patients’ neuro-motor capacities, devising detailed therapy plans, and tracking the nuances of neurological progression or recovery. Through targeted exercises, functional training, and adaptive techniques, you’ll be instrumental in assisting patients to overcome mobility limitations, balance disorders, and coordination challenges.

Benefits

  • Meaningful Impact: Playing a pivotal role in a patient’s recovery journey from debilitating neurological conditions is profoundly rewarding.
  • Diverse Patient Base: From stroke survivors to those with multiple sclerosis, the breadth of patients ensures continuous learning and varied experiences.
  • Multidisciplinary Collaboration: Working closely with neurologists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists broadens the scope of patient care.
  • Research Opportunities: The ever-evolving field of neurology offers avenues for engagement in groundbreaking research and therapy innovations.
  • Specialized Expertise: Holding a niche expertise in neurology sets you apart in the physical therapy domain, often leading to higher remunerations.

Working Conditions

Neurological Physical Therapists generally work in specialized healthcare environments. This might include neuro-rehabilitation centers, hospitals with dedicated neurology wings, or specialized outpatient clinics. Given the sensitive nature of neurological conditions, the ambiance is serene and supportive. Therapists often utilize specialized equipment tailored for neuro-rehabilitation and regularly engage in prolonged, one-on-one sessions with patients, focusing on individualized care.

Further Studies

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Neurological Physical Therapist, a deep-rooted understanding of the nervous system’s anatomy and physiology is imperative. Your patient observation skills must be sharp, detecting subtle changes in neuromuscular coordination or function. A compassionate and empathetic approach aids in building trust, especially given the often long and challenging recovery trajectories. Excellent communication skills ensure patients and their families remain informed and involved. Lastly, resilience and perseverance are key, given the complexities and sometimes slow progress associated with neurological rehabilitation.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($92,090)
  • Job Outlook (17%)

The base salary for Neurologic Physical Therapist ranges from $85,183 to $99,502 with the average base salary of $92,090. The U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies Neurologic Physical Therapists under the broader umbrella of physical therapists with a 17% projected growth rate through 2030.


7. Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist


A Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist dives deep into the heart and lungs’ intricacies, catering to patients recovering from cardiovascular or pulmonary disorders. These therapists play an essential role in the holistic recovery journey of individuals battling conditions like heart attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or pulmonary fibrosis. Their interventions are pivotal in enhancing stamina, optimizing functional independence, and improving the overall quality of life.

As a Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist

In your role as a Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist, you’ll craft and oversee individualized rehabilitation programs tailored to cardiovascular and pulmonary patients. This includes meticulously evaluating their physical and cardiovascular capacities, guiding them through graded exercises, and providing crucial education on disease management and prevention. You’ll also closely monitor vital signs during therapy sessions, ensuring safety while maximizing health benefits.

Benefits

  • Life-Changing Impact: Assisting patients in reclaiming their lives post-major cardiac or pulmonary events brings immense job satisfaction.
  • Growing Demand: Given the rise in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases worldwide, your specialized skill set will be increasingly sought after.
  • Multifaceted Engagement: Beyond physical interventions, you’ll engage in patient education, promoting lifestyle changes and preventive measures.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Working alongside cardiologists, pulmonologists, dietitians, and other healthcare providers fosters a holistic approach to patient care.
  • Continuous Learning: The evolving landscape of cardiovascular and pulmonary research provides opportunities for consistent growth and learning.

Working Conditions

Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialists primarily function in hospitals, outpatient clinics, and specialized rehabilitation centers. The settings are equipped with cardiovascular training devices and monitoring systems to ensure patient safety. The environment is structured to be reassuring, given that patients might initially be apprehensive post-major health events. Close monitoring, continuous patient reassurance, and a team-based approach are hallmark features of this therapeutic domain.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Specific certifications or training in cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • State licensure, which remains mandatory for all physical therapists.
  • Teaching experience is often required, as familiarity with classroom dynamics is essential.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Specialist, a comprehensive understanding of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems is indispensable. Your ability to instill confidence in patients, especially those recovering from major health events, is crucial. Precise monitoring skills ensure that therapy remains within safe parameters. Effective communication skills are vital, not only for therapy but also for educating patients about disease management and prevention. Lastly, being up-to-date with the latest research and techniques in cardiovascular and pulmonary care ensures the best outcomes for your patients.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($59,769)
  • Job Outlook (11%)

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the exercise physiology field is expected to grow by about 11% between 2019 and 2029. The average Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist salary is $59,769 as of June 26, 2023, but the salary range typically falls between $51,685 and $69,057.


8. Aquatic Therapist


An Aquatic Therapist takes rehabilitation to the pool, utilizing the unique properties of water to facilitate healing, improve mobility, and enhance strength. With the buoyancy, resistance, and thermal attributes of water, these therapists offer a gentler yet effective alternative to traditional land-based physical therapy. Catering to a diverse range of patients, from those with arthritis to postoperative individuals, aquatic therapy promises a refreshing approach to rehabilitation.

As a Aquatic Therapist

As an Aquatic Therapist, you’ll immerse yourself in water-based therapeutic interventions. You’ll evaluate patients’ conditions and needs to tailor specific aquatic exercises and therapies. Guiding patients through water workouts, utilizing hydrostatic pressure for swelling reduction, and leveraging the buoyancy of water to assist or resist movements are integral parts of your role. Furthermore, you’ll ensure a safe environment, considering factors like water temperature and pool accessibility, to cater to the unique needs of each patient.

Benefits

  • Innovative Approach: Using water as a therapeutic medium allows for creativity and a distinct approach to rehabilitation.
  • Reduced Impact: The buoyancy of water minimizes stress on joints, making it ideal for patients with certain conditions like arthritis or obesity.
  • Broad Patient Appeal: The therapeutic nature of water attracts a variety of patients, ensuring diversity in your practice.
  • Therapeutic Environment: Water inherently has a calming effect, enhancing the overall therapeutic experience for patients.
  • Opportunities for Specialization: Diving deeper into areas like pediatric aquatic therapy or aquatic therapy for neurological conditions can further enhance your professional journey.

Working Conditions

Aquatic Therapists predominantly work in specialized facilities equipped with therapeutic pools. These could be within hospitals, rehabilitation centers, or standalone aquatic therapy centers. The environment is typically warm and humid, with pools heated to therapeutic temperatures. Safety is paramount, with slip-resistant surfaces, accessible pool entries, and often, multiple therapists or aides present to assist patients in and out of the water.

Further Studies

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As an Aquatic Therapist, understanding the biomechanics of movement in water is essential. Your observational skills should be sharp, gauging patient responses and adjusting interventions accordingly. Strong swimming skills and water safety knowledge are non-negotiable. Your ability to build trust with patients, especially those apprehensive about water, is crucial. Being aware of the latest research and innovations in aquatic therapy ensures you offer the most up-to-date and effective treatments. Lastly, patience and adaptability allow you to tailor interventions to each patient’s comfort level and needs.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($47,940)
  • Job Outlook (4%)

The median annual wage for recreational therapists was $47,940 in May 2021. Employment of recreational therapists is projected to grow 4% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.


9. Home Health Physical Therapist


A Home Health Physical Therapist brings the realm of rehabilitation to the comfort and familiarity of a patient’s own residence. This approach recognizes the need for many individuals, especially the elderly or those with mobility challenges, to receive therapeutic services without the strains of regular clinic visits. By stepping into a patient’s daily environment, these therapists offer not just treatment but also a unique opportunity to assess and tailor interventions to the patient’s actual living conditions.

As a Home Health Physical Therapist

As a Home Health Physical Therapist, you’ll be the bridge between clinical care and everyday life. Your tasks involve conducting thorough evaluations within the home setting, identifying potential hazards, and crafting tailored rehabilitation plans. You’ll guide patients through exercises, recommend home modifications, and educate both patients and caregivers on safety and self-management techniques. Given the unique setting, a significant part of your role also involves coordinating with other home health care providers.

Benefits

  • Personalized Care: Working within a patient’s personal space allows for highly tailored interventions, enhancing therapeutic outcomes.
  • Flexible Schedule: Unlike traditional clinic hours, home health visits can often be scheduled more flexibly, promoting work-life balance.
  • Varied Work Environment: Each day brings a new setting and challenges, preventing the monotony of a fixed workplace.
  • Direct Impact: Observing immediate benefits, like a safer living space or enhanced mobility at home, brings tangible job satisfaction.
  • Strengthened Patient Bonds: Home visits often lead to deeper patient-therapist relationships due to the intimate nature of care.

Working Conditions

Instead of a traditional clinical setting, Home Health Physical Therapists operate within patients’ homes. Each environment is unique, ranging from small apartments to spacious houses. Some might be well-equipped for mobility, while others might require creative problem-solving. Transportation is integral, as therapists travel from one patient’s home to another. The setting fosters a closer, more personal bond, but it also requires keen observational skills to ensure each space’s safety and effectiveness for therapy.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • State licensure, as is standard for all physical therapists.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Home Health Physical Therapist, your adaptability is paramount, adjusting to varied home environments and patient needs. Strong interpersonal skills ensure effective communication with patients and their families. Your problem-solving abilities will be regularly called upon, making home spaces conducive to rehabilitation. Familiarity with different cultural or lifestyle norms is beneficial, respecting and understanding diverse households. Lastly, organizational skills, given the need to manage schedules, documentation, and equipment on the move, will stand you in good stead.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($71,303)
  • Job Outlook (47%)

The average home care physical therapist salary in the United States is $71,303 with a stunning 47% predicted increase in job growth owing to the retirement and care needed for the aging Baby Boomer population in the U.S.


10. Acute Care Physical Therapist


An Acute Care Physical Therapist operates within the bustling, fast-paced environment of hospitals and acute care settings, intervening at critical junctures of a patient’s healthcare journey. These therapists assist individuals who are facing sudden, severe health crises, such as post-surgical patients, trauma victims, or those with acute respiratory disorders. Their goal is not just rehabilitation but also to optimize function, prevent complications, and pave the way for a smoother transition to long-term recovery.

As an Acute Care Physical Therapist

Stepping into the role of an Acute Care Physical Therapist, you’ll collaborate closely with a multidisciplinary medical team. You’ll swiftly evaluate patients’ mobility and functional status, devising rapid interventions to prevent deconditioning or complications. Guiding patients through essential movements, educating them on safe mobilization, and assisting in early post-operative recovery are integral parts of your daily tasks. Your expertise will also be pivotal in determining the best care continuum post-discharge, be it home care, outpatient therapy, or a rehabilitation facility.

Benefits

  • Rapid Impact: Working in acute settings means seeing swift, tangible results from your interventions, leading to high job gratification.
  • Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Engaging closely with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals enhances holistic patient care and broadens your medical perspective.
  • Continuous Learning: The dynamic nature of acute care ensures exposure to diverse medical conditions and challenges.
  • Career Growth: Mastery in acute care often paves the way for roles in hospital administration or specialized clinical research.
  • Structured Schedule: Working within hospital settings often provides structured working hours, with occasional on-call duties.

Working Conditions

The environment for an Acute Care Physical Therapist is typically a hospital or acute medical facility. These settings are well-equipped but can be fast-paced and demanding. Therapists often interact with a multitude of patients throughout the day, each with their unique medical scenario. Quick decision-making, frequent collaboration with medical staff, and adapting to sudden changes are part and parcel of the job. The role requires both physical stamina, given the need to assist patients, and emotional resilience, given the critical nature of many cases.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Specialized training or residencies focused on acute care or hospital-based physical therapy can be beneficial.
  • State licensure, as is standard for all physical therapists.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

To excel as an Acute Care Physical Therapist, you must possess keen clinical judgment, rapidly assessing and addressing patients’ needs. Your communication skills should be top-notch, liaising seamlessly with a broader medical team. Physical stamina is a given, given the active nature of the role. Your ability to empathize, offering comfort in high-stress situations, is invaluable. Furthermore, staying updated with the latest acute care practices and protocols ensures that you deliver the best possible care amidst the medical urgencies of your setting.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($80,601)
  • Job Outlook (17%)

The average salary for an Acute Care Physical Therapist is $80,601 per year in the United States with a projected job growth rate classified the same as Physical Therapists (around 17% growth through 2030).


11. Research Physical Therapist


Taking a step away from direct patient care but still rooted deeply within the realm of physical therapy, a Research Physical Therapist delves into the scientific underpinnings of the profession. By investigating treatment methods, understanding human physiology better, and pioneering new therapeutic techniques, these professionals are at the forefront of expanding and refining the knowledge base of the field. Their contributions have an overarching impact, shaping the future of physical therapy for generations to come.

As a Research Physical Therapist

As a Research Physical Therapist, you’ll immerse yourself in the systematic study of therapy techniques and outcomes. You’ll design research studies, collect and analyze data, and draw meaningful conclusions that can influence clinical practices. Crafting research proposals, seeking funding, and collaborating with other healthcare researchers will be regular aspects of your role. Additionally, publishing findings, presenting at conferences, and contributing to academic discussions are integral to disseminating knowledge.

Benefits

  • Pioneering Change: Your findings can revolutionize treatment methods, having a lasting impact on the field.
  • Academic Prestige: Being published in reputable journals and presenting at conferences positions you as an authority in the domain.
  • Collaborative Endeavors: Engaging with a wide network of researchers, both within and outside physical therapy, enriches your professional journey.
  • Flexible Environment: Unlike clinical settings, research often allows for more flexibility in terms of work hours and location.
  • Continuous Learning: Being at the forefront of scientific exploration ensures that you’re always updated with the latest in physical therapy and related sciences.

Working Conditions

Research Physical Therapists often find themselves in academic institutions, research facilities, or specialized health centers. The environment is typically more relaxed than a clinical setting, with a mix of lab work, data analysis, and academic writing. Collaboration is key, with frequent team meetings, discussions, and brainstorming sessions. Travel might be involved, especially when presenting findings at conferences or collaborating on multi-center studies.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • Training or certifications in research methodologies, statistics, or specific areas of study.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

As a Research Physical Therapist, analytical thinking is crucial to design and interpret research. Proficiency in statistical tools and software enhances your data analysis capabilities. Strong written and oral communication skills ensure effective dissemination of your findings. Being self-motivated and proactive is vital in the research domain, often requiring you to pursue leads and answers independently. Lastly, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a curious mindset are foundational for anyone aiming to push the boundaries of the known in any research field.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($83,989)
  • Job Outlook (17%)

The average salary for a Physical Therapist/Researcher is $83,989 per year in the US according to Glassdoor. As physical therapists/researchers are classified under the broader category of physical therapists in the U.S. BLS, the job growth outlook is more or less equal at 17% through 2030.


12. Physical Therapy Consultant


The world of physical therapy doesn’t just revolve around direct patient care; there’s a niche for professionals who leverage their expertise to guide clinics, hospitals, and health organizations towards optimal practice. Enter the Physical Therapy Consultant. These experts don’t just have a deep understanding of therapy but also know how to adapt this knowledge into actionable strategies, ensuring facilities provide the best possible care while also optimizing operational efficiencies.

As a Physical Therapy Consultant

As a Physical Therapy Consultant, you’ll wear many hats. Your primary role will be to analyze and evaluate the operations of physical therapy departments, private practices, or even product companies. You’ll provide recommendations on best practices, suggest innovative therapies, and help implement new treatment protocols. Additionally, you might assist in staff training, guide on regulatory compliance, or even provide insights during the development of therapeutic equipment and products.

Benefits

  • Variety in Work: Consulting projects can range from optimizing a clinic’s workflow to launching a new therapy product, ensuring diverse experiences.
  • Professional Networking: Working with various organizations offers a unique chance to build a vast professional network.
  • Leadership Role: Your expertise will be valued at a strategic level, often influencing key organizational decisions.
  • Potential for Entrepreneurship: Many consultants transition to entrepreneurial roles, setting up their own firms or launching therapeutic products.
  • Skill Enhancement: Consulting challenges you to keep updated with the latest in physical therapy, ensuring continuous learning.

Working Conditions

Physical Therapy Consultants might find themselves in diverse environments based on the project at hand. One day they could be at a bustling hospital, and the next in a quiet office analyzing data. Travel is frequent, as consultants often move between clients. The role demands a lot of autonomy and responsibility, often accompanied by the flexibility to set one’s own schedule. Meetings, presentations, and collaborative discussions are regular features.

Further Studies

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

To excel as a Physical Therapy Consultant, it’s essential to combine clinical knowledge with strategic thinking. Strong analytical skills help dissect complex problems, while excellent communication abilities ensure your recommendations are clearly understood and implemented. A knack for leadership and team coordination is vital, especially when guiding organizations through change. Additionally, your ability to stay updated with both clinical advancements and regulatory shifts ensures that your guidance is always relevant and cutting-edge.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($90,740)
  • Job Outlook (17%)

The estimated total pay for a Physical Therapy Consultant is $90,740 per year in the United States area, with an average salary of $73,012 per year. Employment of physical therapists is projected to grow 17% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.


13. Physical Therapy Assistant


Taking on a vital supporting role in the world of rehabilitation, a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) operates under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist to ensure patients receive consistent, high-quality care. PTAs are the bridge between therapists and patients, often being the consistent face patients see during their recovery journey. They play a central role in executing treatment plans, monitoring patient progress, and providing essential feedback to the supervising therapist.

As a Physical Therapy Assistant

As a Physical Therapy Assistant, you’ll find yourself deeply involved in the hands-on aspects of patient care. Under the direction of a physical therapist, you’ll help patients with exercises, administer modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation, and monitor their responses to treatment. Documenting patient progress, maintaining equipment, and educating patients about their treatments or home exercises will also be key elements of your role.

Benefits

  • Direct Patient Interaction: Engaging closely with patients ensures you witness firsthand the impact of therapeutic interventions.
  • Collaborative Work Environment: Working in tandem with physical therapists and other healthcare professionals fosters a team-centric atmosphere.
  • Stable Career Path: With the increasing demand for rehabilitation services, PTAs often enjoy job security and opportunities for growth.
  • Skill Development: Continuous exposure to various therapeutic techniques enhances your clinical skills.
  • Work-Life Balance: Many PTAs enjoy regular work hours, especially when employed in outpatient clinics or private practices.

Working Conditions

PTAs primarily work in physical therapy clinics, hospitals, outpatient centers, and sometimes even in schools or patients’ homes. The role is physically demanding, requiring them to be on their feet most of the day and occasionally helping lift or support patients. The environment is typically positive and focused on recovery, though it demands attention to detail, especially in tracking and recording patient progress.

Further Studies

  • State licensure or certification, which typically involves passing the National Physical Therapy Exam for PTAs.
  • Continuing education to maintain licensure and stay updated with the latest practices.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

Being an effective PTA requires a combination of clinical knowledge and soft skills. You must be adept at following treatment plans accurately, ensuring patient safety at all times. Strong interpersonal skills will allow you to build trust with patients, making them more receptive to therapy. Physical stamina is essential given the active nature of the role. An observant nature ensures you catch subtle changes in patient condition, providing valuable feedback to the supervising therapist. Lastly, being organized and detail-oriented ensures that patient records are maintained meticulously.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($49,180)
  • Job Outlook (24%)

The average salary for a physical therapy assistant is $49,180. Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 24% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average, owing to an aging Baby Boomer population and the need for highly-skilled physical therapists and assistants.


14. Traveling Physical Therapist


In the realm of physical therapy, there exists a dynamic niche for those with a wanderlust and a passion for healing: the Traveling Physical Therapist. These therapists aren’t tethered to one location; instead, they traverse the country, or even the world, bringing their expertise to areas most in need. Whether it’s filling temporary shortages, serving in remote areas, or catering to seasonal demands, these therapists combine the adventure of travel with the fulfillment of rehabilitation.

As a Traveling Physical Therapist

As a Traveling Physical Therapist, your core responsibilities echo those of your stationary peers: evaluating patient needs, devising treatment plans, and facilitating rehabilitation. However, you’ll also need to swiftly adapt to varying facilities, equipment, and patient demographics. Building rapport quickly with new patients and collaborating with unfamiliar teams will be recurrent aspects of your role. You’ll also manage logistical elements like housing arrangements and travel schedules.

Benefits

  • Adventurous Lifestyle: Experience diverse cultures, environments, and communities, adding richness to both your professional and personal life.
  • Competitive Compensation: Many traveling positions offer lucrative packages, often inclusive of housing, travel stipends, and bonuses.
  • Broadened Skillset: Exposure to varied patient needs and facility standards sharpens your adaptability and versatility.
  • Networking Opportunities: Working across different facilities and locations expands your professional network exponentially.
  • Flexibility: With contracts ranging from a few weeks to several months, you can often choose when and where you work, tailoring your career to your lifestyle.

Working Conditions

The work environment for a Traveling Physical Therapist can vary dramatically based on the assignment. One stint might be in a state-of-the-art urban hospital, while the next could be in a rural community center. The constant change requires adaptability and resilience. While the therapeutic core remains consistent, equipment, team dynamics, and even patient attitudes can shift with location, making each assignment a unique experience.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • State licensure for physical therapy, though multi-state licensure or temporary permits might be necessary depending on travel assignments.
  • Continuous education to ensure alignment with diverse state and facility standards.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

Your clinical prowess as a Traveling Physical Therapist should be complemented by a strong adaptability quotient. Being quick to understand and navigate new settings will set you apart. Exceptional interpersonal skills are a must, aiding swift rapport-building with patients and new teams. Organizational skills, especially in managing contracts, housing, and travel logistics, are crucial. Cultivating cultural sensitivity will enable you to understand and respect the diverse populations you serve. Lastly, maintaining a proactive approach to licensing and continuous education ensures you’re always ready for your next adventure.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($49,180)

Traveling physical therapists earn an average of $49,180 per year. Physical therapy job growth is predicted to be much faster than other occupations, with an average of 15,400 career openings per year.


15. Physical Therapy Educator


Beyond the clinic or hospital walls, there’s a domain where experienced physical therapists shape the future of the profession: academia. As a Physical Therapy Educator, your role transcends traditional patient care. Instead, you nurture the next generation of therapists, imparting the knowledge, ethics, and skills they’ll need to thrive. Your classroom, be it traditional or virtual, becomes a crucible where theory meets practice, and fledgling therapists are forged.

As a Physical Therapy Educator

Your role as a Physical Therapy Educator involves crafting curricula that’s both informed by current research and reflective of real-world demands. You’ll deliver lectures, facilitate hands-on labs, and evaluate student performance through examinations and practical assessments. Additionally, you’ll likely engage in academic research, mentor students in their clinical rotations, and contribute to professional development seminars or workshops.

Benefits

  • Shaping the Future: Your influence extends to the students you teach, directly impacting the future of physical therapy.
  • Academic Fulfillment: Engaging in research and scholarly activities can satisfy intellectual curiosities and lead to significant contributions in the field.
  • Structured Schedule: Academic calendars often provide a predictable work schedule, with breaks allowing for personal pursuits or additional professional development.
  • Collegial Environment: Being part of an academic community fosters collaboration, debate, and continuous learning.
  • Opportunities for Growth: Higher positions in academia, such as department chair or dean, offer avenues for career advancement.

Working Conditions

Physical Therapy Educators predominantly work in colleges, universities, or specialized training institutions. The environment is typically a blend of lecture halls, seminar rooms, and practical labs equipped for hands-on training. While the atmosphere is intellectually stimulating, it also demands keeping abreast of the latest advancements in the field. Office hours, research commitments, and academic conferences add variety to the standard teaching schedule.

Further Studies

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.
  • A PhD or EdD in Physical Therapy, Education, or a related field is often preferred or required for tenured or higher-ranking positions.
  • Continuous professional development to stay updated on clinical and educational methodologies.

What Skills Make You a Strong Candidate

Excellence as a Physical Therapy Educator hinges on your expertise in the field combined with a genuine passion for teaching. Effective communication skills, both written and verbal, ensure clarity in lectures and feedback. Patience and empathy are vital when mentoring students of varying capabilities. A research-oriented mindset not only aids in academic contributions but also ensures your teachings remain cutting-edge. Lastly, organizational skills and time management are crucial, given the multifaceted demands of academia.

Salary Range & Job Outlook

  • Average Salary ($63,840)
  • Job Outlook (24%)

The average physical therapy instructor salary in the United States is $63,840 as of June 2023. Overall employment of physical therapist assistants and aides is projected to grow 24% from 2021 to 2031,

Making the Right Career Choice

As you stand at the crossroads of this profession’s diverse opportunities—from clinical practice to specialization and even academia—it’s essential to engage in robust self-assessment.

Firstly, reflect on your inherent strengths and passions. Do you thrive on deep specialization, like working with neurological patients, or does the idea of a dynamic, ever-changing environment as a traveling therapist excite you? Your professional satisfaction will be deeply intertwined with aligning your job role to your intrinsic motivations.

The world of physical therapy is not just about knowledge; it’s about application, continuous learning, and interpersonal relationships. Have you equipped yourself with the necessary certifications, degrees, and practical experiences? Are you updated with the latest in therapeutic methodologies, or are you committed to lifelong learning to ensure you remain at the forefront of patient care?

Remember that a career in physical therapy is both a science and an art—a blend of clinical expertise and the human touch. Continuously gauge your readiness, not just in terms of academic qualifications, but also in resilience, adaptability, and empathy. The journey may be demanding, but with thorough self-assessment and preparedness, the rewards—both personal and professional—are boundless.


Sherice Jacob

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