Physical Therapist Jobs and Careers

In the course of a lifetime, the instrument we call a body often encounters physical hurdles. Like a machine, the body is prone to breakdowns and wear and tear. Whether through illness, injury, or genetic predisposition, people find themselves unable to perform the full range of motion that they used to do with ease. They may suffer from temporary lapses in strength. After a serious accident or illness, people might be laid up for a significant period of time, during which they do not exercise their muscles. Others suffer from a gradual diminishing of their strength due to age or illness. All of these people can be helped by physical therapists, the medical professionals that specialize in mobility and coordination. Physical therapist jobs require a lot of education and training, but it can be a lucrative and rewarding career.

Many physical therapist jobs are available in hospitals. In hospitals, physical therapists help patients with short-term rehabilitation and advise them how to continue recovering on their own once they are discharged. The fastest growing sector of employment, however, is in residential care, long-term care, and rehabilitation centers. Those with chronic illness and the elderly often need physical therapy on a regular basis. There are fewer physical therapists working in specialty areas, such as professional sports teams and at universities. The aging population of the United States ensures that there will be job growth for physical therapists working with the elderly. This is often through residential care or at nursing homes. This kind of work can require extra education.

Physical therapist jobs and careers pay above average salaries. Salary is largely dependent on the nature of the employment. There are also large regional differences in average wage. Of course, education and experience play a factor. That being said, yearly salaries and hourly wages are robust. The average median wage for all physical therapists is $77,990 a year, which calculates out to $37.50 per hour. Part-time workers may even be able to demand a higher hourly wage to compensate them for a lack of stability and benefits. This is nearly twice as much as the average wage for all jobs in the United States. The upper 10 percent of physical therapists makes over $105,000 a year. Even the bottom 10 percent does not fare poorly, with an annual wage of $53,620. Even with the high salaries that they require, the job market for physical therapists is strong.

The reason that physical therapist jobs pay so well is the amount of education and clinical experience that is required. Physical therapists gain their expertise through years of study and further years of practice. The majority of physical therapists work with an undergraduate degree and a masterís degree in physical therapy. A masterís degree in physical therapy will likely take two to three years to complete following completion of an undergraduate education. Others have a doctoral degree in physical therapy, which take a minimum of three years to complete and sometimes much more. Doctoral degrees might allow physical therapists to explore teaching opportunities on top of their medical duties.

Physical therapist jobs require an extensive knowledge of general medical science. Degree courses will include biology, anatomy, pharmacology, and even behavioral science. Clinical work will cover the treatment and rehabilitation of breaks and sprains, burns, muscle atrophy, and joint pain. Candidates will learn how to help sufferers of chronic illness, from cancer to multiple sclerosis to arthritis. Degree holders may specialize in pediatric physical therapy or elder care. Specialization is a way to set oneself apart from peers with similar backgrounds and can lead to increased employment and salary.

Last Updated: 05/22/2014