What Is the Employment Outlook for Physical Therapy Careers?

Get information about the employment outlook for professionals in the field of physical therapy. Find out how much physical therapists earn, and check the salary potential for physical therapy aides and assistants as well. Schools offering Physical Therapy degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Physical therapy involves improving a patient's overall mobility and well-being. People who work in this field help create and implement effective and specialized plans of treatment for patients. They work in private clinics, hospitals and other medical facilities. In 2012, there were 204,200 physical therapists employed across the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (www.bls.gov). In addition, there were 121,400 physical therapist assistants and aides employed at that time.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Physical TherapistsPhysical Therapist AssistantsPhysical Therapist Aides
Required Education Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree Associate's degree High school diploma
Training Internships or other supervised clinical experience Clinical experience as part of degree program On-the-job training
Certification/Licensure License required in all states License or certification required in all states except Hawaii None required
Key Skills Compassion, dexterity, resourcefulness, interpersonal skills Empathy, organization, physical ability to assist patients, ability to follow instructions Same as for PT assistants

Employment Outlook for Physical Therapists

The BLS states that physical therapist employment will grow by 36% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the average job growth rate expected for all U.S. jobs. The growing elderly population in the U.S. and its associated health risks will contribute to an increasing demand for physical therapy services. Improved life-saving techniques will also increase the need for professionals who are qualified to work with trauma victims. The BLS also notes that technology developments have led to new treatments for illnesses and injuries and that health insurance reform will help increase access to healthcare.

Salaries for Physical Therapists

According to the BLS, the average wage for physical therapists was $83,940 in May 2014. The bottom-paid 10% of workers made $56,800 or less, while the top-paid 10% earned $116,090 or more. The top two employers were the offices of other health practitioners and general medical and surgical hospitals, which had average wages of $81,790 and $83,230, respectively.

Employment Outlook for Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants

Employment of physical therapy aides and assistants will increase by 41% between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. Aides and assistants are able to perform many of the tasks usually handled by physical therapists. As a result, the use of aides and assistants is projected to increase. In addition, the aging population and chronic disease will drive growth. Experienced workers will have the best opportunities for employment.

Salaries for Physical Therapy Aides and Assistants

The BLS reports that average earnings in May 2014 were $54,330 for physical therapist assistants and $26,660 for physical therapist aides. While earnings for most assistants ranged from $31,840-$75,530, earnings for most aides ranged from $18,370-$36,830. Offices of other health practitioners paid average wages of $52,700 for assistants and $24,730 for aides. General medical and surgical hospitals paid average wages of $51,320 for assistants and $28,610 for aides.

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