If you are interested in pursuing a career as a physical therapist, it’s important to know what your earning potential might be. Whether you’re already in the field or just starting out, understanding the average salaries of physical therapists can help you make informed decisions about your education and career path.
Becoming a physical therapist requires significant time, effort, and investment. After completing your education and gaining experience in the field, it’s important to know how much you could potentially earn. While salaries can vary depending on many factors, there is generally some consistency across the industry.
“Knowing the average salaries of physical therapists can help guide professionals when it comes to negotiating their initial salaries and discussing pay raises.” -The American Physical Therapy Association
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at physical therapy salaries—specifically how much physical therapists make per hour. We’ll explore different factors that impact salary such as location, experience, work setting, and specialty areas within the field. By the end of the article, you should have a better idea of what a physical therapist makes an hour and whether this is the right career choice for you.
Salary Range for Physical Therapists
Physical therapists (PTs) are trained healthcare professionals who assist individuals of all ages dealing with injuries and medical conditions to regain strength, flexibility, mobility, and manage pain. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for physical therapists in the United States was $91,010 as of May 2020.
Entry-level Physical Therapist Salaries
The entry-level salary range for a physical therapist is usually on the lower side since they have limited working experience and may be fresh out of school. The starting salary mainly depends on the state of employment and location. As per Payscale, an entry-level PT can expect to make an average hourly wage of $31.76. Since salaries vary within states, this hourly rate can range from $23.25 up to $41.43.
Mid-level Physical Therapist Salaries
Pts who have worked for around five years and gained some work experience after clearing certification exams tend to earn a mid-level salary. They also often specialize in treating specific groups of patients such as pediatrics or elderly care. According to Glassdoor, the national median salary for a mid-level PT is $87,930 per year. This typically ranges between $79,000 to $98,000 annually based upon expertise and geographical aspects of the workplace.
Experienced Physical Therapist Salaries
In-demand specialist skills and extensive experience helps establish higher-paying positions even if it requires relocating to other locations for better-paying job opportunities. Physical therapits with approximately ten years of experience have established themselves by gaining patient reviews and respectable levels of referrals that create their market value. Senior physical therapists’ earning potential draws them distinctively closer to industry level managers in terms of salary expectations. On an average, Indeed lists the median annual income for experienced physical therapists to be $107,500 per year with significant variation across states and settings.
Top-tier Physical Therapist Salaries
The potential earning of a top-tier PT largely varies depending on their setting – whether they are working at an outpatient clinic or at rehabilitation centers. The amount of experience, specialization, and recognition among colleagues increases their chances of making better salaries in this field. As per the data from APTA compensation survey 2020, professionals who reside and work in less-populated areas are likely to earn significantly more than colleagues practicing with similar competencies in opposite metro-regions. This also becomes apparent when it comes down to earnings; thereby, remote locations offer healthy remunerations as high as $172,500 annually. Whereas metropolitan cities tend to pay closer to approximately around a hundred and thirty-thousand dollars a year for experienced practicioners.
“Physical therapy is about getting people moving again; we restore function through pain management and manual exercises.”
To estimate an hourly wage rate of physical therapists requires figuring out many variables such as location, education qualification, specialization, and work experience. Keeping these aspects into consideration can help pinpoint what one should expect to make within their respective states and makes planning your career pathway accordingly easier to determine. Though entry-level positions can seem financially straining compared to mid/high level opportunities, gaining sufficient experience will eventually lead one towards being closer to understanding how much prosperity one stands to gain in terms of expected revenue inflow.
Factors That Affect Physical Therapist Salaries
Education and Certification Levels
The level of education and certification significantly affects the salary of physical therapists. Aspiring physical therapists must have a doctoral or professional degree in physical therapy, which typically takes about three years to complete. Additionally, most states require them to be licensed. The higher the educational attainment and certification level, the better chances they have for earning high salaries.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2020, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $91,010 per year, or $43.76 per hour. However, those with doctoral degrees earned an average of $102,520 annually, while those with less than a master’s degree earned only around $57,930 per year on average.
Earning certifications related to physical therapy can also increase your salary. For example, getting a board-certified clinical specialist designation from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties can lead to even more significant income by demonstrating advanced knowledge and skills in specialized areas of practice such as geriatrics, pediatrics, neurology oncology, orthopedics, sports, women’s health.
Years of Experience
Another crucial factor that influences how much a physical therapist earns is their years of experience. Generally, newly graduated physical therapists earn less than experienced ones due to differences in skill levels and demand for services.
BLS data shows that physical therapists’ average hourly wages start at around $31-33 an hour for entry-level positions with professionals gaining a further ten percent increase after five years in the industry up until topping out at an average rate of $45-$48/hour after approximately twenty years of experience.
You may find increased earnings potential through contract work rather than traditional employment if you have specialized skills or experience. Contract work as a physical therapist allows individuals to charge higher hourly rates, thus earning them more income than those employed full time at the same salary rate and providing an opportunity for greater financial independence.
“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” -Aldous Huxley
A career in Physical Therapy can be lucrative, but your salary level will depend on several factors such as education, experience, specialty certifications, location, and job title. Staying up-to-date on industry trends while continuing to learn throughout your career through additional certification, attending conferences, and networking can help increase your income potential and help ensure longevity in this field.
Regional Differences in Physical Therapist Salaries
If you are considering a career as a physical therapist, it’s essential to gain insight into the wage differences between regions. Generally speaking, factors such as demand, cost of living, and level of training can all impact salary rates.
Physical Therapist Salaries in the Northeastern US
The northeastern region of the United States is known for its high cost of living, which typically translates to higher wages across all professions, including PTs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for physical therapists in this area was $91,570 in 2020. That’s roughly $44 per hour. However, keep in mind that salaries vary within the region based on individual factors. For instance, those working in major cities with higher living expenses might command more pay than those practicing in rural areas.
“I love my job, but I have no illusions when it comes to pay. Living in New York, one of the most expensive cities in the world, means that being able to afford basic necessities like housing eats up large amounts of our income,” said J.P., a licensed Physical Therapist.
While salaries for physical therapy positions in the Northeast may be robust, so too is the cost of living.
Physical Therapist Salaries in the Southern US
In contrast to the Northeast, the southern region offers lower average wages for physical therapists. Despite a lower cost of living relative to other parts of the country, lower salaries remain an obstacle to some hopeful candidates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data reports that the yearly median wage for physical therapists hovers around $78K ($37/hour), however numerous factors affect each physical therapist job market.
“As a Physical Therapist based in Florida, I earn around $75/hour on a per diem assignment. If you’re considering a career as a PT and live in the southeast US area, remind that frequently travel is acceptable for abundant job opportunities.” said Mackenzie Wright, PT, DPT.
Similar to what hold true in other regions, wages can vary significantly across both urban and rural areas of the South due to factors such as competition and level of experience.
Types of Organizations That Employ Physical Therapists
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who help their patients reduce pain, improve mobility and function, prevent disability, and maintain quality of life. They treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, neurological disorders, and injuries. While physical therapy services are available at different types of organizations, the hourly pay of these practitioners may vary based on several factors.
Hospitals and Medical Centers
Hospitals and medical centers employ many physical therapists to work in various departments, such as orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, geriatrics, acute care, and emergency medicine. The tasks that physical therapists perform include evaluating patients’ conditions, developing treatment plans, administering therapeutic exercises, providing education and counseling, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median hourly wage for physical therapists in general medical and surgical hospitals was $44.13 as of May 2020. However, those working in specialty hospitals (excluding psychiatric and substance abuse) had a higher median hourly rate of $51.25. Other factors that can affect physical therapists’ pay in hospitals may include their level of experience, clinical specialization, geographic location, and employer size.
Private Practice Clinics
Many physical therapists also work in private practice clinics either as owners or employees. These clinics cater to patients who require rehabilitation, preventive care, wellness programs, or sport-specific training. Private practice physical therapists may provide one-on-one sessions, group classes, or virtual consultations. In addition to clinical duties, they may handle administrative tasks like scheduling appointments, billing insurance companies, and marketing their services. According to the BLS, physical therapists employed in offices of health practitioners earned a median hourly wage of $40.03 in May 2020. Nevertheless, their hourly pay can vary depending on factors like the clinic’s specialty, reputation, location, and client base size. Self-employed physical therapists may have more control over their earnings by setting their therapy fees and reducing overhead costs.
Sports Teams and Organizations
Physical therapists are also crucial members of sports teams and organizations that involve athletes at different levels. They help athletes prevent injuries, manage acute or chronic conditions, optimize performance, and recover from surgeries or illnesses. Besides treating individual patients, sports physical therapists may work with coaches, trainers, physicians, nutritionists, and psychologists to create a comprehensive care plan. According to the BLS, physical therapists employed in the spectator sports industry earned a median hourly wage of $46.84 as of May 2020. However, there may be significant variations in compensation based on the sport type, competitive level, team budget, and employment duration (e.g., full-time vs. part-time).
Rehabilitation Centers and Nursing Homes
Physical therapists make up a significant portion of healthcare providers in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. These facilities offer short-term or long-term stay for patients who need skilled nursing care, post-acute rehabilitation, or chronic disease management. Physical therapists’ roles in these settings include helping patients regain mobility, strength, flexibility, balance, and independence. They often work closely with occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, social workers, and nurses to deliver tailored interventions. According to the BLS, physical therapists working in residential intellectual and developmental disability, mental health, and substance abuse facilities had a median hourly wage of $42.13 in May 2020. Meanwhile, those employed in home health care services earned a higher median hourly rate of $48.47. Some physical therapists may prefer working in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes because they offer a stable and predictable work schedule and typically have no after-hour calls or weekend duties. However, the hourly pay may be affected by factors like staffing shortages, patient acuity, and reimbursement rates.
Physical therapists can work in various organizations that offer diverse career paths, settings, and specialties. Their hourly pay can vary based on many factors like employer type, geographic location, clinical experience, specialization, and demand. Despite these variations, physical therapy remains a rewarding and fulfilling occupation that allows practitioners to make a positive impact on their patients’ lives.
Opportunities for Advancement in the Physical Therapy Field
The field of physical therapy is continuously evolving and expanding, offering numerous opportunities for advancement. With an increasing demand for healthcare professionals around the world, there has never been a better time to consider pursuing a career in this field.
Specialization in a Specific Area of Physical Therapy
One way to advance your career as a physical therapist is by specializing in a specific area of physical therapy. Specializations include sports physical therapy, geriatric physical therapy, cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy, neurologic physical therapy, pediatric physical therapy, and orthopedic physical therapy. By obtaining additional training and certification in one of these areas, you can improve your knowledge and skills while becoming more marketable in the industry.
In addition to the obvious benefits of specialization, such as higher pay and greater job satisfaction, specialized physical therapists have found that they enjoy unique opportunities for personal growth and mobility within their chosen specializations. This means that they are not limited to just working with patients at a single clinic or hospital, but could potentially work across multiple clinics or even have their own private practice servicing people from all sorts of different backgrounds.
“Physical therapists may work closely with patients over weeks or months to play an integral role in restoring their abilities to move and function optimally after injury or illness.” -Forbes
Management and Administrative Roles in Healthcare Settings
Another option for physical therapists interested in advancing their careers is taking on management and administrative roles in healthcare settings. As a physical therapist with experience, expertise, leadership skills, and networking contacts within the industry, opportunities exist for training programs, supervisory positions, and ultimately executive-level positions such as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Operating Officer (COO).
In addition to the benefits afforded by a higher position in an organization, such as influence and decision-making authority, healthcare managers can expect to earn a higher salary than their clinical counterparts. The average hourly pay for physical therapy management ranges anywhere from $40-$80 per hour depending on experience, geography, and industry.
“Healthcare CEOs were claimed to have the highest median salaries according to Forbes with an overall median salary of just over one million dollars.” -The Street
The physical therapy field offers numerous opportunities for advancement, ranging from specialization in specific areas of expertise or administrative roles within healthcare settings. Regardless of which path you choose, there are ample avenues to continue growing your career while also enhancing both your personal and professional skills.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average hourly wage for physical therapists?
The average hourly wage for physical therapists in the United States is $41.59 per hour. However, this can vary based on factors such as location, experience, and industry.
What factors influence a physical therapist’s hourly pay?
Some factors that can influence a physical therapist’s hourly pay include their level of experience, industry, location, education, certifications, and specializations. Additionally, demand for physical therapists in a particular area can also impact their pay.
What is the hourly pay range for physical therapists in different settings?
The hourly pay range for physical therapists can vary by setting. For example, physical therapists who work in hospitals tend to make more than those who work in outpatient centers or schools. The average hourly rate for physical therapists in hospitals is $44.23, while those in schools make an average of $37.18 per hour.
How does location affect a physical therapist’s hourly wage?
Location can have a significant impact on a physical therapist’s hourly wage. In areas with a higher cost of living, physical therapists tend to make more money. For example, physical therapists in California make an average of $47.88 per hour, while those in Mississippi make an average of $34.15 per hour.
What is the difference in hourly pay between entry-level and experienced physical therapists?
The difference in hourly pay between entry-level and experienced physical therapists can be significant. Entry-level physical therapists make an average of $34.22 per hour, while those with more than 20 years of experience make an average of $47.58 per hour. This difference is largely due to the level of experience and expertise that experienced physical therapists bring to their work.
Are there any certifications or specializations that can increase a physical therapist’s hourly wage?
Yes, there are certifications and specializations that can increase a physical therapist’s hourly wage. For example, physical therapists who specialize in neurology or orthopedics tend to make more money than those who don’t. Additionally, certifications such as the Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist (COMT) or the Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Sports Physical Therapy (SCS) can also increase a physical therapist’s earning potential.