Physical Therapists: Salary Overview
Physical therapists help people who have disorders or functional problems after back or neck injuries manage pain and improve movement.
A physical therapist’s job description typically includes reviewing their patients’ medical history and referrals from doctors, observing patients in order to diagnose functions and movement, developing individualized care plans for each patient, using exercises, stretching and hands-on therapy and equipment to help patients, evaluating and recording their patients’ progress and educating their patients and their families on what to expect in the recovery process.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physical therapists was $89,440 as of May 2019 but salaries vary based on a wide range of factors, including experience level, region, and place of employment.
The median wage shows us that half of all workers in this profession earned less than this amount while half earned more.
BLS reports that the top 10 percent of all physical therapists earned more than $124,740 annually while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $62,120.
As an entry-level employee, your salary may be closer to the minimum for this profession but your earning prospects will improve after gaining a few years of experience.
Physical Therapist Salary by Industry
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists held about 247,700 jobs in the United States in 2018, most of them working in offices of physicians or in hospitals.
Salaries and work conditions vary depending on their exact place of employment.
Physical therapists who were employed in offices of other health practitioners reported an average annual wage of $86,720 as of May 2019 while those who worked for general medical and surgical hospitals reportedly earned $91,590 per year on average.
The field of home health care services remunerated physical therapists, on average, with $96,900 per year.
The average annual wage was $94,620 for physical therapists who worked in nursing care facilities and $88,700 for those who worked in offices of physicians.
The report published by BLS shows that the highest-paying industry for this profession was the field of spectator sports, a sector where physical therapists were remunerated, on average with $106,210.
Other top-paying industries for this occupation are other residential care facilities and child daycare services.
Physical therapists who worked for residential care facilities earned $104,120 per year on average while those who worked for child daycare services reportedly earned $99,700 per year on average.
Physical Therapist Salary by Experience Level
As with any profession, salaries for physical therapists vary widely depending on the level of experience.
After graduating from the physical therapist program, you will start your one-year residency, which will be your first job in the field.
Salaries for residents are close to the minimum for this profession.
Wages vary depending on the residency program, but as a resident, you will typically earn a salary that is in the $50,000-$60,000 range plus benefits such as health, life, and disability insurance.
After finishing residency, some physical therapists choose to specialize even further by applying for a fellowship.
After gaining some years of work experience, physical therapists may choose to become a board-certified specialist.
The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties offers certification in areas such as orthopedics, sports, and geriatrics.
Choosing to become board-certified may increase your earning prospects.
Salaries for physical therapists also vary depending on the geographic region and state of practice.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying states for this profession were Nevada and Alaska- states where the average annual wages were above the $100,000 mark.
Some of the lowest annual wages for this profession were reported in South Dakota, Idaho, and Maine, where the average annual wages reported in May of 2019 were $77,130, $80,360, and $80,380 respectively.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Physical Therapists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.