How Much Do Physical Therapists Actually Make?

11 Jan 2022
Unravel "how much do physical therapists make" with our comprehensive guide on salaries and factors.

Physical Therapist Salary Overview

In the field of physical therapy, understanding the earning potential is crucial for those considering this career path. The question often asked is, "how much do physical therapists make?" To answer this, we need to delve into the average pay, as well as factors that can influence a physical therapist's salary.

Current Average Salary

As of 2022, the median annual salary for U.S.-based physical therapists is $97,960. The top 10% of physical therapists earned more than $128,830 annually according to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. However, the mean annual wage for physical therapists in May 2023 was projected to be $92,210, as per the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These figures reflect the average earnings of a physical therapist, but it's important to note that salaries can vary significantly based on various factors, which we'll discuss next.

Factors Influencing Salary

Several factors can influence how much a physical therapist earns. One significant factor is the setting in which they practice. Physical therapists in home care and skilled nursing facilities have the highest average annual wages, with earnings of $113,970 and $103,590 respectively, according to WebPT.

Geographical location is another crucial factor. The top paying states for physical therapists include Nevada, California, and Alaska, with mean annual wages of $106,750, $106,490, and $103,340, respectively, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Furthermore, metropolitan areas often offer higher salaries. For instance, physical therapists in the Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV area earn a mean annual wage of $118,190 [1].

This overview provides an insight into the salary expectations for physical therapists. However, it's important to note that these figures are averages and actual earnings can vary based on factors such as experience, specialization, and location.

Regional Variances in Physical Therapist Salaries

The salary of a physical therapist can vary widely depending not only on their experience and specialization, but also on the geographical location in which they work. This section will present an overview of the top paying states and metropolitan areas for physical therapists, as well as the wages in nonmetropolitan areas.

Top Paying States

Physical therapists' salaries can significantly differ from state to state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the top paying states for physical therapists include Nevada, California, and Alaska, with mean annual wages of $106,750, $106,490, and $103,340, respectively [1].

Here's a brief overview of the top paying states:

Top Paying Metropolitan Areas

Similar to states, metropolitan areas also show a range of salaries for physical therapists. The top paying metropolitan area for physical therapists is Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV, where the mean annual wage was $118,190 [1].

Nonmetropolitan Wages

While metropolitan areas often offer higher salaries due to the cost of living and population density, some nonmetropolitan areas also offer competitive wages for physical therapists. Among these, West Texas stands out with a mean annual wage of $116,570.

The geographical location plays a significant role in determining how much physical therapists make. It's important for physical therapists to consider these variances when evaluating job opportunities in different regions.

Specializations and Salary Impact

When discussing how much physical therapists make, it's worthwhile to delve into the influence of specializations on salary. Certain areas of expertise or specialty certifications can significantly impact a physical therapist's income.

Highest Income Grade Specialties

There are several specialties within the field of physical therapy that tend to yield higher income grades. According to Hiration, the top five specialties with the highest income grade are:

  1. Sports Medicine
  2. Cardiovascular
  3. Geriatrics
  4. Neurology
  5. Pediatrics

These specialties often require additional training, skills, and certifications, which can lead to increased earning potential.

Specialist Certification Impact

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) offers a Specialist Certification program for physical therapists. This program provides certification in ten clinical specialties, each with its own potential for salary variance.

These specialties include:

  1. Cardiovascular & Pulmonary
  2. Clinical Electrophysiology
  3. Geriatrics
  4. Neurology
  5. Orthopedics
  6. Pediatrics
  7. Sports
  8. Women's Health
  9. Wound Management
  10. Oncology

According to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, salaries for these specializations can vary depending on location, skills, and job type. Physical therapists who obtain specialist certifications often see an increase in their earning potential.

In conclusion, specializing in a particular area of physical therapy can significantly impact a therapist's salary. Whether it's through earning a higher income grade in a specific specialty or obtaining a specialist certification, physical therapists have numerous opportunities to increase their earnings.

Advanced Certifications and Salary

Advanced certifications can significantly impact the earning potential of physical therapists. In particular, specializations in Home Health and CPR can lead to notable increases in salary.

Home Health Certification

Physical therapists who possess skills in home care can expect to earn approximately 15.5% more than the average base salary, according to data from Hiration. This boost in earnings is likely due to the increased demand and specialized nature of home health care services.

Further evidence of the value of this specialization can be seen in the average annual wages of physical therapists working in home care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals earn an average annual wage of $113,970, one of the highest in the field.

CPR Certification

Another beneficial certification for physical therapists is CPR Certification. Though not a specialized area of physical therapy, this certification is often a requirement for many healthcare roles and can also contribute to a physical therapist's earnings.

Hiration reports that a CPR Certification can lead to a 6% increase in a physical therapist's salary.

In conclusion, advanced certifications such as Home Health and CPR can significantly increase the earning potential for physical therapists. It's important to note, however, that while education and certifications are valuable, years of experience generally trump the level of education when it comes to salary in the physical therapy field [2].

Practice Settings and Earnings

The setting in which a physical therapist practices can have a significant impact on earnings. Here, we examine how working in outpatient care centers and home care or skilled nursing facilities can influence a physical therapist's income.

Outpatient Care Centers

Physical therapists working in outpatient care centers top the list when it comes to earnings in different PT specialties. As of May 2022, the annual mean salary for U.S.-based physical therapists employed in outpatient care centers was $118,800, according to the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.

This income level reflects the demands of this setting, which often requires a high degree of specialization and the ability to handle a diverse mix of patients. Outpatient care centers can offer a stimulating and challenging work environment, which may explain why they can command higher salaries.

Home Care and Skilled Nursing Facilities

Home care and skilled nursing facilities offer another avenue for physical therapists to earn substantial incomes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapists in these settings have the highest average annual wages of $113,970 and $103,590 respectively.

These settings require physical therapists to provide services to patients in their own homes or in long-term care facilities, which can present unique challenges and rewards. In addition to providing therapeutic services, therapists in these settings may also need to educate patients and their families on how to manage ongoing physical therapy needs.

It's clear that the choice of practice setting can significantly influence how much physical therapists make. When considering career options, physical therapists should consider not only their potential earnings but also the type of work environment and patient population they prefer.

Considerations for Maximizing Salary

When evaluating how much physical therapists make, several factors impact earning potential. These include combining management with physical therapy (PT) practice and cost-of-living comparisons.

Combining Management with PT Practice

Physical therapists often have the opportunity to enhance their salaries by assuming management roles in addition to their clinical practice. While the level of education, such as having a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, is necessary for entry-level clinicians to practice, it doesn't necessarily correlate to higher salaries. Instead, years of experience generally trump the level of education when it comes to salary in the physical therapy field [2]. This suggests that physical therapists who gain experience and transition into management roles can potentially boost their earnings.

Another avenue for potential salary enhancement is through contract work as a traveling physical therapist. These professionals often enjoy financial and tax benefits, though the pay depends on factors like contract length, number of contracts in a year, and specific contract details. It's important to note that the cost of living in various locations also plays a role in determining the net benefit from contract work [2].

Cost-of-Living Comparisons

The geographical location of a physical therapist's practice significantly impacts their salary. The mean annual wage for physical therapists in May 2023 was $92,210 [1].

However, salaries vary by city and state. The top paying states for physical therapists include Nevada, California, and Alaska, with mean annual wages of $106,750, $106,490, and $103,340, respectively.

When considering these statistics, physical therapists are advised to compare nationwide salary averages with cost-of-living comparisons to identify prime opportunities for higher earnings [4].

In conclusion, while the salaries of physical therapists can vary, understanding the factors that influence these wages can help these professionals make informed decisions about their career paths and maximize their earning potential.

References

[1]: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291123.htm

[2]: https://www.webpt.com/blog/4-factors-affecting-your-physical-therapist-salary

[3]: https://www.hiration.com/blog/physical-therapist-salary/

[4]: https://www.usa.edu/blog/how-much-do-physical-therapists-make/

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