Regardless of what’s occurring with the economy, physical therapy job opportunities are growing. Not only are physical therapy jobs NOT diminishing, they are increasing. And quickly.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics data on projected job growth shows that this is true for both physical therapists and physical therapy assistants.
In this post we take a look at data from the BLS, along with interviews with PT Program Directors across the country, to get a sense of the growing Physical Therapy industry and expanding job opportunities for PTAs and DPTs.
Physical Therapist & Physical Therapist Assistant Requirements
In order to become a physical therapist, applicants must get a graduate degree, normally a doctorate in physical therapy. School programs in physical therapy ordinarily include a blend of coursework and clinical experiences. Moreover, states have specific requirements to legally practice physical therapy in them. This is similar for PTAs, physical therapy assistants also must complete an accredited program of 2 years that is a mix of classroom and clinical training. PTAs also must meet state licensing requirements to work in most states.
Free Resource: How to Become a Physical Therapist Assistant in 7 Steps
A Doctor of Physical Therapy, referred to as a DPT, will train students in the physical therapy methods of diagnosing and treating health issues. Coursework covers topics in body systems (anatomy) and techniques in non-intrusive treatment, such as physical rehab to avoid surgery.
Other than moving on from a certified program, states normally require a passing score on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE Exam) as a final requirement for receiving certification and state licensing for employment as a PT. For PTAs most states require you pass the version of the exam for PTAs called the NPTAE.
Free Resource: Search Physical Therapy Assistant Programs by State
Growing Opportunities in Physical Therapy Education:
New PT & PTA Programs Rolling Out
Many PT Programs are coming up with new educational offerings for DPTs and PTAs. New offerings may save a student time in earning their degree by focusing their studies in a shorter time frame or by combining the PTA coursework with PT coursework, so that PTAs can go directly into their studies to become a DPT. This is what the University of Texas Medical Branch or UTMB at Galveston is now offering.
UTMB additionally has an entry level DPT program, a post professional DPT program and an extension bridge PTA to DPT program. The extension system, to be presented this mid-year, is a unique crossover project with regular and online classes.
UTMB Physical Therapy undergraduate does field work at destinations around the state and around the nation. They have their first clinical involvement in their second year, then do three clinical pivots in their last year that are eight or 12 weeks in length.
In an interview, a Texas PT Program Director pointed out that because a DPT is a moderately new degree in the PT field and required nationwide, over time the pool of Physical Therapists without their DPT will continue to get smaller. In other words, having a DPT is going to become the universal standard among practicing PTs over time, it pretty much already is.
Free Resource: Search PTA License Requirements by State
Physical Therapy Job Opportunities are Growing
All Students Easily Gain Employment According to Professors
Looking at job placement stats for Physical Therapists in the Houston region is extraordinary, with most UTMB graduates having employment offers lined up either before they graduate or immediately after.
And it isn’t just Houston, occupations for physical therapists are projected to grow 36 percent from 2012-2022, as indicated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This employment growth rate is essentially over 3x times higher than the national average employment growth rate of 11 percent for all occupations.
Free Resource: Physical Therapy Assistant Job Search Tool
“The physical therapy sector is currently growing and stable. Most new physical therapists earn annual salaries in the upper $60,000s or low $70,000s; in the event that you go to work in a more metropolitan region, you likely could make more than that,”
Said one PT from our survey of midwest clinics, who went onto say:
“A solid PT job candidate would be somebody who has a passion for working with individuals and also has displayed strong critical thinking skills, is imaginative, and can adapt to individual patient’s specific needs.”
Texas Woman’s University’s Houston grounds offers a section level DPT, DPT for honing specialized physical therapists, and an intermediate DPT (tDPT) Ph.D. program for practicing physical therapists. Passage level DPT students need to go through five diverse clinical rotations from one half-day a week to 12 sequential weeks. Because transitional program students and Ph.D studentss are already licensed, there are no entry level position requirements for them.
“By May of their graduation year, 33% of undergraduates likely have officially committed to a position, and after their licensure exam in July, 90 percent have likely decided on a position and with the rest probably holding off on a decision because they are considering how they want to spend their last free summer,”
said another Physical Therapy program director from Texas, who went onto say:
“By August, basically every new graduate has either committed to an occupation or has multiple employment offers. Recently during the recession, none of our graduates lost employment or dealt with reduced hours. There is plenty of job security in the PT field.”
Competing for a Job in Physical Therapy
Some Tips from Professors
“The perfect PT job candidate is somebody who is disciplined both in their studies and clinical work. This means they need to make good grades and also demonstrate a proficient understanding, of the material they are learning, during their clinical work.”
said another Physical Therapy program director at a college in Texas, who went onto say:
“We give students the essential abilities they require for their exams and landing a position, however its dependent upon them to seek after additional instruction and work to enhance the physical therapy treatments they provide for patients.”
“Continued learning & education is vital; as we’re beginning to analyze more conditions and learn much more about how the body functions. There is much more dependable data available now;
it’s dependent upon PTs to stay up on writing and changes in healthcare administration. Physical Therapists are critical thinkers and must have the capacity to understand and make sense of a patient’s issue with whatever tools they have access too, which will not always be consistent.”
Continuing your education in Physical Therapy is not only recommended by leaders in the industry, it is required by most states to maintain your license. Most states have a minimum number of continuing education hours required by licensed PTs and PTAs to complete.
Adaptability is what separates individuals in physical therapy. There is opportunity to change your concentration, for example, changing from outpatient orthopedic to pediatrics or geriatrics, while keeping up your remaining practice without losing momentum. In other words, growth opportunities.
Also, there are many part-time opportunities within physical therapy, if PTs need to take time off work to get another degree, raise a family, and so on. Or if you are single and want to travel there are traveling PTA jobs just for you. You should definitely look into them too because not everyone is able to apply for these positions so if you are able to travel then you are a competitive candidate.
One other great thing about a PTA career is how consistent the market for their services are across the country. In the event that you need to move to a new state or city, it’s typically easy to find an occupation in a new region due to the high demand that Physical Therapists and PTAs are in everywhere.
Tell us about your job search for a career in physical therapy. We love hearing about physical therapy job opportunities that our community finds! 🙂
P.S. – And don’t forget to search our PTA Jobs to find your next dream job in Physical Therapy!
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